My wife is off to Portugal to build a house, so our house now hosts none save me. This is a bit of a turn of events in our life together. For years she was at home while I went here and there with work. I’ve never travelled a lot with work, but enough to know that it is something best enjoyed in smaller bits. Work travel also generally has that odd character of being nearly “a-topical,” that is, you are in a place but not really. Most of the time is spent in hotels, or conference centres and the lovely people you get to meet are rarely the people who inhabit the land you visit.
I think it will be a bit different for Gwenanne. She is on a build with Habitat for Humanity, for whom she works. The people who receive the home work alongside the international builders, so she will have plenty of occasion to rub shoulders with locals. She went a few days early, and so had a bit of a chance to engage Porto. She has the happy opportunity of being in Portugal over Holy Week, so I am sure she will have tales to tell.
When I was doing graduate study in Toronto, we lived in what is called “Little Portugal.” The folk there were from the Azores Islands, which are half way between Portugal and the Americas. Most of our neighbours were fairly recent immigrants with limited English. When I went to the local grocer, or barber, only Portuguese was heard. Nonetheless, everyone was so kind and made an effort to engage us as best as they were able. I have such vivid memories of sardines on the barbecues in the summer and wine production in the fall. I also remember marvellous custard tarts, which G recently reported having found in Porto, and without compare. So far, no comment on grilled sardines has been made.
Being on my own usually means I am cooking or baking or making something. Today it was rye bread, beer and then banana bread this evening. Yesterday it was granola. I am afraid that my production levels are outstripping my consumption patterns. Cooking, it seems, is the way I negotiate being on my own. All the same, the quiet has not been oppressive. I turned the radio on at lunch time, for a bit, but quickly sent it packing. My herring and Akvavit were adequate dinner companions. Tomorrow a guest comes for a few days, and then it is the chaos that is the week, before I fly to Halifax to spend the Triduum with my youngest. Gwenanne returns the day after I do.
I think that I am finding balm in the quiet because the week prior to this was pure lunacy. This was, in part, a product of poor planning from my side and the simple collision of events in the accident that is life. Well, of course, life is not only accidents. We plan, God laughs, and then we react. Sometimes the best reaction is to get on a train and go see some art, which I did yesterday. Sometimes the best reaction is to cook, which I did today. And sometimes the best reaction is to go to church and to listen again to the stories of God’s accompaniment with us. That is my plan for tomorrow – inshallah.