I have spent many hours this week just watching the water. I’m watching the boats and the cars, the “self-walking” dogs and the people, too, of course. But mostly I watch the water.
The tide doesn’t roll in here on the Ria Formosa. (Sorry, Otis.) It creeps in, it seeps in. It subtly edges into the conversation until you realize that all the boats that had been high and dry are bobbing and swaying.
And then it slowly reverses, leaving languid tidal pools and thousands of skittering crabs.
The bakery next door was closed on Monday. Maybe it was a holiday; maybe it is closed every Monday. I won’t know until next week. I do know the waitress rides a scooter and works a twelve hour shift. I watch her come and go.
The ferry comes and goes about every half hour. It takes people around the island to the beaches on the other side, fronting the Atlantic. If you miss it, it will be back soon enough.
There are moments when there are no cars, no boats, no people—just the gulls fighting over an unlucky crab. Then a truck honks a friendly greeting to an old man on a bicycle and he gives a wave and a smile. And they pass in front of me, going in opposite directions.
And the tide is creeping up.
The weekend was much busier—a hint of what the summer months will be like when all the tourists arrive. There was a steady stream of cars and people. Bicycle Boys (men really) in teams of six or four, or sometimes just two in their matching spandex and cleated shoes, stopping for a coffee at the bakery. A constant coming and going. But today it is quiet.
Eventually, the restaurant below fills with its regulars; a constant flow of patrons in and out. Today I chat—in English—with a man from The Netherlands. He speaks many languages; we speak in English. I tell him I am trying to learn Portuguese so he won’t think I’m a totally ugly American. He wouldn’t anyway. He is friendly and open. He says he will give me the low down on the happenings in town.
He has many questions about how I came to rent the apartment. He says it is hard to find annual rentals; I may have one of the very few available in town. I realize how lucky I am to have found this apartment. Summer season is when Portuguese landlords and everyone else who caters to tourists make their money. Most want to lease their places out from October to May and take advantage of the higher rates they can charge the tourists from June through September. I still worry that my lease contains some sort of trick clause, that I missed something. But, so far, so good.
The five hour time difference between here and the US East Coast gives me a respite every morning. I can ease into my days. I don’t have to “hit the ground running.” I don’t have to hustle and grind. In fact, that might be frowned upon here. I don’t know.
There’s no moral here, no takeaway. At least not yet. It’s just a glimpse into what my days are like here. I walk in the mornings, drink coffee on the balcony looking out at the water. I watch the people and the tide. And I work, of course. Zoom meetings, emails, social media posts. And writing. Always writing. And as I write this for you, I am only now realizing how close my days here match the “dream day” I wrote out for myself over a decade ago. (Admittedly, I imagined there would be more money. A LOT more money.) I wrote that I wanted to live in a house overlooking the water, walk the beach, and write for a living. There were more specifics, of course. But those were the major points. Every day I get closer to that dream day. I am edging into it, slowly, like the tide.