Good evening to everyone, now from Portugal! It’s been a beautiful day in Porto, a city with a soft heart in the west of Portugal. Although as a baby I was brought up in Portugal, I have no memories of the country. So although I’m taking photos for a music festival over here, I was excited to grab a day to explore the city.
First day in the city, and we’re keen to explore as much of the city as we can before music festival mayhem sets in. We visit museums, churches and palaces galore, and I have a great time (and somehow it’s all remarkably cheap!). And then I’m looking through my photos at one point, and… what? All these exhibitions I’ve gone to, and all that’s on my memory card is… animals. And trees. Flowers. A view of the city, sure, but that’s because I can see mountains in the distance.
In fact, there’s no museums at all.
I start to think and puzzle over it. Maybe my perception is so veered to seeing the little living moments in everything?
There’s this one moment I have from today, in a museum (a prison that’s been converted into a wonderful free photography museum, actually! I’d really recommend it to anyone going to Porto); I see a park through a window, and get really excited about going to there next. ‘Eh… but that’s just a few rows of hedges? What’s exciting about that?’ I’m not really listening because I’m already feeling energised by being among those smiling plants, all waving around me, tiny hands reaching up and growing…
And then, as I’m walking along, I’m attracted to every natural spot, even if it’s tiny and surrounded by roads! Like this; a green roof on a shopping precinct. I love that they’ve allowed trees to grow on it. I love that it’s there. I’ve been thinking about whether or not it is really ‘nature’ or ‘natural’. In one way, it’s no, even though I want it to be. I wanted the park to be the result of grass and trees deciding to gang up and create a little zone for themselves, despite all odds. I’d love a natural area of the city like this one, a green roof on a shopping precinct, to be a fought and reclaimed territory in the constant battle for land, by something greater and more unknowable than us.
I walked and walked and the thoughts kept going. In in a way, nature is all of those things, isn’t it? Leave the soil unattended and look away for a moment too long, and something will come and live there, and take root and make it its home. And as much as the cities and houses and shopping precincts are needed, still people made the decision, not to leave a grey roof, but to use that empty space to create a place of greenery and life. We continue to build yet relinquish. And so, nature continues to live on. Nature always wins, even if it grows in our imaginations first!
All too soon, it was the end of my day exploring the city, or maybe I think I was exploring the spaces between the city. Walking up grassy verges to a cathedral and taking my shoes off for a moment to feel it tickle my toes. The river is such a shimmering mirage from high up, and I stopped to take a basking view over the river. These two little flowers sprouting between a roof’s tiles just captured my last thoughts from today. Nature wins not just because it creeps into our imagination and makes us design these beautiful hyperdensity spaces, or because we allow it a little bit of room in our parks and our gardens. It survives because it’s invincible. Wherever there’s oxygen and water and a bit of sunshine, something will grow or travel to be there. Just like we all would, just like we do. I felt so overjoyed to think of nature in this way. Always somewhere about to sprout and take wing even if I don’t know it yet. Always wherever it’s least expected.
“Progress means: humanity emerges from its spellbound state (…) by becoming aware of its own indigenousness to nature and by halting the mastery over nature through which nature continues its mastery” – Adorno