Seven, eight, nine. The tolling of the church bell here in Fazenda das Lajes on the island of Flores heralds my arrival as I enter my parents’ summer house. The plaster walls are mildewed and the wooden floor is buckling here and there but otherwise the place is as I had left it five years ago. From the back porch I can see the hilltop village of Lomba at my far left, and to the right, a narrow road leading up to the cliff-top cemetery. Behind the grove of cedars past the neighbouring cow pasture one can walk up the hillside to the vigia da baleia, a long-abandoned whale lookout. Beyond the tended pastures and lush woods, the hills fall steeply to the coastline but it is the v-shaped view of the sea from the back of the house that I have looked forward to seeing the most since arriving here. At this hour in the morning, the waters appear pearlescent and it’s difficult to gauge where the sea ends and the horizon begins; the wide swath of palest blue fades into the clouds.
Although I have already begun to question my presence here, I have yet to abandon my emotional connection to the enigmatic, beautiful and moody homeland of my ancestors. Flores has once again cast its spell upon me.
… Olhai, ei-la que surge esplendorosa
A minha linda terra,
A filha predilecta do Oceano:
Além, no horizonte
Do sol, a chama ardent e luminosa
lhe beija a leda fronte.
Remai, remai marinheiros,
Ai vamos, tocar a remar,
Que além já veio na encosta
Dúm monte o meu doce lar!
… Look, there it rises in splendour
My beautiful homeland
The ocean’s favourite daughter:
Beyond, on the horizon,
The Sun, the luminous and fiery flame,
kisses her joyful forehead.
Row, row seamen,
Let’s go and row,
Because I already see in the hills
My home sweet home!
~ João dos Santos Silveira, 20th century Florentine poet