I didn’t expect to die…and I didn’t expect to go to heaven. But heaven I am surely in, here in the Duoro in Portugal. Never heard of the Duoro? Neither had I. But then who knows what heaven is really like, so the Duoro appears to be where heaven actually is. What happened?
I’m sitting here on the edge of the pool in brilliant sunshine, no wind, no industrial sounds (thank god!), 28C, brown (heaven for the fair-skinned), not burnt. On the horizon on one side of the steep green valley are hydro-electric power lines, on the other randomly scattered wind turbines, slowly turning – green heaven.
I’m on a farm – rather odd for a city boy – but this pool (much longer and wider than all the home pools I’ve swum in) is on the side of a hill, so I look out over the sweeping beautiful valley rather than being confined to a small backyard. The farm has grapevines for making wine and also for eating grapes. It also has masses of bountiful cherry trees currently in season, as well as a grove of lemon trees, oranges, mandarins, peaches and more I’ve yet to discover (remember I’ve just arrived). It feels like a large open air aviary as native birds swoop and soar, calling out loudly, their calls echoing in the still, rounded hillside nearby. There seem to be no flies or mosquitos.
Small black Vietnamese pigs roam wild under the trees, around the pool, anywhere, but don’t seem to leave any mess Peacocks and a variety of chickens coexist. In the evening wild deer come down from the forest to feed on the football field just above the swimming pool and apparently they come to the houses at night.
The houses are centuries-old stone houses, with open windows (no flies), wooden floors, high ceilings, modern conveniences, plenty of space, surrounded by outside eating and playing facilities, beautifully landscaped, combining historical European stone features and modern swings, trampolines, tables and the swimming pool and more.
At the end of the day I take a walk up the steep farm block into the deep forest which includes eucalypts, wattles ( a nice touch for a homesick Aussie – thanks god), oaks, firs, pines and many other types, not to mention a proliferation of flowers which an angel here makes into posies as she accompanies me on the walk.
We stumble on a 200 year old house being renovated for newly arrived young couples, in a forest of yellow flowers like a French impressionist painting. As we look out across the valley on our return, we see many other vineyards, cherry orchards, lemon groves, forest clumps, all running down to a wide, clean, calm river called the Duoro, that runs from Spain right across the north of Portugal to the sea, full of fish. It’s a heavenly sight.
The next day, with my angel accompanying me, we take a walk down the Roman road, complete with chariot wheel imprints in the blue flagstones from centuries past. The road is covered in places with a forest of flowers, elsewhere with overhanging cherry trees, cherries missed by the packers hiding under their leaves, waiting to be eaten to nourish the sweat-soaked walkers. In other places waterfalls of clean water magically fall from metres-high dry stone walls.
I don’t have to prepare meals here. The fridge is stocked with home-cooked food, another room has local wine and beer, angels prepare meals, clear everything, do all the household chores I used to have to do. My iPad still works, but I find the tedious earth news of elections, murders, corruptions, inefficiencies and corporate and government waste irrelevant now, though I do wish I could still enter the footy tipping competition with my new found heaven wisdom. I think I might be able to win it now.
You’re cynical I know, lauthing at me. It can’t be that good. And it’s in Portugal!! Isn’t that one of the EU’s depressed economies? Well, every one seems happy here. Don’t believe everything you read.
Got to go back and swim in the pool again. I’m getting hot. Will I see you soon?