My last couple of days I have been chasing waves. It’s a science of timing, patience, improvisation and perseverance that can be quite frustrating, especially if you’ve had limited time, like me, to find waves to ride.
So far I haven’t this week, but I hope to today. It’s my second-to-last day here and I haven’t surfed in five days. The waves at my main local beach, Arrifana, have been far too small to ride, and the waves at others I’ve visited too messy. I’m hampered by the fact that I’m a beginner as well, and sometimes a shy one at that; I am hesitant to get in the water if no one else is there, as they have not been most of the time, or if I think I won’t be able to catch the waves anyway.
I’ve also been strapped by time, having to go out in the couple of hours before work in the morning or the hour and a half of sunlight I have left after work to find waves. Passes at Arrifana and Amoreira yesterday morning, and those beaches as well as Monte Clerigo last night turned up nothing for me. This morning I went by Arrifana and Monte Clerigo again, as well as Praia de Odeceixe; at the last there were three surfers riding the waves, although they were small, and I perhaps could have ridden them as well. But by the time I arrived it was 10 a.m. and I have to work at 11; the drive back to my house from the beach is about 15 minutes, so it wouldn’t have given me much time in the water. I was also feeling shy and didn’t want to look like the novice I am next to the pros in the water who were expertly riding whatever wave opportunity they found.
Of course this exercise, like everything else about surfing so far, is teaching me, always teaching. The ocean is not something that cares about your schedule, your plan, your needs and desires. The ocean does its own thing and expects you will learn to live with it.
After a flash or frustration this morning that I once again would not get a surf in, I decided to be flexible and use my time wisely to embark on creative endeavors. I went to the market to purchase some items for my last couple of days here, and now sit here eating a tasty pasta-and-white-bean-tomato-curry soup that I just made from scratch. I stopped off on the way back from Odeceixe to take some gorgeous photos of some sawed-up cork trees by the side of the road that have fascinated me for weeks. In a way, I’m almost happy now I couldn’t surf because if I had, I would not have created these two very different, but two very important works of personal art, especially because art was the real thing I was chasing when I decided to spend this time in Portugal in the first place.
Art in its many forms has always been important to me, and I feel like I have never exercised my creativity to its fullest extent. I’m not some art star by any means, but I love the feeling, the sheer joy I get when I create something new and beautiful from nothing. It’s also nice if someone — even one person — enjoys something you have created. There is a sense of pride that any artist knows is incredibly satisfying.
I have been a writer for as long as I can remember, and my interest in creating has, over the years, spanned to music, photography, home design and the culinary arts. I have even helped design sculptures for other artists, although I myself am not gifted in the creation of visual art from raw materials. I can’t draw to save my life, and I’m abysmal at painting as well. But I can imagine things in my head, and as I get older I have begun to think more abstractly, although my innate identity as a writer grounds me in the literal world.
Part of coming to Portugal to live alone in a quiet place in the country was to get back in touch with that part of myself, which unfortunately seems to have been obliterated by the noise of New York City. Moving to Red Hook, Brooklyn — a far quieter neighborhood than the one where I lived in Manhattan — has helped. But I think these last few weeks in Portugal have done wonders for my creative brain, and I am finally feel like my muse is back from whatever extended holiday she’s been on.
So I’ll thank the ocean for helping me learn the patience and flexibility today I needed to tap into my creative side as I slurp the last few sips of my soup. The habit shows poor manners in many places and is a compliment in some, but it doesn’t really manner. Another luxury of solitude? There is no one around to hear.