On The Corner of Wow & WTF
look around, what do you see?
life: examined is an invitation to get curious—a collection of ideas, and thoughts about living a creative, intentional life—written from my perch in Portugal for you.
—> Thank you for your support <—
Are you sick of reading about Portugal from my perspective? I hope not.
I glean insights and observations from my jaunts around town and enjoy sharing them with you.
I try to mix it up so that life: examined is not a letter solely about Portugal, but most of my examinations happen while on Portuguese soil. So I guess it makes sense I write about Portugal (even if she's just a co-star to the week's subject).
Don't ask me to repeat that—I'm not even sure what I just wrote :)
I plan to engage in some slow and mindful travel this year, and I will share my impressions with you when I do. But first, I might have ANOTHER house move ahead of me (apparently, I'm a chronic mover). If so, moving takes priority over roaming about the continent. Stay tuned!
Enough of that—let's get on with this week's issue of life: examined.
WOWs & WTFs Everywhere
You don't need to live in a foreign-to-you country to find WOWs and WTFs around every corner. WOWs and WTFs are common features of the I Know Nothing life abroad, especially where the culture, language, and junk foods are unfamiliar.
There are opportunities to dabble in life examinations anywhere you look.
Even in your own neighborhood! Hard to believe, I know, but your boring old locale is overflowing with ephemeral oddities and bursts of beauty waiting to be appreciated.
—> Of course, I don't mean to suggest that your neighborhood is boring; it might be charming and vibrant, so pay no attention to me and my word choices.
A DIY Examination
What do you walk by each day that you no longer notice? Do you live in a city or a suburb? In a rural setting or no particular place (you nomad, you)?
Unless you are driving (and if you are driving, why are you reading this?!), stand up (yes, even on the commuter train), and turn 180 degrees. What do you see behind you? Now, once more, what do you really see?
Slow your eye movement; let them graze over objects you'd typically ignore.
Do you see stuff?
Furniture and objects that need dusting?
The varying lengths and thicknesses of the brushstrokes in that oil painting?
Or do you see people on their way home from work, their faces and bodies merged in a blur of fabric and flesh?
And what about that woman in the red hat? She has something pinned to her sweater.
What is that thing? It looks like a campaign button from the 70s, but you can't be sure. It appears to be a Carter-Mondale pin. Hmm, that's weird.
What else do you see? Don't stare too long or too directly at people—or aggressive dogs—by the way. They don't like it.
I practice seeing, not just looking when I need a brain refresh.
When the constant monologue of my chatty mind starts to grind me down, that's the right time to step out of autopilot tunnel vision and take a look-see around.
This week, I spent time taking photos near my apartment.
There are many WOW things—beautiful, curious, delightful buildings bedazzled with azulejos, blooming trees, fragrant flowers, and people—vast, diverse, and glorious people.
Mixed in with WOWs are WTFs, like a whole cabbage left on the convent steps. The WOWs are enchanting, but the WTFs really get me going.
There's some strange stuff scattered around out there; I encourage you to find it.
Most of the time, strange is good (sometimes it’s horrible). Strange can be splendid—in a different but equally satisfying way that beauty is splendid.
But I like the mystery of random oddities.
These objects and occurrences set the stage for stories I make up about people and things I notice on my daily wanderings. I pay close attention today, as many of these splendid strangers will disappear tomorrow.
For instance, these boots? Why there? Were they stolen and abandoned or left as an offering to the utility box gods?
Or this little mushroom family huddled together, asserting their strength to the dogs and humans passing by.
Tiny plants growing out of water service covers? Such opportunists!
Sight & Sound
The same seeing practice can be done with all the senses.
Listening is a dimension beyond hearing. Listening provides nuance and involves curiosity—hearing is the gateway to aural intricacies that swirl about us if we only take the chance to listen, really listen.
I make it my mission to listen for birdsong in the most unlikely places.
Construction zone? Sometimes, when the jackhammers stop and the workers get quiet, even if just for a moment, you can hear a sparrow chirp-chirp-chirping in effort to ward off other males from his territory.
Nature makes itself known in more evident and abundant ways when there's less competition, like in the country or forest.
That's an easy way to tune in, though. Sure, go to the country to listen to birds sing or step outside if green space is your daily luxury. Then go to the middle of town or the city, close your eyes, and listen.
Can you adjust your ears to the lesser sounds? The distant or quiet sounds?
Learn to pick out the underdogs of the sensory realm. Look down, look up, but don’t look at your cell phone as you cross the street.
If you try these tiny examinations, tell me what you saw or heard that you normally might have missed. I'd love to know what's going on in your world!
Favorite Portuguese to English Auto-Translation of the Week:
"Here the nails are all out of the ordinary and customers love it. I don't want to deceive anyone, but most likely 95 percent of them come back at least once, twice," says Paulo.
The entrepreneur also added that in relation to the "most expensive and exotic nail (covered by a 24-carat gold leaf) in Portugal", he is not sure what people's reaction will be like, because there is nothing like this in Portugal. Anyway, he left a guarantee: "this nail is really to make Amora the best known house in Portugal".
Any interest in a fancy nail? For dinner?
Substack has a new app that’s a newsletter reader. I was skeptical, because who needs another app? But I like it so far—it collects all your Substack subscriptions in one easy-to-view and read place. No need to search your inbox for your favorite reads. iOS only, Android users can sign up for the waitlist.
Thanks to Emily, Frances, Ingrid, and anonymous someones for supporting life: examined through Buy Me a Coffee. It’s not expected, but always appreciated!
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Until next week—be well, stay curious, and thanks for reading life: examined