The gliding Lethe leads her silent flood

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The souls that throng the flood

Are those to whom, by fate, are other bodies ow’d:

In Lethe’s lake they long oblivion taste,

Of future life secure, forgetful of the past.

Photo: Ponte de Lima (2017) I have spent a lot of happy and not so happy days in this place during my childhood and teenage years. A village   which is known for a legend of forgetfulness has helped me to know a little bit more of who I am.

References 

The Aeneid by Virgil

Lingering

Come to me in the silence of the night;
    Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
    As sunlight on a stream;
       Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
    Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brimful of love abide and meet;
    Where thirsting longing eyes
       Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
    My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
    Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
       Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago!

Echo, Christina Rossetti

Photo: Leça da Palmeira, after the storm (March 2018)

Revisiting

Não há nada que resista ao tempo. Como uma grande duna que se vai formando grão a grão, o esquecimento cobre tudo.

Ainda há dias pensava nisto a propósito de não sei que afecto.

Nisto de duas pessoas julgarem que se amam tresloucadamente, de não terem mutuamente no corpo e no pensamento senão a imagem do outro, e daí a meia dúzia de anos não se lembrarem sequer de que tal amor existiu, cruzarem-se numa rua sem qualquer estremecimento, como dois desconhecidos.

Essa certeza, hoje então, radicou-se ainda mais em mim.

Fui ver a casa onde passei um dos anos cruciais da minha vida de menino. E nem as portas, nem as janelas, nem o panorama em frente me disseram nada. Tinha cá dentro, é certo, uma nebulosa sentimental de tudo aquilo. Mas o concreto, o real, o número de degraus da escada, a cara da senhoria, a significação terrena de tudo aquilo, desaparecera.

Miguel Torga, “Diário (1940)”

Nothing can stand the test of time. Like a great dune, growing with each grain of sand, oblivion covers everything. I’ve been thinking about this for days, I do not know prompted by what type of feeling or affection.

Take the case of two people loving each other so madly that they did not have in their bodies and thoughts anything but the image of the other, and in a half-dozen years they will not even remember that such a love existed, when they walk past each other without any shudder, like two strangers.

This certainty, today, has become even more rooted in me.

I went to see the house where I spent one of the crucial years of my boyhood life. And neither the doors, nor the windows, nor the landscape in front spoke to me. I had in me, of course, a sentimental nebula of it all. But the concrete, the real, the number of steps on the stairs, the face of the landlady, the earthly meaning of all that had disappeared.

The translation is mine and it doesn’t do the original any justice. I saw part of this text written on a wall in Leiria two weeks ago, yesterday I felt what it meant. I walked through the streets of Viana do Castelo as a tourist. It didn’t feel like the city that was almost my second home at a time when I too seemed to be “madly in love”. No emotion, and the “sentimental nebula” was just the sad realization of that void. I walked to the theater to buy the ticket for the opera recital. The lady in front of me was asking a lot of questions, she was afraid she didn’t know her way around the building anymore. She had danced on that stage when she was young. Her memories felt comforting.

Photo: Teatro Sá de Miranda, Viana do Castelo

Trying to remember Ithaka

M. bought this dress Monday morning (my time zone) and the rest of my day was spent trying to remember what seemed to have been long forgotten.

I can’t remember the last time I wore this dress, but I am sure I wore it during a chilly evening in the summer of 1997 at a concert in Montemor‘s castle. I remember who was with me and the theory that “villages with medieval castles are always cold” but I could not remember who was playing.

Trying to dig up something that you have forgotten to remember from the pre-internet era is not always easy. I tried to google what I did remember. The same artist was also a photographer who, probably in the same year, had an installation called “I could write a book” at Galeria Zé dos Bois in Lisbon.  Inspired by the famous jazz standard, specifically by Dinah Washington’s rendition of it (1955), the installation featured an unmade bed, photos and diary entries and little notes from the time the author lived, in love, in Tokyo because if someone had asked him, he could have written a book.

If they asked me, I could write a book
About the way you walk, and whisper, and look
I could write a preface
On how we met
So the world would never forget

But I did forget and, as the day progressed I felt more and more irritated at not being able to recall the name. Probably C. went with me to Lisbon so I decided to send an email explaining my quasi existential doubt of the day. He thought it was absurd and called me. He had no recollection whatsoever of such installation he most probably did go but couldn’t remember. We also saw this same guy at Labirintho, I said. Remember that? We went with another friend who got drunk and almost in trouble. Remember that? I even remember where we had parked the car and that we drove away and Cake’s Fashion Nugget was playing. He could not remember anything at all. It seems like we have done really interesting stuff together in the 90s, though.

By 8 pm I could recall some Greek connection and my Google search was “Californian musician, Greek ancestry, living in Lisbon in the 90s”. There it was an article about “the greatest Portuguese talents of the 90s”, about the great “unknown”, groundbreaking talent of Portuguese Pop/Rock and the growing popularity of Dance and Hip-Hop scenes. Finally Darin Pappas, aka Ithaka Darin Pappas aka Korvowrong and the album “Stellafly”, the most powerful and consistent national registry edited in 1997. That might help explain why I seemed to have travelled across the country to hear him even if now it doesn’t really make much sense.

But then again, C.P. Cavafy’s IthaKa is the conclusion that it’s never about getting there but always about the search, as long as you understand what the Ithakas mean.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
 
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
 
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
 
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

 

I texted the name and sent it to C. “wtf, who remembers that” was the answer. Right.

Now, the material trigger for all this is on its way to another hemisphere and I hope it will continue to inspire random thoughts, impromptu travels, silly theories and becomes someone else’s story.

Memory, hither come, And tune your merry notes

 

After a nervous smartphone breakdown, the cloud has been generous enough to give me back some pieces of what it seems to have been my recent life.

References

Memory, hither come by William Blake

Getting to fly

In December 2009 I finally managed to finish my PhD. In January 2010, as a reward, I took myself to Zambia because I have always been fascinated by Dr. Livingstone.

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I am not a particularly brave person, I’m actually quite shy and insecure most of the times.

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But I do believe in forcing myself to do everything that terrifies me.

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Daring

On forts and churches 

This is my first trip to India. I spent two and half days in Kochi in the state of Kerala, site of the death of Vasco da Gama who had arrived in Calicut (now Kozhikode) 26 years before. In 1510, led by Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese conquered Goa and here they stayed until December 19 1961. I spent two days here, fulfilling what has been a dream ever since I was a kid. To visit Goa.

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And while trying to fight whatever is left of my jet lag self, I am trying to both understand where I am beyond the imaginary place of countless life fantasies and the real place. This is, of course, an absolutely delusional ambition. How could I ever understand anything in two overwhelming days.

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I always felt History was not easy to explain. Not even to thode who share it with you. There’s always a sense of invaders guilt at the back of my mind and then people tell me ” you should come to Iran and see the Portuguese fort in Hormuz” or ” you really need to come to Sri Lanka and see the Galle Fort” or maybe go to Thailand or Oman or Indonesia. And then I realize there’s nothing to be explained. It’s a common memory .

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The minute I got in the car for a tour of Goa, the guide starts talking about Augustinian and Jesuit churches and nuns baking Bebinca, and reliquaries and Saint Francis Xavier and how much knowledge came together in the XV century to make all those churches and forts rise and still stand.

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It is impossible, for me at least, not to feel that those stones and paintings and that relic are part of who I am. They are my cultural DNA.

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The next day I decide to walk on my own through Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter of Panjim and get lost, as I normally do. Since I have no wifi I ask the girl carrying her dry cleaning carefully wrapped in newspaper where June 18 street is. She walks with me because she is going that way. Where are you from, she asks. I tell her.

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Eu também falo português (I also speak Portuguese) she tells me.

This is my unfinished journey. Where my sense of belonging comes from.

One is always at home in one’s past…

Vladimir Nabokov

Nostalgia