It’s October and there are days when the sun still shines warmly on my body as I return to sit in my garden after a month’s absence.
Since my last post, when I wrote about the joy of staying in my garden forever and never uttering another word, I actually left it to go travelling. Such is the fickleness of my restless heart – claiming one thing yet seeking another.
The garden has done very well without me. It took care of itself and is as beautiful and full of life as the day I left it – a humbling realization that the garden doesn’t really need me to thrive. Perhaps I also don’t need it as much I claim.
One month of travel and not one thought given to my garden. I was fully distracted by places I had never been to before as I immersed myself in the discovery of the new.
I travelled with my partner on a two-week cruise of the Baltic Sea on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. The ports of call gave me a very small glimpse and entry-point to wonderful countries: Germany, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, and Sweden!
I can’t claim that I have truly visited these countries. I merely had a taste, an “amuse- bouche” of these beautiful places. However, the little I saw and sampled, like items observed from a long buffet table, whet my appetite to further explore these countries another time.
The cruise followed two weeks spent in parts of England and Wales I had never been to before: Bath, Torquay, St. Ives in England; as well as Tintern, Cardiff, Tenby, and St. David’s Head in Wales.
Although I was not looking for the Portuguese in any of these places, I was surprised and delighted to find Pastéis de Nata in Bath, close to the cathedral, at the Cornish Bakery, flown in from Lisbon, according to the server. I found them also in Guildford, where they were on display at the Saturday market; and in Cardiff where there’s a chain of three Nata & Co Portuguese bakeries!)
At the Holburne Museum gift shop in Bath, I recognized the voice of Portuguese singer, Ana Moura. I told the woman at the cash register that I was delighted to hear Fado there, of all places. The clerk, it turns out, had learned Portuguese forty years ago and still liked to listen to Portuguese music. I asked her if there were many Portuguese living in the area and she told me that, yes, there were many, and over at the nearby village of Straub, the Portuguese bring their Pastéis de Nata to sell at the Saturday market.
Walking in the English seaside town of Torquay, I came across a now-closed Portuguese restaurant: O Pescador! Too bad. But we were lucky enough to have dinner at a beautiful restaurant in Cardiff, Tŷ Madeira, where the Portuguese food was delicious and the people lively and joyful.
I only mention all this Portugueseness because I found it “au hasard.” I had gone travelling to find new places, not to be reminded of what I already know. But such is the power of the familiar – there as a reminder that no matter how far from home I go, I can’t really escape or totally ignore my cultural roots.
Soon I won’t be able to sit out in the garden as much. The days ahead will start to turn rainy and cold. I will close up the garden before the snow will eventually come and cover everything until spring. In the months ahead I will look out into the garden from my window and remember, not only the garden of summer, but my travel through England, Wales and seven Baltic countries. I need time to savour and ponder the memories I have gathered, sort them out, before I can translate the emotions I feel into words.
Astoria, with Portuguese flag, docking next to Queen Elizabeth in St. Petersburg, Russia