Portugal: wildfire of the heart
reflection through friendships and memories
Portugal caught our bus driving into the wildfire: this horrifying majesty appeared as a red sky in front of us. The road was too narrow to turn around, and the bus was driving backward away from the fire. We were breathing in the smoke and watching the element's dominance; some locals were panicking, and the fire to the left was consuming the trees – I distinctly remember the details. In my memories, it remains one of the most beautiful and frightening things I have ever seen – blinding red burning contours of the branches on both sides.

I am afraid of dying, afraid of the flames ahead, powerless in the face of uncertainty. Now I think maybe it was not as dangerous as I imagined it to be – but I was still terrified by this strength and the smoke.

We arrived in Lisbon at 04:30 am instead of the planned midnight. We are spending time on the beach next to the ocean — it is a big contrast compared to the night fire we saw.

It makes me realize that life is driven by the fear of death; by keeping in mind that we are mortal and small – we feel alive and bigger, rooting ourselves in this presence. So do I when standing next to the ocean and reflecting on the night – the ocean suppresses the flames and makes me breathe in its freshness, it feels relieving and enchanting. For me, the time is freezing, and only by diving into this calmness I see clearly through the reflection in waves – I made the right choice shortly before. I am liberated, I am inhaling with a long-time unfamiliar strength this new chapter I am about to begin.
13.07.2022 (before the fire)

We have just arrived in Porto, took a bus from the airport, and found ourselves in the +37 degrees in the café on a beach of the Atlantic. The bus driver seemed to be rather upset at us and gave a quick lecture on how we should raise our hand to hop on the transport – we are discussing this first Portuguese experience.
The umbrella is the only way to be covered from the sun. Because of the strong wind, it is blown away and falls to the next table, almost hitting Carla as well.
- Don't you think this trip is a bit chaotic? – says Carla and a napkin flies up.

I am thinking about a recent break-up and reasoning my own decisions, trying to come to my own peace and understanding: was it an act of self-care or an impulsive choice to give up? This chapter turned out to be not the way I might have imagined it a year ago – but I lived through the most suitable and needed experience for me.

And here I am – sitting with Carla next to the Atlantic talking about the heat.

Lisbon is a magic spell to me, bewitching me with its ornaments and light guitar music, merging with my heart. Ocean and architecture, steep streets and cheerful voices, pastel colors and pastels de nata – the sounds and views make me feel the surroundings deeply, almost tangibly.
We are having lunch at a restaurant eating seafood – someone has a birthday next to us, and the whole place lights up with singing Happy Birthday in Portuguese, multiple smiles and applause.

Vit stands with the pants rolled up to his knees holding a stick, trying to make it stand in the sand. The wind is blowing from all sides, we are watching him from the parapet while making jokes about evolution. There is not much to be said – ocean envelopes, attracts to its nature and replenishes. Lin is laughing out loud once the waves splash at the police workers, we create a potential family tree out of all of us and have some of useless imaginative talks.

If some places force us to think, others have the ability to freeze time and make us feel instead. It is Lisbon for me – the place where I can look ahead in the eyes of the unknown and live my own truth with a new start. I think of what I want from life – I think of how I love architecture and want to play guitar in the parks, I think about the paintings and the daily drawings, I want to braid my hair and wear bright dresses with flowers. I want to travel and feel myself a part of something bigger – I want to stay active and live next to the seaside, I love Portugal and the way I feel myself in its surroundings.

At the old elevator in the center, I find people busking – playing guitar outside to earn money, and suddenly I am talking to a Brazilian who moved to Portugal and started his own band. Busking is not legal here – amplifiers are being taken by the police together with the fine, which is why bigger groups are always present – in case of police they take the instruments and run away. Even though it is not legal, playing outside is quite profitable: on a good day, a guitarist can make 50-100 euros– as I learn now from a conversation with a Brazilian guy I met. That is the way he currently lives – every day busking together with the attempts to record songs for his new death metal band. Funny enough, when I mention the Netherlands the first thing he says is that he visited Eindhoven for a metal meeting – of which I, obviously, have never heard. In the end, my swift opponent asks for a kiss, making our encounter even more hilarious.

This talk reminds me of the times back in Moldova in 2017, playing guitar in the underground, the people I met, and the self-expression it meant to me. This is a part of me that I sometimes forget about – but those experiences were lovely summer evenings together with Vlad; smiles on the passers-by's faces. This Portuguese evening makes me remember – and think of how I could take my guitar – go out in Eindhoven and sing – or take my guitar around the world and sing an ode to this ocean as I keep singing Wild is the wind next to the Atlantic in Porto. The wind is within me, I would go and carry it anywhere with me – it is in my travels or in the camping dreams I have, it is an inalienable bit of my identity.

At 3:30 am Carla, Sibora and I are laughing when braiding the hair between the two of them, comparing the body proportions and trying not to wake up the whole apartment with our – almost hysterical – laughter. Right now we do not know that this is a starting point for our deeply rooted friendship and many more evenings we are about to spend back in Eindhoven in the upcoming autumn.

During the day we are going to Sintra – from where we are heading to Cascais. I am surprised by this architectural devotion of my friends who prefer to go to a museum by Souto de Moura instead of coming to the cliff called the end of the world, but I am in the minority so I go with it and watch the red concrete building. On the bus I am anxious, but Lin is next to me and we are talking about life, sea, mountains and dreams. Lin is telling a story of her moving to Portugal as a kid, listening to her is calming and this conversation makes me smile. While we are driving past the most picturesque places I have ever seen – the rest of the group is asleep, making me and Lin confused.
This leads us to the rocks with the sunset and broadening horizons around us. I am slowly approaching the edge and lying down next to it – I see the ocean underneath and pay respect to the water, complying with its grandiosity. Anika went further away, Carla and Luca are talking to me in the dusk about life.

- Imagine that far-far away there across the ocean there is America…

(Later we figured out that we were looking straight at Morocco in that direction, but obviously it did not matter for our introspective mood).


I am watching Vit surfing and the cliffs dissolving into the ocean. The waves are not big enough – so Vit mainly stands and makes attempts to catch them on his board. I am considering trying surfing, too, and go to ask for some lessons – where I find myself almost speechless looking at the (honestly very hot) Portuguese guy from the surfing school. On the way back I am talking to Sibora – with every step settling down in the sand and I want to stop – to look around and observe, remember this moment for longer.

In the evening four of us go to Cascais once again and arrive at the same museum we went to yesterday. There is an event with music, people are dancing, Vit and I join in this calling lively Portuguese spirit of movement. Right after, I walk around the building – my hair is still salty from the swimming a couple of hours ago and absolutely entangled, but my eyes are sparkling and I cannot stop smiling.
I am sitting next to the monastery in Porto and the whole city is opening up to me; it is surprisingly vast and spacious for its population. I came here to hear myself – what do I want and what do I imagine my life to look like?

We are sitting next to the ocean with Alvaro Siza pool, inspired by this beautiful interaction of architecture and the Atlantic. Looking at its subtility makes me understand that architecture does not have to be grandiose to be good – and neither do we. I am trying to draw – but I want to sing instead – I remember the Wild is the Wind song and make a recording with waves being a background.
Wild is the Wind

We are listening to Yesterday with Carla in our chaotic kitchen – and I realize that I love the Beatles – that I want my friendships and future relationships to feel like Beatles songs instead of the bitter dark chocolate I sometimes had. At the point where Luca and Sibora enter the room, they see two of us listening to Carmen at 1 am. Changing the alarm melody means that in the morning we are about to have a quick dialogue between us:

- What's the time?
- We haven't listened to classical music yet, so it's too early.
- That's a very good point.

And continue to sleep.


I am escaping to the ocean and can barely explain why so – something about it attracts me and if The Sea is Calling in the Temper Trap songs – it is always calling me, too. It is the temptation I give in to, listening to the waves and staring at the sun hiding behind the horizon. I hear someone singing next to me – her voice creates the melody and in the next minute I find myself choosing a place to sing.

I am sitting down next to the ocean observing the lighthouse at the pier; the sky is completely clear and I am dreaming about my life.

I am grateful for the opportunities I am given and the experiences I get. I inevitably make mistakes and get lost on the way, but even reflecting on this bumpy road, I see that I am rapidly moving forward. I love my life and feel happy; I want to learn to slow down and stay focused, take care of myself, laugh, and travel a lot. I see the stripes of the lighthouse in front of me and am listening to the ocean.

Буду сидеть, пока не сдует ветром,
И от Атлантики не унесёт волной.
Буду молчать, светить, мерцать и где-то
Быть маяком любви к себе собой.


I am walking down the street talking to Vit – this is the last evening before all of us say bye to each other, a new chapter for him, and the farewell to Eindhoven life through this Porto nights and one slammed door behind. Because only when we close one door, a thousand other ones open – and the one closed by me right before leaving for Portugal opened another to – first of all – myself – and the inner freedom I have experienced from then on.
But then – if in a very short frame of a lifetime so many things are subjected to change that sometimes we can barely keep up the pace of people and emotions that come and go, how do we learn to watch and accept the split-second escape? What is the way to embrace the moment and admit that whatever does not serve you will be gone; and no matter how much you try to bypass the tolls on the road as we did when driving to the beach, some of them cannot be avoided – and this is a fatalistic approach to destiny I choose to believe. It does not mean inaction – quite the opposite – it means living one's truth and standing by your beliefs, being courageous enough to show passion and take action throughout life, because one day it will no longer be an option at all.

I am learning to watch people disappear instead of forcing them to stay, to keep my eyes wide open without trying to grab others with my hands (even if I really want to) in what I believe would be right and fair. I am opening myself to the world and looking back at these notes I had in my notebook during the trip and see: even though none of us will most likely be back with the same people or the same attitude – our lives have changed way too much – I do not miss that lightness. I am happy to see the trip as it was, the turning point for me and all of us together. I am concluding the observations from this mid-December point and see how much closer I got to the self-peace and comfort and how much, however, there still needs to be done.

Overall I reflect on the friendships falling and people leaving, or keeping the door shut despite my attempts. And at one point I stop knocking – it means that some doors better remain sealed for me, and it is a certain charm of our life.

It means – as a reminder to myself – that from a particular standpoint we do not see the whole picture, so it is important to pause and observe before drawing hasty conclusions. Moreover, even when we do watch our goods and people vanish – it is for our own benefit, even though mainly it is rather painful, but we never know what it could have been otherwise. We might never be back with the same people in the same place as life is short and never still. However, the memories remain and there is one melody I want to listen to and remind myself throughout life – it's Let it Be by the Beatles; because let's be frank with each other: you never know which of the wildfires will be the last one.

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