Not everyone has the honour of living in an award-winning country, or better yet, not everyone considers that an honour. I was born in a small parish with 110 inhabitants just outside Lisbon, and my youth was paved with finding small water streams among fabled stretching woodlands, watching my grandfather plant potatoes all the while leaning on our dogs and watching the verdant sunset sink. I look back fondly at those memories, and my circle of social life was restricted by those hundred familiar faces all into my teenage mists.
When I was a docile and sensitive boy, one thing was generally known, we were an enclave of the modern world, a tender collapse between edging western development and a deep connection to land, humility, poverty, and pain. In the yet-to-explore sacred and scarlet hills of Portugal, we roamed the sun-lands searching for an oasis that spawned the entire rectangle garden planted sea-side. We quested for a beauty that was already there, and after centuries of isolation and regret, we found a rooted longing for days that never came, for an evasive beauty that time did not look kindly upon.
Those were the days of yore, nowadays, the scopes have shifted. Portugal, now a growing and bursting experience of culture and history, the brand new Jurassic Park without deadly dinosaurs, conveniently docked at Europe’s lonely and serene edge, offers a way to mitigate the pains of modern existence at a manageable driving distance. As we now live among kind visitors and explorers, we listen to those praises of beauty. How sunny are our lands, how old our cities, how beautiful our forests and endless our beaches, and above all else, how deep is our sadness.
As I write this humble prose, I can listen to goldcrests chirping atop that peppertree, and at 20:00 there is still clarity outside, the sun still faintly shines, as it tends to. Faint yet enchanting gypsy music booms at the distance, I can still pick apart the variations of the low-voiced man who is singing to the rhythm. I remember being young, the sun shone its golden-hue with all the same brightness, the buildings and asphalt roads vibrated to the heat, the summer cicadas already knew the ancient lyricists before any of us did, and at the sidewalks of this beautiful block of candour we’ve inhabited, I was already sad, already longing. We all were, and we still are.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why we exist this way, but I’ve convinced myself that it’s only a natural consequence of this paradise we’ve created. In these hills where marine order takes form of beautiful composure, what other sadness could we compare it to than our own inner demons.
And that matching pendulum of innate sadness strikes harder every time, painting Portugal more beautiful and we, sadder, abandoned at a seaside beauty created to evaporate.
And Lisbon, my current home, the city-port of poetry and fado, only seems to reflect that ever-so-strongly, as it tries to grip it’s fainting identity while this bombardment of globalised exposition occurs, which it has always done. The only city where walls still cry, those colourful walls that close upon our dreams and limit our solitaire nightmares.