A Storm in Central Portugal
Half way between the towns of Lousã and Miranda do Corvo, in the Serra de Lousã mountain range of central Portugal’s Coimbra District, lies the village of Cova do Lobo. Sitting half way up the mountains, it is the only village between the two nearby towns to boast not only the requisite café, but a general store. The region is known for its famous Schist Villages (Aldeias de Xisto), river beaches and the local castle, Castelo de Lousã. It is in this village, Cova do Lobo (population 123, with a median age of 40 years old - 39 years for males, 41.1 for females, though by the looks of it, this statistic is off by about 30 years), that I am laid up with a sprained ankle — propped up variously on a rooftop patio and a day bed in a teal colored living room, listening to a storm slam into our house.
Cova do Lobo sits beneath two tree covered mountain peaks, and the thunder seems to rumble up out of the ground. From our rooftop, we can see the valleys below and six kilometers (3.72 miles) away to the east, the town of Lousã. Behind us, and indeed all around, the mountains and hills rise up, forested, covered in streams and waterfalls that feed slowly into the rivers that all move steadily to the not so distant Atlantic Ocean. It is from the south, behind the mountains above Cova do Lobo that our weather comes today. This morning I sat on the roof, reading Edward Abbey’s “Beyond the Wall” and drinking coffee, watching the rain and lightning descend on the valley to the north-west, while wondering what was brewing to the south. It is only as the clouds appear over the green crest of the mountains that we can tell what is coming — if the clouds are feathery wisps or looming white mashed potato scoops of cumulous clouds, or black and swollen with precipitation. When the first perfect rain drop landed on my left hip, in advance of the slowly emerging black clouds, I knew it would be storm — as the sudden arrival of thunder that literally shook the house made clear.
Since arriving in Portugal at the end of January, we have experienced a great deal of rain, all of it gentle — what is called by the Indigenous inhabitants of the American southwest, Mother Rains. Today has been a day of Father Rains: hard, fast, flooding. Sprinkled variously with hail. Violent rains that rush down and away as opposed to those that by stages slowly seep into the earth, germinating dormant seeds and giving rise to flowers and grasses and life. Those, obviously, are the Mother Rains we had been experiencing — the reason for the profusion of bright red poppies, purple heather, and sprays of yellow, orange, white and blue wild flowers all new to us.
Between each wave of pounding storm, the birds resume their calling — whether screeching, squawking or singing; then the roosters and chickens and dogs our neighbors keep add their voices, as well as some neighbors themselves, coming out to gossip in rapidly spoken Portuguese. The crickets now are joining, and soon, deep from within the forest that begins where the village ends, as dusk settles, the frogs will join in, followed by the howling of foxes on the hunt for frogs and hares, heading back to their burrows for the night. All until the next thrashing wave of storm descends, the next round of thunder coming up from the south, shaking the mountains and drowning out everything with the insistent cacophony of its own symphony which will again depart — the silence to be filled again by the birds, the foxes and the occasional dog that make up the night chorus here where the city is a memory and the sound of every breeze can be heard.