Talking Trees

They may be Portuguese but the trees speak my language. In Figueira da Foz and beyond, the trees are a diary for the landscape, capturing the history of the area, the storms, the fires. Those that survived, some still have the scars, the blackened trunks that tell a sad but powerful story.

The branches twist and bend to the ocean breeze, a force that is as detrimental as it is useful. Some days the wind is so strong it carries the sea with it, creating cool salty clouds inland.

I was thinking about the rhizome, how trees connect underground via their roots. They help their tree families when they are in need of food and water, they pass these nutrients through tiny outgrowths on the roots. Trees have an ingenious, hidden generosity, they take care of each other.

Trees are physically connected and shimmer with alive-ness, such that I’m pulled to sit and watch them, paint them, and try and see them grow and listen to them communicating with one another

Most of the trees are older than me. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the idea of the wise old tree, a grandfatherly spirit residing in some trees, who could tell you all the secrets of the universe.

I then came to learn about dryads, mythical forest nymphs whose spirits belong to specific trees. I fell in love with tales of satyrs and nymphs and I started to see myself more and more in the myth and in the trees, searching for my long lost tree as if I were separated from it but forgot I was a dryad!

Broody Seas

The coast is long and wide, the sea vast along a seemingly endless horizon. I took long walks alone on the beach , a very isolated beach, especially in winter when the sea was wild and dark clouds billowed outward and upward like slow-motion explosions.

The low tide would reveal a mirrored surface, dips and pools like a a giant skeleton in the sand. Reflecting the tumultuous sky above, so that as above so below. Walking on the clouds, with my feet in the air and my head on the ground.

The Blakean sun rays that ached to get past the clouds, but did little more than emphasise their looming darkness, their ominousness. They struck me right in my solar plexus.

The stormy blackness and the blurred sheets of rain came down in the distance, and the petrichor coming from the dunes and the trees beyond the dunes and the wild lavender. All the smells and sights I needed to chase me home.

Looming , billowing, pillowy clouds almost blocking out the sun and making the sea appear dark, sap green.

Sinister as they slowly pace across the sky. One hopes they don’t come too close. There’s a feeling of being smothered by their depth.

Grassy Dunes

Otherworldly undulating dunes between the sea and the woods, where the wild grasses dance sometimes smoothly sometimes frantically, always hypnotically!

The sweet wild flowers and thistles between the succulents make you forget you at the beach. You could lie in a hollow and be sheltered from the wind and the roar of the ocean.

Divine Sunsets

Two spheres, one turning away from the other, can have this divine illusion of the sun going down, like molten lava on the horizon where the edges blur and appear like hot glass on the glass blowers blowpipe.

It’s no wonder the sky was seen as a heavenly realm, a place where angels resided and the light of God shined down on us all.

It’s impossible to capture the brilliance of a sunset, the changing fragments of light bouncing from the clouds to the surface of the water…impossible!

But I try because the feeling of the colours saturating my eyeballs tickles my brain and compels me to try and capture it with paint!

Os Corações

The hearts! My love for my new home, “o mar”, the sea.

The heart (o coração) is an important symbol in Portugal.

Popularised by the city of Viana do Castelo in the North of Portugal and the cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The heart symbol has also become an icon of Portuguese heritage and Portuguese filigree art.

You see these filigree hearts of Portugal everywhere you go.

The heart filigree jewellery reminds me of the ancient Egyptian belief of the heart as the the true “brain” of the body, the seat of the soul and the ordering organ, communicating with the rest of the body, signalling hormones, chemicals and the expression of genes.

My hearts always have red ribbon. My interest in Chinese culture forms this connection, the red symbolises luck, passion, power, wealth, strength.

The wooden beads on the ribbon mimick the circular sun, the ultimate orb of life, whose presence I have longed for since my escape from South Africa

In Portugal it feels as though I’ve found my true home, my spiritual home, and a deep and natural love, stillness and peace that I’ve been searching for my whole life.