Saturday, February 25, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Portugal's coastline is dotted with old forts. Some have been preserved as museums, some are restaurants and hotels, and some are falling into ruin. There's one very near my house that seems to belong in the latter category, although it's hard to tell for sure, since it's surrounded by a high wall, within which trees and dense brush crowd together. It's tough to get a view of the thing, but what one can see - mostly these corner watch posts - is very dramatic, especially in late afternoon, when the light is golden.
Much closer to my house, just a couple houses over, in fact, is a beautiful little home that was recently reclaimed from dilapidation. I like to walk past and see what a dramatic change the owners have made. They resurfaced the crumbling walls and painted them white, and they reset the paving stones that run along the margin of the street. Above their gate towers an old cedar tree. They trimmed it back so it no longer blocks their driveway, and now in late afternoon, the sunlight finds its way into the interior of the tree, and highlights the intricate network of branches that used to reside in perpetual shadow. I walked past that tree earlier this week, and as I thought for the thousandth time about painting those lacework branches, it occurred to me that they would look particularly good forming a backdrop for the watchtower of a fort.
I thought, too, that I'd like to work in colors that not only put across the golden light and the deep shadows, but that also refer to that school of painting practiced by people like Percy Gray, who painted in California in the first half of the 1900s.
Other references keep rattling around in my mind as I'm working. For some reason, I keep thinking of Gustav Klimt and old Japanese woodcut prints.
I wouldn't say that what I'm doing looks anything like either of those, or, sadly, like anything that Mr. Gray would have painted, but I'm aware of all of them, and I think each, at least in some small way, influences me.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Sometime after the great earthquake of 1755, coffee and coffee houses established themselves in Lisbon. Some say this was the work of the Marques de Pombal, who planned and helped rebuild the city, while others say it had more to do with coffee being an important export of so many Portuguese colonies.
Whichever is the case, as coffee, which is typically served as an espresso, began to gain in popularity, it was accompanied around Lisbon by advertisements recommending that it be drank with sugar. The ads looked something like this:
This is why, around Lisbon, a typical Portuguese coffee is referred to as a Bica.
This seems like a fitting name for the dog who leaped the garden wall and made herself at home here. Her coloring is very coffee-like, and her disposition is very sweet.
She's energetic and affectionate, but she's also calm and gentle, especially after she's chased the ball or gone for a walk.
She seems to like nothing better than just being around people. Any time I walk out my gate, odds are that she'll be waiting there, hoping to be taken for a walk, or brought inside for a bite to eat. If I am on my way walking somewhere, she'll accompany me. When this happens, nearly everyone we meet will say, "Oh, is this your dog? She's been in my yard." Nobody seems to mind, but everyone expresses concern that she's going to be hit by a car. This has happened at least once already, according to her owner, but he still doesn't keep her at home.
If I can convince her not to eat the family cats, I'll ask the owner to let me have her.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I'll be working, but if I could, I'd go and watch. A bike race is the perfect vehicle for seeing some of Portugal's most beautiful scenery, and ever since I first experienced it more than 30 years ago, I still find a bike race to be one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon. There is nothing like the color, the movement, and the sound of the tires rushing by.
I wonder if anyone would notice if I didn't show up for work tomorrow...