I have taken up running of late and I run on the streets that cross the pine forest. There are many villas there, on each side of each street, but as I run deeper into the forest there are more trees and less houses. It’s quiet, but there is always someone there, either running like me, or walking the dogs; or simply a car passing by.
At daytime it’s pleasant to run or simply walk there, the smell of pine trees invading my nostrils; after it rains, as happened this morning, it’s the smell of damp earth, of Nature, and you feel like losing yourself in all that green and brown and never have to go back to the city again.
As I look around, I know it would scare me by night. I could never live in a house in the pine forest; I may have seen too many horror movies and thrillers, but I would look out of the window and imagine some evil character, human or ghostly, lurking out there, menacing and evil. I know I would close all the shutters, turn on the alarm and just stay there, praying for the night to be over and for morning to come. As I used to do back in Mozambique, when I was about 9 or 10 and didn’t sleep for a whole year. Well, I did sleep, but very little, as I invariably woke up at 3 am, in those huge, unprotected houses we lived in there, and dream awake that a notorious thief, who was famous for his escapes from prison, would sneak into the house and give me the fright of my life.
A different summer
But this morning, as I ran, these thoughts were far from my mind. I felt the breeze on my face and it really felt like autumn. And I remembered today was October 5, a public holiday in Portugal, when we celebrate the 1910 revolution that turned Portugal into a Republic, overthrowing monarchy; and for me, the real end of summer is not on the 22nd or 23rd of September, but on this day. I wonder why.
This was a different summer, but then – aren’t all summers different? Maybe, but we tend to say this one was even more different. It’s a fact that I didn’t travel, and neither did the boys. I saw so much more of them this year, they came and went but most of the time they were around. I know they didn’t travel for a bad reason, but somehow it felt good not having them on the other side of the world, as last year when Afonso travelled to Bali; or worrying about if Pedro was sleeping in a decent place while doing his interrail. They mustn’t see me writing this, but not all things that come with the pandemic are bad!
Also, the fact that we should get together in the open had my friends and I, as well as the boys, make the most of the amazing restaurant terraces we have in this area. I don’t recall a summer when I had had dinner out so often– probably because I didn’t travel – and as we watched the sun set from our tables, while drinking a gin tonic or a caipirinha, we really felt on top of the world. And the beach, the beaches were a pleasant surprise – at least in this place, there was no confusion, no mess… everyone was civilised, keeping the distance, and we could enjoy the sea and the sun as much as in any other year, something we had feared might not be possible.
So, not all was bad during this different summer. It was a good summer, in the end. Different, but thoroughly enjoyed; in the end, is any summer bad? I can’t recall single one. To me, the simple word summer means good things – beach, travels, long, lazy days, dinners with friends while watching the sunset, long talks over a drink, reading all those books you haven’t been able to during the year, looking at the blue sky and thanking God simply because you are alive.
That’s why I’m always sorry when a summer is at its end. I remember others gone by and think this last one has joined all those magical summers of my life; like pieces of a puzzle they will be there, side by side, for me to revisit. Each summer has been special, for a different reason. As Bryan Adams sings about his special “Summer of ‘69”, I will remember the summer of ’20 as a different summer, but no less good because of it. Just different.
I’m sorry to see it end. Because autumn has arrived, with its cool mornings and rusty leaves. The nostalgic feeling that summer is behind is. But, as always, the hope of a new season to come. No matter how grim some prospects are, we must always hope, and believe in the future. It’s part of our human nature. They may forbid us to hug and kiss, but they will never take hope away.