Eu falo português.

Porto, Portugal old town ribeira aerial promenade view with colorful houses, Douro river and boats, banner panoramic view


“Eu falo português” means, ‘I speak Portuguese.’

I don’t really.  But I’m learning.

Acting “as if,” I’m learning Portuguese on Duolingo, expecting to not only travel there someday, but maybe spend winters in its mild climate.

Portugal is Europe’s most affordable country, offers breathtaking scenery, and, despite its conservative religious bent (Roman Catholic), it offers some of the world’s most progressive politics.

—Portugal is the world leader in renewable energy.

—Portugal offers its LGBTx citizens full rights and protections.

—Portugal turned itself around from one of Europe’s most heroin addicted countries to one of the cleanest, though decriminalization and treating addiction as a medical issue, not a criminal one.

—Portugal recently mandated  that all catering, restaurants, schools, universities, prisons, hospitals, etc., offer at least one strict vegan option.  The mandate stated:  “[The law] will promote diversity of eating habits and encourage more people to choose the veggie option as it become more widely available. This of course is predicted to have a significant impact on the population health foremost, but also on animals and the environment in the long run. Promoting the rights of the vegan population is as important as campaigning and informing people to adopt veganism, in our perspective. This law seems to be an important first step on the political level.”

I’m besotted!

Not only is the country forward thinking, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Much like my beloved Wales, it’s a buried gem that few [Americans] think of when they think of Europe.

Mountain landscape with hiking trail and view of beautiful lakes, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal.

And then there are The Azores. The Azores are often called the ‘Hawaii of Portugal’ (see bottom insert, map). Like Hawaii, The Azores are far from the country’s mainland, but I think the comparison stops there, based on my reading.  What I have read treats a visit to The Azores as an experience unto itself. One travel writer suggests picking only one island to visit, as each island is so diverse, beautiful, and rich, it’s a waste to spend time commuting from one island to another.  Pick one then lose yourself to its natural splendors, this travel expert recommended.

Location of The Azores off of Portugal’s coast.

Portugal is as inexpensive as it is beautiful, even in Lisbon, its largest city.

What American city could offer resplendent beauty with such affordability?

We had Portuguese neighbors for several years when I was a teen — an elderly couple, who were the sweetest, hardest working folks in the neighborhood.  Their home and yard were gardened and groomed like a picture book, with flowers and trees and tender care as if from some other time and place, which I’m guessing it was.

My father’s mother’s family were Portuguese immigrants.  The first generation were also some of the hardest working, cleanest, and most charming people one could hope to meet.

I remember visiting Auntie Alice and “Honey” (his name was Sal, but I heard Auntie Alice call him Honey, and so I called him Honey until he died, when I was three) and loving how neat and simple and well cared for everything in their home seemed.

And their garden — lush and bountiful. Their home was high on the big hill in Crockett, California overlooking the bay.  Crockett was the C and H sugar hub, boats came in from Hawaii with sugar cane.  The C and H plant in Crockett was a major American sugar supplier. Sal worked for C and H his entire life.  The family was devastated when he died a few months after retiring.

Auntie and Honey’s home overlooked the waters of the Carquinez Straight, and to the side of the house, on a deep terraced slope, they grew vegetables, herbs, flowers.  There was usually something growing, as  the winters are brief and mild in the Bay Area. And there was usually something fresh that could be thrown in the soup pot.

The kitchen always smelled like soup and home cooked comforts, and 4 foot 11 crippled Auntie Alice never missed a beat when throwing something together for us to snack on while the adults gossiped and  talked family politics. Portuguese linguiça was my favorite, before I gave up meat.   And I loved her good cheese on saltine crackers — Auntie’s cheeses were always sharp and crumbly, or creamy and rich. Not Velveeta.

Auntie Alice, her sister, the woman I called Grandma Mary, and Honey were old world gems, models of thrift, hard work, and devotion to the family (working class Corleone strangely comes to mind) — I never connected much to my Portuguese quarter (my father’s father was Hungarian, German Jew) because my mother’s stories were rooted almost exclusively in her father’s family.  She was a Daddy’s girl, and while I have a trove of Guthrie – Chappelle history, not much else.  Not even her mother’s family tree provided her with too many stories. Tidbits here and there.  I know that from the Portuguese I have Madeira blood (see map above), but I think that’s like telling someone they are a Jones.

Click here for 30 surprising facts about Portugal,  including a true shocker: Japan did not invent tempura, it’s a Portuguese colonial invention..

And if you’re really curious, 78 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Portugal

There’s an emerging confluence going on in my newly developing yearning, no doubt — blood, politics, and the mysterious pull of wanderlust that always leads to magic.

The Camino de Santiago can be walked in Portugal; boats from Lisbon to Morocco (Morocco!), The Azores, or Maidera are inexpensive. It’s 1,000 miles from Lisbon to Paris, a beautiful train trip through Spain.  The Pyrenees are at the back door.  And transport to Scotland (!) is inexpensive and fast . . . Though we’ll have to see what happens with Brexit.

I don’t know where life will lead.  Most Portuguese in Lisbon are bilingual and speak English — but learning a country’s language is a sign of curiosity and respect.

More important, learning a language is a very practical way to dream.

Panorama of Lisbon in the beautiful sunset light. Portugal


On a side note: I love Duolingo. It can be used for free, though it’s slower.  To fast skip levels you must have a subscription.  It is feasible to get your foot into a different language every year — you may not master it, but what a resource for memory and learning.  So many folks play app games, but on Duolingo you can join others if you want (I haven’t, yet), while language learning.

This level of easy to use, even free, skill building and language learning gives me pause: how many millions of people can benefit from something so simple as learning a second, third, or fourth language by practicing a little everyday?  We live in a wealth of resources.


Until next week, “Obrigado por se inscrever” (Thank you for subscribing)!


Images in this entry used with license from Adobe PhotoStock; map is Encyclopedia Britannica public domain.






Rough Beauty

Primary Colors © Julia Haris

This week’s entry:


From: Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life
by Frederic Brussat, Mary Ann Brussat, Thomas Moore (Foreword)

The Westeros Edition

“I am no ordinary woman. My dreams come true.”

— Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Protector of the Realm, Lady Regent of the Seven Kingdoms, Breaker of Chains and

Mother of Dragons


I envy those who have not yet watched Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined), and I envy those who have not yet read One Hundred Years Of Solitude.

Both are sweeping epics of high mythology coupled to master storytelling.  To allow a great story to embrace and penetrate you is to lose yourself to larger realities. It is to enter the perennial, irreconcilable themes of good and evil, the misery and atonement of our human frailty, and to participate in the collective DNA written wisdom found in first-rate storytelling’s grand themes.

One thing that great myths-as-stories do is take the story wheel and fashion it in new, unexpected ways, and with unpredictable results.  Battlestar Galactica and One Hundred Years of Solitude weave stunning mythologies of character, religion, and cosmology in novel, inventive ways. In One Hundred Years, poetry and metaphor permeate every history as myth element; in BSG sci-fi’s small screen imaginative limits blow wide open.

Both works have knock-your-socks-off, breathtaking endings.

Some people love these brilliant if unexpected endings, some people hate them. Howard Stern loudly hated the ending of Battlestar Galactica. I suspect he was too literal about the storyline, and he wanted some things clearly answered. (His biggest gripe was about Starbuck, which tells me he missed the point.)

Grand mythic cosmologies require an appreciation for ambiguity and the irresolvable; some cannot tolerate their stories without clean seams. They need distinct lines drawn from point A to point B. Others not only love the empty space between A and B, they think that’s what makes the story magical, memorable, compelling, unforgettable, repeatable, enviable.

It’s in the space of the unknown that one “leaps beyond” what can be known. This leap is what these big stories invite: embracing those things that keep us searching, questioning, creating, the things that will always elude our grasp.

To enter worlds like Battlestar Galactica or One Hundred Years Of Solitude for the first time is like falling in love: in those narrative moments, you want to be nowhere but in that world, you want to be only with those characters, and you yearn to see what the next chapter or installment brings

[BSG spoiler follows below. Scroll down to the asterisk break to avoid.]

I stumbled on Battlestar Galactica well after it originally aired. I remember even in the early episodes it had an odd personal resonance, a resonance that soon became clearer. My life in Cambridge was dissolving; everything was falling apart on every front.  It’s as though my life and Galactica’s were connected, we were both coming undone, and we were both looking for a home.

Starbuck became a metaphor for my survival.

She died.  I died.  She resurrected then completed her mission.

I believed that I could, at the very least, resurrect yet one more time.

“Just trust yourself. . . There must be some kind of way out of here.”

And BSG has incredible music by Bear McCreary that along with brilliant editing ties film, story, acting, and special effects together in superlative ways.

Music, story, character, cosmology — all these came together for me in a creative, empowering, dare I write, redemptive Big Bang.


Sunday night, another epic begins its finale, Game Of Thrones season 8 episode 1 airs.

I’ve not read any of Martin’s books. My reading list is a century-long, and my time is filled with enough. I’m content to guiltlessly sink into HBO’s Westeros reality.

What an adventure it’s been.

For those of us besotted of high Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Game Of Thrones has been a bloody, incestuous mythic joy-ride.

“Hold-the-door” is now a metaphorical reference in my repertoire, and I think it is a perfect metaphor in the era of 45, even if the reference is only understood by the GOT faithful.

“Hold-the-door,” one of the small screen’s greatest moments, no exaggeration.

It’s bittersweet knowing that Westeros’ history will end, soon. Within the next couple of months, we’ll have the story’s resolutions, and a great myth’s circle comes to a close.

I envy those of you who haven’t seen it yet.  When the time is right, you have truly great storytelling moments waiting. To experience for the first time the thrill of the unexpected twists, the pleasure of imagination pushed to the limits, the glory of big characters, the delight of gorgeous scenery and costumes, the discovery of great heroes, the resolve of even greater heroines, and the tense bucking up to endure truly hideous and complex villains.

Oh, yes, and most important, dragons!

Dragons! Dragons! Dragons!

If you haven’t seen it yet, maybe watch the first episodes of Season One.  It’s an epic, so you need to start where all great epics do, “In the beginning . . .”

For those of you who have watched the series, I invite you to share your season 8 theories.

I’d enjoy reading your take on what you think will happen on the way to The Iron Throne.


(Images taken from public domain .gif and .jpeg sources.)

The Un-Story Edition


Unfolding © Julia Haris


On this website’s ’About’ page, I write:

As a memoirist and storyteller, I believe that questioning the stories we hold true, writing new ones from power and possibility, and living deeply and intentionally from our revisions is life’s greatest journey.

I assume a lot in that sentence, including:

First, unless we go through some process of personal transformation, we will be the product of other people’s stories, no matter how much freedom those stories promise.  The stories we inherit or adopt can be political, religious, or even “spiritual.”  But there has to be an awakening born from places beyond the stories, and that awakening has to be given the time and space to unfold.  Only then do the stories fall away, little by little.  Many of us get attached to a narrative or series of narratives, and we then try to make everything fit within our attachments.  There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s often a starting point, but if the attachment obscures further growth, we’ve shortchanged ourselves — and others. In this regard, that approach is self-defeating, no matter how many ‘amens’ or ‘namastes’ one slaps on.

Second, the power to write and rewrite our stories comes from places beyond language.  Any story that tells you language or symbols contain some ultimate truth has flatlined the story’s meaning; language, stories, and symbols are pointers.  In this sense, fundamentalist religion and intellectual over-identification share the same fallacy, excessive mind identification. More important, though language and symbols are pointers, they are also reality creators, meaning  they can either point you toward deeper, better, expansive realities, or they can reinforce bad patterns that keep the mind engaged and distracted. That’s why how we speak and what we focus on matters: our life, its values, and its expressions change as we consciously get better at navigating the reality we’re creating.  This evolving, expanding freedom is sometimes called ‘grace,’ and it’s marked, in part, by growing personal authenticity.

Finally, all stories fall away before all that Is.  Language is only a tool.  Life and our awareness of it beyond our neurotic attachments are what beckon, that is, life’s is-ness

Language is a great human crown, but it is a hard taskmaster if it controls us.

Our redemption lies in stillness, the inner gateways beyond language.

By cultivating a relationship with inner awareness, we begin to see how much we’ve been trapped by our stories, and how much we live in unnecessary constructs: religion’s stories, society’s stories, family stories, our stories.

Not all of our stories are bad, and many help us to act in ways that serve ourselves and others.  But often we’re not mindful that a story or series of stories has lodged itself within us as a way of being, and these stories still control large swaths of our life as we unconsciously and detrimentally hold these stories as true in too many places.

Un-storying ourselves is ‘weeding’ [remembering that so-called weeds are often good] the soul, getting rid of the stories we don’t want. We can then plant and let grow what we do want, in life’s every area. I don’t believe this weeding happens in psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic practices, although the right professional relationship may support our evolution/development/self-actualization. Cultivating awareness is a journey into one’s own soul and self that no one can define or dictate by way of language; it’s a way of knowing and being that unfolds from within us.

It is a soul enfolding that is Universal and ever unfolding.

This entry is another imperfect pointer, a personal un-story that’s cleared a little more soul space.

How is your un-story going today?