This week I come with a suggestion: find a quiet spot, somewhere close or further away, where you can sit or stand while touching something that you connect with nature. Maybe you can find a meadow and stand barefoot in its centre, or you can sit in your bedroom while gently touching your baby plant. Whether you prefer to close your eyes and listen or keep them open and read, let me take you on a walk around Vale das Lobas, as we come close to the spring equinox. I’ll try to show you what this spring – in the mountain, imbedded in Nature – is like for me. I hope you enjoy it.

I step out the door. The sun is hot, bright, facing me as I face it and greet it good morning. There is a strong breeze blowing, reminding me of the ending of winter. Two dogs greet me, wagging their tails happily and lazily as they bask in the morning light. Their fur is soft and very warm. After weeks of grey overcast, it’s stunning how this sunny day can lift up my mood. I feel energised, light, social, happy. I look towards the Serra, taking in the valley on this clear day – dark green, light green, brown, grey, yellow, white, blue, red, soft, rugged, steep, flat, winding. I hear at least 5 different bird songs and calls. I hear the cuckoo bird! Sr. José da Cruz from the village taught me this is a sure sign of the coming of spring.

I walk up the hill into Sobral Pichorro. Sometimes a car passes and the driver and I greet each other with a wave. I pass the houses and gardens, which are blooming more and more openly every day. The cabbages stand proud, the flowers are showing off, and the windows and doors are open. The occasional elder villager passes by on foot, on their way to their horta, to take out weeds, prepare for planting, and we always give each other two fingers of chit-chat. I keep walking up, past beautiful stone and white houses or wonderful ruins, taking my time, feeling the changing terrain under my feet, the increase of my heartbeat as I climb. I pass the rebuilding site of the future Nature Spa. I keep walking up, and enter a green, watery world. This is a special world.

The sound of trickling water is omnipresent here. There are tanks everywhere, with water running down from the highest terraces of this otherworldly garden. There is lush green everywhere, and now there are more and more flowers populating the flat grounds of the socalcos. They are small and many – white and yellow camomile, purple bugloss, lilac rosemary, green primrose, white wild radish, pink dead-nettles, and delicious yellow calendula, which I take a bit out of. There are white-and-pink-flowering almond and cherry trees everywhere. There are orange oranges, some sweet, some bitter. There are shocking-pink camellia, already raining down their petals, creating almost a high-fashion red carpet. Even the walls and the steps are populated, by little navelwort – in other words, bellybuttons. It is so beautiful, colourful, bright. Nature is feeling herself, showing the world what she’s got, and encouraging us to do the same. Like it’s the time to be ourselves, to rise up our energy, individually and together. To feel and create energy. Nature is inviting, and I feel both welcoming and inviting as well. Just like the flowers are opening and inviting in all the buzzing bees around. They create a humming atmosphere, almost like white noise, luring us into this place and state of wonder.

As I walk or climb up the steps, I say hello. How could I not – to the trees, the bushes, the flowers, the bees – they’re all clearly saying hi as well, just as the villagers did, waving in colour and sound! Some are more shy – in one of the tanks, there is a water snake, her head peeking out of the water, she too enjoying the sun, just like the dogs were doing. But when I move, she wiggles into the fuzzy depths and is gone. Over there there is a green frog in the funniest position – sprawled legs, floating motionless, head out of the water. Unlike Miss Shysnek, he doesn’t move when I do. He’s clearly comfortable being his own, quirky self. At the tank in the next terrace, I spy another introverted friend – a little rodent, maybe a mouse or a shrew? As I approach, our widened eyes meet, for maybe 2 seconds, until this tiny ball of fur vanishes into the tall grass.

Even though it’s still chilly, the water here is inviting. Almost sexy. Clear, blueish-green, refreshing. Be patient, magical substance, we’ll get to know each other properly in some weeks. In the hexagon tank the water is more green – very lush, fertile, mysterious. And it holds a kindergarten of baby newts. They remind me of microscopic crocodiles as they swim around with arms to their sides, rapidly undulating their bodies. The opening to the tank’s water mine is a small window, and in this bellybutton of the mountain lives a family of tiny, round bats. I say hi to them as well, softly and from outside. It’s their nap time.

I stop. The wind blows through the trees, through the leaves of the forest above and through my hair. It envelops me in a hug – a chilly, soft and energetic embrace. I am almost lifted up by it, floating up with it. The trees, the flowers, my hair; they speak through it. Through the wind they move, communicate, live. And through the ever-sounding trickling water. There is nowhere else for me to be right now, other than here. Sure, there are always tasks to complete, practical things to address, but these moments are too precious, an invitation not to be refused. Nature is inviting me in, and greeting me with energy, happiness, love. I take the time. I reflect them back. Through my passing hands, the flowers gain motion and I gain touch – it feels good.  Through my climbing, the trees give me support and I give them hugs. Through drinking, me and the water transfer life – we share in an exchange of fluids, as is the way of this H2O-based world.

Down the mountain, at the riverside, I take off my shoes and socks. I touch the chilly ground with my naked feet. I walk upstream. Like two opposing magnetic forces, me and the river flow together for a while. The steady walking, the toes digging in the dirt, the running water, the rustling plants, we create music together. There is beat and melody. I stop, but the music continues. I balance towards the water, nettles touching my skin and sending fire through my blood, trickling with power. I balance on the roots of alder trees, gripping them and hugging them with my toes and the flesh of the bottom of my foot. On the other side of the river, the grazing sheep join in the music with chimes of their bells. The water skeeters run and run on the water surface, defying gravity, running to stay in place against the current, just like Alice and the Red Queen. Just like us.

And we can return to our present selves now.

I write and say all this in retrospect, of course. While I was there, I did not take my computer. And only took some picture with the phone. But remembering this, taking – again – the time for it, it gains an even deeper meaning. If the trees were alive before, they are even more alive now. If the plants were flirting, they are irresistible in my memory. If the wind was calling, it speaks my name in my mind. By reliving and reworking the memory, my mind has elevated an already magical reality. I can go back there, let my feet physically take me – to those socalcos, to the river, to anywhere where nature speaks – and I can listen to the birds, the plants, the rocks, the gurgling stream, and I can speak back. I don’t need to know their names even. I just greet them as I pass, I say good morning, and I’m happy to have them in my life. Like I do with people, I guess.

And so, even walking or being by myself, I am part of what surrounds me, meshed deep within it. Which means that I’m never alone.

Vale das Lobas is leading towards sustainable life on Earth.

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