Unlike Algarveans, we Canadians don’t have a lot of experience of true Spring! We know all about snow and cold one week that changes to warm summer temperatures just a couple of weeks later. We aren’t accustomed to landscapes that lie unfrozen, yet fallow, for several months and then which slowly, ever so slowly, begin to come alive again. For us Canucks, ground is either frozen or is bursting with life. There isn’t a whole in between those two states!
I realized as January unfolded into February that the land wasn’t really changing all that much, although almond trees brightened the countryside and magnificent storks began to take up residence on chimneys, church steeples and the many platforms erected for them. But as the sun got stronger, the nights grew warmer and the days lengthened the land began to soften and to change. Wildflowers started to brighten the roadsides with pinks and yellows. Farmers began to till the land and plant seeds. Field started to sprout recycled 5L water bottles, upturned to make effective little greenhouses for tender vegetable seedlings.
And then one day as I drove slowly down a back road near Silves, windows down to appreciate the lively birdsong and soft breezes I was hit by the sweet, pungent aroma of orange blossoms. How heady is that scent; so indicative that spring has fully arrived, finally. Almond blossoms spent, small trees lining roadways were now sporting fuzzy, soft green fruit that would turn into almonds. I hadn’t really realized before this spring that when the Portuguese talk about ‘dried fruit’ they really are referring to nuts produced on fruit trees.
Next I became aware of tiny little figs beginning to develop, almost before leaves were fully opened. Patches of gorgeous Easter lilies adorned entrances of farmhouses, as did daisies, jasmine, and irises. And finally wild herbs began to bloom: sage that had run wild, thyme, lavender and wild fennel all began to add their fragrance and bright colours to the countryside.
Before I finally left for home near the end of April, I realized that this was the first time in my life that I’d been somewhere to experience a proper Spring. It was delightful to be present to this unfolding of life. You could almost feel the earth begin to uncurl, to rub winter’s sleep from its eyes, take a cautious look around and finally to sigh with renewed vigour before finally sitting up and announcing that a new year was fully underway. I can’t wait to have that experience again!