Weeks 72-3: Water
When I’m in England, I can hardly believe this place in the Algarve exists. And then I return, and here it is. I loved my week in England, but relished all the more the peace and silence of this place.
I came home a few days ago to be greeted by rain – such a blessing. Lots of it, too: the very fine and long-lasting kind that gives everything a gentle but thorough soaking. From a meteorological map it appeared to be the tail-end of a hurricane, Joaquin, that had caused my sister to hunker down on the coast in North Carolina, straight across the water from us. Joaquin just missed them, thankfully, then came spinning over to Portugal, losing its damaging power along the way, and eventually drenching the Algarve with long-awaited rain. The riverbed turned several shades darker, the hills became instantly greener, the air filled with the scents of spice and pine, and water rose up in our well. Today, for the first time in four months, we got the pump running and had our own, fresh, clear water gushing from the well into the cisterna under the front veranda: sometimes water seems like a miracle.
Our pond has survived the drought. (I call it our pond but it is no more ours than the sky above it. But we get all the pleasure from it.) Its water is fresh enough that it must be being replenished by an underground source. Its frogs, turtles and fish are thriving, albeit in reduced quarters. Usually when I walk along the riverbed I head towards the sea, some inexplicable force pulling me the way the water goes, perhaps. Today I took a midday walk in the other direction. With autumn, walks in the middle of the day are possible again. The sun shone, breezes blew, and almost no water was to be seen along the course of the river until I rounded a bend and came across a deep pond rather like our own. On my clattering approach – impossible to walk silently over a rocky riverbed – about two dozen sunbathing turtles slid noiselessly into the water, like the habitués of an illegal drug den. As I waited by the water’s edge, peering into the depths, an occasional head would surface, check the scene, then disappear rapidly on discovering that I, the raider, was still there. It’s an even deeper pond than ours, clearly fed by its own underground source, and feeding someone else in turn: a pipe in the pond, and a pump on the hillside, meant it was somebody’s water supply. Satisfied that I’d found something new, that even a short distance from our house there is much to surprise, I turned round at Turtle Dive and went back.
Olives and figs
We will have no olives of our own this year. Our tree, acting according to its own nature, is taking this year off. It should bear fruit again next year. Only cultivated trees, pruned, fertilised and culled, produce fruit every year. Our long-expected second fig harvest never materialised either. The fruit reappeared (see Weeks 56-7), but gradually over the hot, dry summer it shrivelled and died, no more than a snack for a few hungry birds, if that. The same happened to other wild fig trees in the valley, I noticed: their leaves yellowed, their fruit was stunted. We had enough water to keep the tree going, but not enough to bring its fruit to maturity. Maybe next year will be different.