Lisbon: Reflecting on this summer

Sofia Ordoñez is the Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Newswire. She is a senior English major from Cincinnati.

 The best experiences of my life have been in a gloriously new place, far beyond what my mind could ever have imagined. I dream of finding, cultivating, capturing the moments of the soulfully-gorgeous new, the spontaneous, the unexpected, the blissfully sublime, like those moments when I am alone and surrounded by unfamiliarity. To discover the places on Earth that are like a cathedral to your soul: that is the joy, the vibrancy of life, is it not? Being abroad fulfills the deep inner yearning to see the wide expanse of the world we inhabit.

This summer, I spent a month in Lisbon, Portugal, floating from coffeeshop to coffeeshop, winnowing like a blade of grass beneath avenues of birch trees, enjoying my time with the new friends from class I had met, riding the old streetcar that clanged up and down the cobblestoned hills, waiting for the metro in a daze of beauty, of utter simplicity.

You never capture the preciousness of your life until you live abroad, for however long, in an environment that you must become acquainted with. You realize that the warm sunlight flowers upon your face slightly differently in a new place, that the streets and buildings, colored tan, white, coral-pink, burnt orange, faded red, quiver with a special vibrancy of life that seems to only glimmer at home.

Here at home, it’s easy to become ensnared in routine — in the quotidian, the soporific state of life. Yet out there, life is brilliant, gleaming, with the look of sunlight on spilled water. It dances before you, begging to be captured, to captivate you. Here at home, it’s far too easy to fall somnolent in the day-to-day. Living, being abroad is a renaissance to your soul. It gives you the taste of galão on your tongue or the subtlety of powdered sugar and cinnamon on a custard tart, the Portuguese pastel de nata, at a moment of breakfast, or just after class. It gives you the splendor of the anonymous trees with pale purple flowers, how they wave in the sunlight. It gives you trips to the beach, by train, in the cold aquamarine water, by the golden rock. It gives you learning, curiosity, imagination, confidence.  It offers to you, to your soul, a realm of possibility, that once may have seemed unimaginable, or too far out of reach.

Living in Lisbon was a dream that will forever intoxicate my soul. I will never forget those afternoons I spent writing at my beloved coffeeshops, including the famed Café Brasileira, exploring the Feira de Ladra flea market, going to the artsy LX factory for lunch, discovering one of the myriad bookstores in Lisbon, traveling south to Lagos for a weekend trip with my friends or to Évora or Óbidos for a day trip. Nor will I forget going to Síntra for a weekend, eating a delicious plate of arroz con mariscos, or going to a summer festival for drink and dancing. And I could never forget the look of those hilly streets, echoing with the clangor of tramwheels, sloping down towards the Tagus river. How they looked in the summer, with the dazzle, the play of light. How those moments are imprinted onto the fabric of my memory, so that, on the tapestry of living, I have embroidered there, a summertime of joy.

Above all in your life, seek the enchantment of your soul. Reveal the moments when beauty unfurls itself to you, and you are astonished. Seek the metanoia of your life, the change of mind and soul and way of life, for it is when you are torn from comfort — immersed in waves of resplendence, novelty, vivacity, in the unfamiliar — that life ripples with joy. The beauty of life pervades our every moment: We must only discover it.