Continuing the gratitude-listing tradition, here’s a quick (challenge yourself, Vera! WRITE A SHORT THING!) post on ten things I’m grateful for after an unbelievable week in and around Lisboa, Portugal.
4. Camping right by the ocean with a dear friend at the Westernmost edge of the European continent.
5. Rodrigo, Tom Drake, and what they told me about time. It makes me angry and ecstatic at the same time—Desassossego, as the Portuguese poet who lived across from Rodrigo’s eponymous bookstore would have it. Quiet on the outside while a revolution rages within. How you don’t give up rule of law to get it—just like you don’t trade your time for living now in the hope of having a life another day. Because time and people are irreplaceable. And holding sacred life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what we do as free people. How we do it is the art of expressing and enacting our free will. It’s the greatest art of all. Someone should really write a book about that.
6. Back up. Deeply meaningful connection. I’m grateful for stumbling across Rodrigo’s gorgeous book store/wine bar/art gallery, Desassossego, where I wandered in and learned from the best about Portuguese poetry, applying J.S. Mill’s insights about unpopular or wrong minority opinions to theology (solving the problem of evil coexisting with an omnipotent God), delicious Portuguese beet juice, how smart, kind men with motorcycles and tattoos make time disappear, and the beautiful gift of Antologia de Poesia Contemporanea Vol. IV that immediately yielded this random but hilariously appropriate poem—
“plano de contingéncia”
acordei sem desejo
virei-me e adormeci
no cérebro um cortejo
como eu nunca previ.
transform-me em relogio
rodo-o ao contrario
sono vira refugio
e altera-me o horario.
sem poder descansar
ha poemas dum inferno
a atacar pelo ar.
8. Distinct feeling that art explosions are imminent. Must paint, still figuring out how to explode oil paintings while traveling since this generates small problems of storage and such. But I’m grateful, too, for S in Brighton letting the paintings I made on her porch brighten her living room since I don’t know what else to do with them and she was so kind to host me. And I’m grateful that I will figure out how and where to make myself a little nest somewhere with a month’s stability, where I can explode paintings and songs. That might come next after drafting next book, which would be fine and might (someday?) generate income? Right now I am just doing what I have to do, which is make art and travel, and trusting that part of this life experiment is figuring out how that works.
9. The feeling also that I am in the process of finding my voice. I still wish I had it better clarified and made more noise (music, comedy—podcasting, stand-up, improv). But clearly I’m a painter and a writer first. And I’m talking with lots of interesting, nice people. So if my art is going to involve making more noise, this is how I’m going to get there. I’m showing up to it. And the more I show up, the more I feel and know that the world needs what I have to give it, and a lot of people care about me. Weird as I am.
10. Freaky good intuition. Trust in the universe. Amazing music for free, in playlists tailored precisely to what I like and might like to learn that I like, on Youtube throughout Western Europe. (That’s beyond an old utopian fantasy—maybe it was Fourier? Someone thought it would be heaven to have music pumped in wherever you went. We have that now, and so much more.) Tasty fish. The ridiculously beautiful French family who made a little bit of world peace by the water where I like to write, watching their little girl in a sparkly butterfly dress feed her pastry to pigeons.
This is not one thing. It never is.