What luck to live in a land that so unceasingly agrees to be agreeable. – Yann Martel, The High Mountains of Portugal
Being Aware in a Changing World
There was a time when I thought being agreeable meant that I was weak or not pushing hard enough to change things in the world. I realize now, that some of the most authentically agreeable people I have ever met, were in fact changing the world in profound and sustainable ways. It was not about who could see them or hear them, or how far their message reached, but more about how deeply their contentment was rooted right where they stood that made the most difference in the long run. After a month living in the picturesque seaside town of Sao Martinho do Porto, I am beginning to think agreeable places wield a similar power.
As we move about this world, getting to know varied landscapes, geography, and the people and history that shape them, we fine tune the elements “of place” that create ease for our family. A few months ago, sitting at a bus stop in Indonesia, we made a list:
- Fresh daily produce market within walking or biking distance
- An abundance of natural beauty that is easily accessible without a car
- Within an hour of an International Airport
- Four seasons and in the Northern Hemisphere with plenty of winter sun
- A vibrant city nearby
- Near the mountains and the sea
- Good technology infrastructure for family and work communications
- A place where we have privacy and community at our fingertips
- A family centered community/culture that values and welcomes children
This list is by no means comprehensive, and it does not stop us from being drawn to the places that are not easy, for they teach us just as much about what we want, sometimes more …
Arriving With No Expectations
When we arrived in Portugal and settled in to our new, temporary home on the Silver Coast we suddenly became aware this little town checked all the boxes. With less than 3,000 year-round inhabitants, everything is just around the corner. The naturally formed sheltered bay, miles of dunes, crashing Atlantic in the distance, and trails all the way to Spain, make it the perfect playground. Lisbon is less than an hour away and if we need a little big wave action, Nazare is a 10 minute drive. Sunset from the castle wall in Obidos, or a late fall swim in the lagoon are minutes from this quiet whistle-stop (oh, and there is still a noon whistle). There is no shortage of things to do but what we love is what is already here.
Easing Into a Daily Routine
We can walk to the dentist. The pharmacist knows our kids names. To get to the produce and fish market every morning, we wind our way through cobbled streets steeped in history, waving at faces that are gaining familiarity.
People invite us into their homes to see pictures of their town long ago, and the kids always leave with something freshly baked to sustain them for the not so long walk home.
There is no traffic (save July and August when the population more than doubles), no traffic lights, just lanterns to illuminate the boardwalk and a hint of the crashing waves.
Restaurants bring the catch of the day on a platter before it is cooked and the kids point to their selection fresh from the sea. There are no roads that need to be crossed to get to Gelatomania, and from under the candy-striped awning, they can have their ice cream while storm watching.
There is not much on Google or in the travel books about this town which makes it all feel so new. We arrived completely open and found everything on our list in a most unexpected place. With plenty of sun and the church bells keeping time, we find ourselves feeling more at home than we have in a long time.
Generosity flows from unceasingly agreeable people and the places they inhabit. It is not because there is nothing to resist or fight against, but rather a knowledge that nothing good comes from a place of fear. I agree, or at least strive to be unceasingly agreeable, from this most agreeable seaside village.
We would love it if you shared these mindfulness practices with someone …