There can’t have been many people who predicted the advent and effect of the Covid19 pandemic for Portugal, let alone anywhere else on our currently stunned planet.
Fingers crossed and by the grace of your chosen deity, it looks like the Portuguese authorities have responded in an exemplary way. They have successfully flattened the curve and are now looking at lifting the lockdown, to minimise the economic devastation that in some scale will be inevitable.
As I write, the ghostly call of consumerism is whispering to us all from deserted streets and malls. Empty cafes and pastelarias beckon too, a fabulous feature of Portuguese life that many of us may have missed.
On the other hand, capitalism ‘cold turkey’ has had this writer reconsider daily spending as a way of life. Exposed by social isolation, it was clearly a lifelong and unconscious habit. With time on my hands, and fewer distractions, I recall that we came here to escape the ‘rat race’, not remain on a treadmill, no matter how pleasant and alluring.
Furthermore, greater discipline around shopping and provisioning, with a heightened awareness of possible loss and lack of supplies, has put this family back in touch with self-reliance, home-growing and the wisdom of living lightly.
The town house, a former pensao in the marvellous town of Curia, of which we are caretakers is now a living lightly laboratory where food is grown on the balcony and chickens kept in the old outdoor larder.
My Good Morning Portugal! Radio show and podcast, once a platform for selling the dream (and the houses), is now a community focal point for others lit up by ‘happy homesteading’ – the name of our associated Facebook group where simpler-living tips, hacks and recipes are shared.
So, as the call to consumerism increases in volume and pitch, I feel the need to resist and stay in tune with a different sound. Mother Nature has also been calling – long before the current Covid crisis, and I suspect long after – if not as loud and shrill as mammon’s roar!
It was over ten years ago that her voice first brought me to Portugal, seeking a simpler way. The silence afforded by physical distance and lifestyle restrictions has allowed her to be heard once more. It’s her, I’m choosing to follow: back to nature, and not back to normal.
This family of five humans has been sobered by the pandemic, but is resolute once more in wanting to realise its original mission, embarked upon in 2017.
Even with the socio-economic ravages of the Coronavirus, this country has self-reliance in its DNA. Skills of sustainability still live on in the aging muscles of its old folk. And the climate, culture and consciousness of this special place provide a perfect storm for the possibility of a quiet life, a good life – the Portugal Dream.