The wood stove is on, day and night. The sturdy woodstove, made in Sweden, keeps this barn warm. It has been transformed to a nice and cosy place. Big chunks of wood keep the stove burning. This is in sharp contrast with Casalinho, where I had to hunt for some pieces of wet wood to burn a small woodstove. In here it’s very comfortable, and that is only considering the temperature. In this atmosphere I enjoy a rich breakfast of freshly baked sourdough bread. Or with porridge, filled with apple and raisins.
There are plenty of citrus fruits around here, and I am allowed to pick them whenever I want. To finish the fruit fiesta, there is a generous supply of kiwis. I am on a small piece of land in the Portuguese hills, with a view on the mountain range. It is called “Serra da Estrela”, and it’s a spot to go on holiday, as well as a place with a lot of different vegetables, to prepare lunch and dinner.
The abundance of food made it difficult not to overeat. After a few days of stomach ache and farts, I got back into my normal way of eating. Combined with a good night of sleep in a comfortable caravan, it’s a good foundation to start working here.
I am lumbering, splitting wood and moving the stock of wood to make sure we make it through the months of the Portuguese winter. When it’s dry weather, sowing, weeding, spading and harvesting are also part of the job. This to make sure we have enough vegetables. After a week of dry and sometimes even sunny weather, rain now prevails.
The result is a flooded chicken coop and greenhouse, traffic accidents on the road and walls that are washed away at some neighbours.
Whether there is rain or sunshine, work doesn’t stop. A lot of the time I am working with Dardo, the man who built up this place together with Bie. The Belgian duo, both 60 years old, has their own ways in doing things.
This evoked painful memories. Memories I try to block from my mind. This caused fatigue, passiveness and some depression. Dreams and memories from my time in Veenendaal come up.
There I worked for my former stepfather, Jan, which felt like a regime. I was doing everything in my power to keep the production of wood and sheet material going. Not having a lot of experience, this was a tough challenge. Jan’s word was law, and I tried to meet his expectations. I was the first to be there in the morning, and the last to leave, exhausted. Just to make him happy, just to not disappoint him.
The way Dardo expresses himself during working ours reminds me of my stepfather. I am not able to think for myself any more, because of his way of communicating, short and direct, almost in a military fashion. I sometimes feel like an insecure and incompetent child, making mistakes and doing everything wrong. Slowly I sink into this role. Joy and the connection with myself disappear. I am giving curt and irritated responses.
While in Veenendaal, it took me a year to overcome my self-destructive behaviour of long working days, a lot of stress, and alcohol abuse in weekends. A scar in my loin reminds me of a loin rupture from that time. Now, ten years later it takes me a few days to realize running away, swearing and being angry doesn’t make sense. Being at peace with myself is the first step. So I do. I am at peace with my history in Veenendaal, and with the offered image in the mirror. Like a bolt from the blue, my working relationship with Dardo changes. I feel as though we have become equal. Splitting wood went like clockwork, and I am able to think again. There is room for dialog, and the communication between us doesn’t feel so forceful any more. I suddenly notice there always has been room for pleasure and laughter, and I happily embrace it. We can have fun together, and it feels great. Actually, everything is great, I just have to be open to see it.