Eternity is in love with the productions of time. William Blake

Archive for the ‘Portugal’ Category

Here or There

Back in California.  It is a quiet but happy re-entry.  So far I have only seen Molly/Crow/Rowan, and Jesse when he came to pick up Kale’a.  This is the second morning here; last night I went to bed at 10:15 and found myself awake around 5AM.  I lay in bed awhile, because it was cozy and warm, and once I was sure I wasn’t tired anymore, I got up.  Brushed my teeth, took a cold shower, and now tea and toast at the kitchen table while I read a marvelous issue of The Sun whose theme is food.  I feel good.  I feel quiet.  The world is going on around me and I remember my center here, inside.  I think about how patterns can change in my life, if I can learn to accept all those niggly parts of myself and draw them in closer.  This year in Portugal brought me the chance to become more intimate with those niggly parts, and now the beauty of Portugal and my loved ones  is immediate and fresh to me this early morning.  My heart seems situated deeper than here or there.

Mixed Feelings

We bought the tickets for Kale’a and I to return to California today (Bruno is staying a month longer to help his mom with some stuff).   I have a whole mish-mash of feelings.  One, I am very excited to see my sister/nephew/brother-in-law plus all my dear dear friends in California. I miss them fiercely and need those friendships.  I am also looking forward to being in a better environment to do my work (bodywork, doula).  It’s not that there’s not interest in Portugal, but it is still a much smaller enterprise, plus the economy doesn’t leave much for extra spending.  Granted, the economy in California isn’t so hot right now either, but my prospects are still better.  Two, I am disappointed that we were unable to get a ticket with a layover in New England.  It’s been two years since I’ve been back there, I miss my grandparents/sister/mom/friends, and I still haven’t met my niece Olive or my best friend’s son Ethan.  😦  Once we start making some stable money in CA I will definitely be looking for cheap tickets for a visit.  Three, I am going to miss a lot of people in and things about Portugal, but most of all my mother-in-law.  It’s been good to have a mama again, someone right there to love ya and bug ya and talk to and walk with.  I know that we will make strong efforts to see each other as much as possible, but it will be hard to be apart.

beijos grandes e boa noite,


PS I admit I am overdue for a more fun update with pictures of our adventures, but this made its way out first . . .

Easter Vacation Adventures, Part Two

Welcome back!  Easter, naturally, comes next.  Kale’a and I drew a picture for the Easter Bunny, complete with carrots fresh from the garden, which taste soooo sweet!  Sweet raw carrots are a delight.   The Easter Bunny delivered well, of course, with not only sweets but some gardening tools just for Kale’a, flower seeds, a mini rose and bubbles.

A mother/daughter drawing and fresh carrots from the garden for the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Bunny delivers good.

Easter breakfast complete with a basket of red dyed cordonice eggs and princess bubbles.

We drove to Jorge’s sister’s house in Salvaterra dos Magos. about an hour east-ish of here.  There was the 5 of us, Tia Lisa, her sons Pedro and Miguel, Jorge’s and Lisa’s mother Leonor, and Miguel’s fiancee Isabel.  Kale’a, being the only grandchild so far, was spoiled with some presents and lots of play time with Isabel–more puppies, even!  There was no shortage of food, including I think 6 desserts (unfortunately my belly was not feeling well, but I was able to enjoy and partake).  After lunch Bruno took his drum out to the old praca dos toros that is part of the land; I hung out with him and said hi to the horse, who tried to nip me.  A bit later, the horse and the various dogs started a chasing ‘game’, where they would take turns going after one another, in seeming seriousness.

Jorge (my father-in-law) and his sister Lisa, Easter

A mesa (the table), Easter

Isabel, Grandma Leonor, Tia Lisa, Teresa & Kale'a, Easter

Tia Lisa's house, Salvaterra, Easter

Bruno plays the drum at the old praca dos toros, Easter

The horse.

The old praca dos touros

After lunch and meeting the horse, Teresa and I went for a walk through town.  There is a falconry there, which was not open, but we sat in front of it for a while and chatted, enjoying the sunshine.  I took some pictures of little houses and azulejos (Portuguese painted titles) that I liked along the way.

Little pink house, Salvaterra dos Magos, PT

Azulejos. Salvaterra dos Magos

Little tiled house, Salvaterra dos Magos

Detail of decorative azulejos, Salvaterra dos Magos

The Monday after Easter Teresa, Kale’a and I crossed the Rio Tejo in Lisboa to go to the beach in Caparica.  As you can see in the pictures, Lisboa has a sister bridge to the Golden Gate in San Francisco, the Ponte 25 de Abril!  The waves are much gentler in Caparica, so Kale’a and I got our wetsuits on and got in!  If you want to see utter happiness, you have to see Kale’a’s face when she gets in the water.  Pure water baby.  She caught some little waves, and got caught on the head by the waves.  She looked a bit confused but that didn’t stop her.  I went for a run–which is my favorite because I get all hot and sweaty and get to jump in the water.

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the Golden Gate Bridge . . . No, it's the Ponte 25 de Abril, Lisboa!

Ponte 25 de Abril with the Cristo Rei (like the one in Brasil)

The surfer girls!

Kale'a is bodyboarding!


The Tuesday after that, we went further south into the Alentejo.  We took a ferry in Setubal–it was Kale’a’s second time on a ferry, but the first time she remembered (the 1st time was in Seattle with Molly when she was 1.5).  The coast is beautiful, green and full of wildflowers speckling the fields with color.  We stopped at two different beaches; the second one we had all to ourselves!

The Three Graces on a ferry ride, Setubal.

Kale'a likes the ferry!

My dear ones!!

Porto Covo

A few weeks ago we met the lovely folks from Maternar:

We immediately hit it off, and ended up inviting them to spend an afternoon with us (most of them live in Lisboa).  We had a lot of fun hanging out in the sunshine, eating yummy food and playing with the babies.

Maternar potluck

The kids at lunch.

Maternar potluck. So many babies!

Happy Spring everyone!

Easter Vacation Adventures! Part One.

Spring is here and we’ve been busy with this and that.  It’s been a long time since I written any Portugal updates, so I am going to include lots of pictures in this one!

Our first adventure was a visit from a friend of mine from college, Joanna.  She lived across the hall from me freshman year, and we were always friendly but never hung out after that year.  After re-connecting on Facebook she told me she was coming to visit a friend of her (Sarah, below) who is studying azulejos, Portuguese tiles, in Lisboa for the year.  So, I made a new friend and re-connected with an old one, who incidentally also does cranio-sacral work.  Kale’a and I had them over for lunch at the house, then went to the Moorish Castle: and

We had Indian food for dinner, with Bruno, at a restaurant that serves Indian AND Italian food (but not a fusion of, thankfully!).  The next day Kale’a went with Teresa off to the market in Malveira, and I rejoined the ladies for a visit to the Quinta da Regaleira, one of my favorite places in Sintra: and

Kale'a partakes of water at the Moorish Castle

Sarah, Kale'a and Jo, Moorish Castle

Sarah in the Initiation Well, Quinta da Regaleira

A door I like, Quinta da Regaleira

Jo and Sarah at lunch, Lord Byron Cafe, Sintra

In news closer to home, Kale’a is no longer the only princess.  She crowned Qaboos, our year old German Shepherd, the other day.  Doesn’t he look like a cross between a Wookie and a teddy bear?  I don’t think Chewbacca would have tolerated being ornamented nearly as well.

Qaboos, the other princess.

Spring at Quinta Al Bustan!

The quinta is in the full bloom of spring:  fruit trees are blooming, chicks and puppies abound, and in the picture above, the field is half plowed–the ground was too wet to continue.  Yesterday, more than a week later, it was plowed again, and today we planted onions, potatoes, pumpkins, beans and corn.  In our little garden, which is fenced off to keep the dogs out, we also planted tomatoes, carrots, radishes, red pepper, broccoli, calendula and holy basil/tulsi–thanks to Lauren, Travis and Gavin, who sent us the motherload of organic seeds!!

The Puppies.

Any one raised a practicing Catholic knows you can’t eat meat on ‘Good Friday’ (for reference, Good Friday is the day that Jesus died, and Easter is the day he rose from the dead).  It is a tradition here that everyone goes down to the beach to pick mussels–so off we went!  It was my first time, which seems silly since I grew up in New England and then moved to the California coast, but now I know!  It was fun, and the mussels were very tasty, if a lot of work.  Kale’a loved them.

The reluctant bunny on the way to the beach

Magoito Beach, before you can see all the little ant-y humans

Magoito Beach, complete with mussel-picking 'ants'

Teresa and Kale'a, Magoito Beach

Teresa, Kale'a and zee mussels.

Me, zee girl, and zee mussels

Mama Ocean.

Mama Ursula.

Kale'a stares down the mussel.

I scrubbed and washed, Teresa steamed (she did her fair share of washing to start), and Kale'a ate!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of part one.  It’s almost midnight in Portugal!  More to come tomorrow.


Ursula et al


I’m questioning things.  For so long I’ve been moving step by step towards making my living doing the various healing work I love, cranio-sacral and doula work.  I’m not giving that up, per se, but I am questioning if that’s what would be the best mainstay.  The other night Bruno and I were in Lisbon with his brother and sister-in-law, and  I saw a shop, ‘California San Francisco Vintage’; I immediately thought, oh, that would be so fun to import cool second-hand clothes from California!  Teresa (my mother-in-law) and I have lightly tossed around the idea of a tea and chocolate shop–she makes the most amazing flourless chocolate cake–and so why  not a combo cafe and funky clothes store?

What’s most interesting to me about this is that I felt drawn to the idea, and capable of executing it, whereas bringing my healing work into the world can often feel like I making something out of nothing.  The cafe/shop does not feel so emotionally heavy, while trying to create a business structure for the cranio/doula work does.  The cranio/doula work itself (being with the people) does not feel heavy, however.  Further appeal for the cafe/shop lies in 1) getting to shop! 2) trips between California and Portugal being tax-deductible 3) having time to write once things get off the ground and I could have someone else work in the shop, and having the mental energy, too.

The cranio-sacral and birth work will always be a part of my life.  Whatever actually happens, this path is an intimate part of my spiritual journey.  All of my ‘spiritual’ experiences happen through my body, and so I refuse to leave my body, or anybody else’s, out of the realm of spiritual imagination and wholeness.  But perhaps I need to ask better questions about how this all wants to manifest in my life.

Either way these are questions, musings–but not decisions.  We know that we are coming back to California this summer, and it will be interesting to start afresh in California.  When we left in September I felt a deep need to ‘break the set’ of behavior that I had settled into in my California life, many things that were no longer serving me.  Being here in Portugal has given me a chance to uncover those places that were festering and let the sun and wind clean them out.

I’ve never been great with self-discipline, especially around consistent exercise or spiritual practice, and that’s some of my core work here.  The last month of travel and then illness has me off the yoga bandwagon, but I’m climbing back on.  In February I’m going to a Vipassana retreat, my first ever, and while I’m nervous about that much sitting (from a physical standpoint) I am very curious about what the experience will be.

When I was back in California for 3 weeks, I noted that I felt much more neutral about the place than when I left (distinctly, I very much miss my friends and family there).  That was a relief, and I am also curious about what it will be like to live there again after this year abroad.  Even now, I make an effort to not assign some fixed meaning to life there (or anywhere), but to allow the meaning to continue to unfold–just as I am doing inside myself.

Gosinhos e Bolinhos! (or, Playing Hooky!)

Today we played hooky.  There is a fair 1/2 hour north of here that Teresa loves; last year Thursdays were her day off from school but not this year, so she had to be a little bit of a bad example to her students (she is a junior high art teacher) and cut school.  We intended to have Kale’a back in time to be only a little late for her school (she has to be there 11-11:30) but, no surprise, that didn’t happen.  So it was a day off for all of us!

Depending on where you go, there are feiras, or markets, every day of the week.  In fact, the words for Monday-Friday are Segunda Feira, Terca Feira, Quarta Feira, etc, meaning second market, third market, fourth market, and so on (Saturday is Sabado and Sunday is Domingo).  Today’s market was in Malveira, and had a lot more than the feira we went to in Sao Pedro (part of Sintra) a few weeks ago.  We parked in a lot that had about ten vendors selling fruits and some vegetables out of their trucks.  We bought apples and three beautiful bright red lengths of chili peppers (they are now decorating our kitchen).  Right next to this was the small livestock area, and we browsed the multitudes of chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits.  Naturally, Kale’a was entranced by all of the baby animals, and had to be literally torn away, multiple times, from four little scraggly puppies.

The rest of the market was across a sort of plaza, and contained the myriad gypsy wares we had seen at Sao Pedro:  cheap plastic toys, random toiletry items you can find at any grocery market, various household goods, sunglasses, and lots of shoes and clothes.  My favorite image was of a tall and strongly built dark haired woman loudly hawking her wares while standing up and nursing her toddler.  We bought pantufas, or slippers, for Kale’a, pink shearling, and from the other vendors of plants we bought 50 strawberry plants, onions to plant, carrot seeds and 12 small lettuce starts.

I have to admit that being at the market with Kale’a is not the most relaxing shopping experience.  While she doesn’t have the wandering tendency that smaller kids have, she wants everything and can be very stubborn.  Oh well.  We did go to the small playground in the plaza as we were leaving, which was fun.  We had one last intense puppy pining episode (I would love to get her a puppy if I could, but besides the fact that we are only here until the summer, there are already three dogs here), which was quickly forgotten when Teresa made a last purchase of two goslings (gansinhos)!  Now, I’m not a huge fan of adult geese (gansos), as I am under the impression that they are not the nicest barnyard animals (I like ducks better), but baby geese are very cute, and sweet tempered.  The last thing we did was pick up one hazelnut and one olive tree (oliveira) on the way out.

Kale'azinha e os gansinhos

Kale'azinha e os gansinhos


Before we arrived home we got a pay-as-you-go card so that I can use one of the older cell phones (it’s much cheaper here!!) as well as food for the goslings.  Teresa was concerned about how the two existing geese would receive the babies, but to our good fortune they took to them in parenting fashion immediately.

Os pais novos (the new parents)

Os pais novos (the new parents)

Note the drooling dog.

Note the drooling dog.

The only small downside is that they are rather protective, and Kale’a has been dodging goose hisses all afternoon in her obsession to play with the goslings.  I planted the strawberries, lettuce and carrots, and Teresa finished making the tradition cakes, or bolos, for Halloween, o Dia das Bruxas:  they have pumpkin, raisins, walnuts and corn flour, are baked in the clay oven outside, and are soooo yummy!  I missed the baking of the cakes, as I was doing yoga, but Kale’a conveniently placed some bolo quente (warm) on the windowsill for me as I was finishing.

Strawberry plants, plus kale

50 strawberry plants plus kale

Planting carrot seeds

Planting carrot seeds




Note small girl posing as deer in headlights


The Master Cook and her oven. Note small girl still posing . . .

What a yummy day!

PS we ended the day by singing “On Top of Spaghetti” as Kale’a ate her spaghetti and meatballs and giggled hysterically.  I had to dig out my folk song book (?We Sing?) and when putting her to bed I sang a few more, including Scarborough Fair and Over the Rainbow.

PPS Here are a few more pictures of the lovely abundance here:


The geese always wanted a direct view of the palace.


Around the corner the ducks (os patos) stand at attention.


One of the many hydrangeas I pruned, springing to new life!


The mini garden, built especially to prevent the dogs from peeing on our food!




Coriander, aka cilantro. yum.


Batatas doces (sweet potatoes)


Kale'a's pumpkin to carve

Happy Halloween, Samhain and Day of the Dead!

Waiting for the Bus

The two buses sat in the parking lot of the Nashua Mall.  Around me milled other teenagers and a few handfuls of adults.  Truly, I only knew Tricia, a year older, who went to my junior high and my church.  I kissed my dad by and climbed on the bus.

A few months before I had joined an organization called S.T.O.P.P., Students To Offset Peer Pressure.  It was a grassroots, student run organization founded on a pledge to not drink alcohol or use drugs; however, it wasn’t so much about crusading as about providing a haven for teens who didn’t want to partake of the usual partying.  This bus was taking me to a retreat put on by S.T.O.P.P., amusingly called the B.U.T. conference, or Bringing Us Together (yes, there was a rampant sense of humor to be found in the group!).

I remember a sense of mystery, and wonder.  I didn’t know what the weekend was going to be like at all.  Instead of expectations, there was a sense of expansion, and excitement in my chest.  There was a little fear, too, since I knew so little people going, but I had already been enjoying going to camps during the summer, and was willing to trade a little fear for the adventure.

That weekend marked the beginning of a deep involvement with S.T.O.P.P., culminating in serving as organization president during my senior year of high school.  I also met one of my best friends there, Sarah, who turned out to be a friend from pre-school (we were too little to remember properly, in fact, we remembered each other with different names, but my father and her Gram remembered us).  And perhaps most lastingly, S.T.O.P.P. was the first forum where I began to explore my own empowerment, my emotions, my sense of leadership and integrity in the world, and my spirituality.   Most people who weren’t involved thought it was mostly about being sober; those of us on the inside knew that being sober was just the starting point to exploring being more alive.

Just as the year spins round its wheel, my life spins around, spiraling close to another moment of opening.  This weekend I am going to a women’s gathering with Ananda Marga, a tradition of yoga and meditation with centers here in Lisbon and Sintra (it’s where Bruno first began doing yoga).  I am hungry for a circle of woman, for time away from life and even the people I love.  I am curious who I will meet, and what soul connetions will be made.  A lot is being made as well as undone in my life.  Old fears replaced by living structures that support my creativity, joy and embodiment in the world.

After school today I took Kale’a to the beach.  It was low tide, and as we played in the water by the sandbar, I pondered what kind of place in nature does this feeling inside me look like?  Mountain?  Cliff?  Ocean? Forest?  And then I saw a field, wide and long, so long that all I could see was bright light at the end.  Only when you get in the field do you begin to see the fine details of what is there, all the small lovely details that make this life so good.

(This blog is dedicated to all the deep friendships I experienced through S.T.O.P.P./B.O.L.D., but especially Sue Haas, Sarah Gagnon, Kim Sweeney, Heather Dowey, Joe Potvin,  Allison Toom, Kristin Wormley, Jeff Goumas, Kathy Smith, Erin Harleman, Katie Lavoie, and all the other good folks.)

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