DISCOVERY by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1991)
translated by Richard Zenith (original here)
Idol of many arms like an octopus
Convulsive incorruptible chaos
Surrounding the taut ships
We traversed row on row of horses
Shaking their manes in the trade winds
The sea turned suddenly very young and very old
And a people
Of just-created men still the colour of clay
Still naked still in awe
We almost literally stumbled upon the Portuguese Discovery Monument on Ocean Avenue in Newport, RI, after driving through a flooded roadway on a chilly, windy evening,
and finding ourselves suddenly confronted by a park, by sculpture, by a strange and wild geometry on the edge of this glitzy and most civilised town.
We had no idea what this was, but we parked in the large lot and, fighting the springtime gale and sprinkling rain in this very exposed part of the world — “where land, sea, and sky meet” — we tried to fathom it.
It turns out we were in Brenton Point State Park, on the southern tip of Aquidneck Island — the Atlantic Ocean steps away, the Newport downtown and mansions a few miles away — where this stark, modern, otherworldly Portuguese Discovery Monument is sited. The location was chosen in part because of its similarity to Sagres, in southern Portugal, where Prince Henry the Navigator’s nautical school, founded in 1419, was said to be located (though there is debate over whether there was a school as such at all: “It is traditionally suggested that Henry gathered at his villa on the Sagres peninsula a school of navigators and map-makers. However modern historians hold this to be a misconception. He did employ some cartographers to chart the coast of Mauritania after the voyages he sent there, but there was no center of navigation science or observatory in the modern sense of the word, nor was there an organized navigational center.” Source: Wikipedia, reference cited there) . In any case, those who learned cartography, navigation, astronomy, and other maritime skills there were the legendary Portuguese explorers who discovered and mapped the coasts of Africa, Asia, and South America, and who also “discovered and perfected the North Atlantic Volta do Mar (the “turn of the sea” or “return from the sea”), [which was] a major step in the history of navigation, when an understanding of oceanic wind patterns was crucial to Atlantic navigation.”
The monument at Brenton Point — which was a strategic military defensive location during the Revolutionary War and World War II, designated a state park in 1976 — is a contemporary version of the compass rose located at Sagres. Originally conceived by Arthur Raposo of Middletown, RI, as a way to recognize Portuguese-American heritage and specifically, to pay homage to the lost-at-sea Portuguese navigator, Miguel Corte-Real, who may have come ashore in New England, the monument was dedicated in 1988 in memory of the Portuguese navigators and all those who assisted in the discovery of the maritime routes during Portugal’s Age of Discovery (1394 to 1524). Besides Prince Henry, the explorers honored included Vasco da Gama, discoverer of the sea route to India; Pedro Álvares Cabral, discoverer of Brazil; Ferdinand Magellan, first to circumnavigate the globe; Diogo Cão, first to arrive at the Congo River; João Vaz Corte-Real, who may have discovered Greenland and Newfoundland; Bartolomeu Dias, the first European to navigate around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, and others.
The original monument, made of up of 18 elements, was designed by sculptor João Charters de Almeida, who was born in Lisbon in 1935 (his Imaginary Village, consisting of five high white granite pillars, is installed on Île Sainte-Hélène in Montreal). The elements were 16 sandstone “thimbles,” as they were called, ranging from 5 to 8 feet tall, modelled on bollards found in Sagres; a central 20-foot-tall obelisk called a landmark, to represent the land-mark that navigators installed on the land they discovered, highly visible from the sea (in Portuguese, a padrão); and an 8-foot-diameter sandstone sphere, an abstraction of an armillary sphere (how it works: animation), a navigational instrument that’s one of Portugal’s most significant and enduring symbols (the sphere is included on the country’s flag). All these elements were carved out of a buff-colored sandstone quarried in Vila Vicosa, Portugal, and together weighed over 100 tons. They were arranged at Brenton Point in a three-quarter circle, symbolising the three-quarters of the world discovered by the Portuguese navigators in Age of Discovery, with the thimbles or bollards inclined at 15 degrees around the landmark, to suggest their upward-looking orientation to it.
The monument was not an immediate hit at its inauguration in June 1988. In 1989, Portuguese President Mario Soares squeezed in a trip to the monument for a second dedication ceremony, of its informational plaque, during a weeklong visit that included a meeting with President George H. W. Bush and a trip to Disneyland in California. His planned visit was reported in an archived UPI story, which added,
“The unfinished monument has caused a controversy among local residents who say it is ugly. ‘It was there to enhance the landscape but I don’t call that enhancement,’ said Agnes Curtis, co-chairwoman of the Brenton Point Association. ‘It’s ugly, ugly. That’s my way of looking at it.’ Others, including Rhode Island Gov. Edward DiPrete [who was instrumental in establishing the site], have said they do not understand the sculpture. The finished monument will have a plaque explaining the meaning of its huge, carved stones.”
Portuguese sandstone proved to be no match for wind, salt, and storms on the Rhode Island coast. In less than 10 years, by 1997, the Portuguese sandstone was crumbling, and by 2001 the entire monument was beginning to collapse. It was disassembled in 2002, and in 2007 most of it was demolished because of safety concerns. Apparently, when bobcat equipment pushed over the center column and the surrounding bollards, they “crumbled in a cloud of dust.”
And there is languished until about 2012, when a landscape architecture group was hired to reconstruct the monument and to “expand the interpretive aspects of the abstract sculpture.” The new version, constructed and erected in three phases from 2012 to 2017, was rededicated in Sept. 2014, and consists of 14 thimbles (not 16) set at cardinal points (or compass points) around the central landmark, all carved from North Jay White granite from Maine, laid out on less than an acre of grassy lawn reaching to the sea.
The sandstone globe did not crumble and was kept as part of the restored monument.
It includes interpretive panels and lines of the compass inset into the ground, as was originally planned for the earlier version but never happened.
The renovated monument was funded with $500,000 from the state, with the Portuguese-American population of southern New England raising the remaining funds.
I’d like to revisit it sometime when the weather is warmer, but stumbling onto it on a stormy evening, with the sun setting over a rough and wind-blown sea, evoked something of the tumult of ocean sailing, even as the compass-ordered monument stood by — still, mute, both watchful and unseeing.
THE NAVIGATORS by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1991)
translated by Richard Zenith (original here)
Multiplicity makes us drunk
Astonishment leads us on
With daring and desire and calculated skill
We’ve broken the limits –
But the one God
Keeps us from straying
Which is why at each port we cover with gold
The sombre insides of our churches
‘Resurrection’ in progress by Sean Flynn | The Newport (RI) Daily News, Oct 28, 2013
‘It’s a masterpiece’ : Ceremony marks completion of Phase 2 of the Portuguese Discovery Monument in Newport By Matt Sheley | The Newport (RI) Daily News, Sept. 13, 2014
Portuguese Discovery Monument project enters final phase by Lurdes C. da Silva | The Herald News (Fall River, MA) O Jornal, Jan. 20 2017
The Portuguese Discovery Monument: Arthur Raposo’s Dream | Portuguese-American Foundation website
Prince Henry the Navigator | Wikipedia
In the Name of Things — A personal view on Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, by her translator Richard Zenith, 1997 | Poetry International Web
“If the garden of Eden really exists it does so moment by moment, fragmented and tough, cropping up like a fan of buddleia high up in the gutter of a deserted warehouse, or in a heap of frozen cabbages becoming luminous in the reflected light of roadside snow.” — Helen Dumore, The Raw Garden
Photos of some perhaps ordinary, obscure, small, oft-overlooked and even maligned elements of the paradise that’s earth, this feast of being. (All photos taken in the last month, in New England, except for the final collage.)
I’ve been a little fascinated by dandelions lately.
And other so-called weeds. Like ajuga in the lawn, in shadow and light:
And ferns, coltsfoot, tall rockcress, and violets along the roadside.
‘Never forget that every mind is shaped by the most ordinary experiences. To say that something is ordinary is to say that it is of the kind that has made the biggest contribution to the formation of your most basic ideas.’ — Paul Valéry
There are beautiful pests.
Spring ephemerals, woodland plants, sometimes nodding or lowly, both showy and unshowy, like trilliums (Kezar Lake, Cider Hill Gardens):
And Jack in the Pulpits (Bedrock Gardens, Clark Pond Trails):
And lady slippers (Clark Pond Trails):
As well as flowers languishing.
And then there’s the infusion of sunlight, and raindrops, and both.
“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Sometimes Eden is more drab than you might expect, and in that almost (never) monotone it sings its siren song, lures us closer:
Eden by way of juxtaposed colour and texture:
“It’s an ugly woods, I was saying to myself, padding along a trail where other walkers had broken ground before me. And then I found an extraordinary bouquet. Someone had bound an offering of dry seed pods, yew, lyme grass, red berries, and brown fern and laid it on the path: “nothing special,” as Buddhists say, meaning “everything.” Gathered to formality, each dry stalk proclaimed a slant, an attitude, infinite shades of neutral.
“All contemplative acts, silences, poems, honor the world this way. Brought together by the eye of love, a milkweed pod, a twig, allow us to see how things have been all along. A feast of being.” ― Mary Rose O’Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
Yes, I used that quote before, in 31 Days of Kissing the Wounds – Day 31 – FEAST OF BEING.
On 8 May, before we walked the Trustom Pond NWR trails in South Kingstown, RI, we checked out the Kettle Pond trails at Ninigret NWR, in Charlestown.
These trails are described at the very helpful Trails & Walks in Rhode Island blog. Until we got there, though, it was unclear to me that Ninigret NWR is divided into two parcels that don’t abut each other. There is a Salt Pond trail area and a Kettle Pond trail area. Had we realised this, we would probably have chosen the Salt Pond section, off Old Post Road (formerly part of Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Landing Fields), but as it was, we ended up at the Kettle Pond section off Bend Road; there is a visitor center/headquarters there, which is handy (and how we got tipped off to visit Trustom Pond NWR). The main features of this section are views of Watchaug Pond, a vernal pool, and some erratic boulders left by retreating ice sheets. There’s also a short trail with a view to the ocean.
What’s confusing about the Kettle Pond section of Ninigret is that it abuts and intertwines with both the Rhode Island Audubon Kimball Bird Sanctuary and Burlingame State Park. Some of the trails intersect near a private house or two as well. There is a colour-coded system that’s helpful but not entirely unambiguous.
We started off on the 1/2-mile trail to Watchaug Pond.
Along the way, we saw a few interesting plants:
We also saw some moss before we got to the pond.
Then we took off on the colour-coded trails, skirting or overlapping with the bird sanctuary and the state park. I didn’t take any photos on this part of the walk except for trail signs, the trail itself, and a cemetery sign.
The orange trail led us back to the Toupoyesett Pond Trail, which connects to the main (Watchaug Pond) trail.
I guess we walked by Toupoyesett Pond, which was quite high, and the glacial erratic boulders.
Arriving back at the parking lot, we took off in the opposite direction to follow the 1/2 -mile Ocean View Trail.
It wasn’t the most interesting walk during our 4-day coastal Rhode Island visit — though the towhee sighting was exciting — but it’s an easy stroll through some varied habitat. I look forward to seeing the rest of Ninigret (the saltwater Ninigret Pond section) next time we visit.
Ninigret (c.1610-1677) was a sachem of the eastern Niantic Indian tribe in New England at the time of English colonization. He was based in Rhode Island, though he spent some time with the Dutch on Manhattan. His remains are supposedly buried at Burying Hill, near Charlestown, RI.
While visiting coastal Rhode Island in early May, spouse and I walked on the Cliff Walk, in Newport, twice. Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile (one way) walk along the Atlantic Ocean, with mansions, Salve Regina University, 64 private homes, an art museum, and other buildings on the other side.
Our first walk, in the evening with darkness coming on and quite a spray in places from a stormy ocean, began at Eastons Beach (where we parked — lots of parking spots in early May!), continued to a detour at Shepard Avenue around The Breakers mansion on Ochre Point Avenue, to where we turned around at Ruggles Avenue and walked back, in light rain; this was almost all paved or hard-packed dirt path.
Here’s a virtual version of our walk that evening, chronologically:
The second time, three days later around 8 a.m., we picked up about where we left off, parking on Wetmore Avenue (which is a small side road) and accessing the Cliff Walk from Marine Avenue, then walking mostly on ledge, rocks, and dirt paths past Rosecliff Mansion and the Chinese tea house on the Marble House property (where Alva Vanderbilt hosted rallies for women’s suffrage), to Rough Point (where Doris Duke’s home is), and then back again. We didn’t make it all the way to Land’s End at the end of the peninsula this time — a visit to the Audrain Auto Museum and motel check-out called — but my calculations with Google’s satellite map suggests that we were 1/3 mile from it, and about a 1/2 mile from the very end of the walk at Bailey’s Beach.
The first half to two-thirds of the walk from Easton’s Beach is quite easy; the second half or one-third is more difficult, especially at high tide when some of the pathway is under shallow water and the rocks can be slippery. The long tunnel near the Chinese tea house is also a bit daunting, as it’s low and dark — you can’t always see where your feet are stepping.
Here’s the virtual walk:
The Cliff Walk was hands-down our favourite thing in Newport, where if you spend all your time among the shops and bars downtown you can almost forget there is a natural world.
** The post title is from Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel The Sirens of Titan: “The town was Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A., Earth, Solar System, Milky Way.”
On 8 May, we had breakfast at Slice of Heaven Cafe on the island of Jamestown, Rhode Island —
— btw, best oatmeal ever: steel cut oats and 9-grain cereal served with plump raisins, walnuts, fresh berries, and drizzled with pure Vermont maple syrup — after which we let Zillow show us houses for sale, then we drove off the island and south through part of North Kingstown, part of South Kingstown, Charlestown (where we walked in the Kettle Pond part of the Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge), and eventually toddled back up through Narragansett, where we had a great early dinner at Georges of Galilee (happy hour buck-a shuck oysters!), on a tip from a Facebook friend, and walked the Narrows beach. More on some of that later.
Today’s field trip is to Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in South Kingstown, which we might have missed, though it was on my list of places that sounded good, because we were running a bit short on time. But the staffer at Kettle Pond was fervent in her unprompted praise for Trustom Pond NWR, which she said was the best place to walk in the area, with many habitats, and it was on our route back to the motel, so we decided to check it out.
Trustom Pond is one of the walks described in the Trails & Walks in Rhode Island blog that I mentioned in an earlier post. It’s comprised of a small loop trail around a field (Farm Field Loop Trail), which leads to a large loop trail (Osprey Point Trail + Red Maple Swamp Trail), an extension of the loop (still Osprey Point Trail), and a 1/2-mile side-shoot off the loop trail (Otter Point Trail). In all, it’s about 2.5 miles of basically flat walking through a field, grasslands, a red maple swamp, an upland forest with wetlands, shrublands, woods, and a saltwater pond. Trustom Pond is the only undeveloped salt pond in the state. If we had had more time, I would have walked it twice.
First, the turkey photo shoot; there were three of them, in tall grass, a ways away:
Then the rabbits:
Three young deer were hiding from us; you can sort of make out faces and tails:
And the birds!
There were dozen of swallows flying around the pond grasses; they are fast, have a slim profile, never seem to land, and make themselves hard to photograph. But it was breathtaking watching them swoop.
Then there were warblers. I was lucky to get a decent couple of shots of one, a yellow warbler, and her nest, which we were accidentally standing near:
“Approximately 300 bird species, more than 40 mammals, and 20 species of reptiles and amphibians call Trustom their home.”
Last year, in early June 2016, I went with some friends to visit Paradise Lot, the permaculture home of Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates and their wives, on 1/10 acre in the city of Holyoke, MA. I’ve not gotten around to blogging about that, nor about the other garden we visited nearby, the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA. But today — a chilly, rainy one here in New Hampshire — is the day to remember this visit.
The Bridge of Flowers was constructed in 1929, after fund-raising (of $1,000) by the local women’s club to implement Antoinette Burnham’s botanical vision for the former trolley bridge, which had been built in 1908 to connect the towns of Shelburne and Buckland for freight, local vegetable delivery, and passenger service. Once automobiles came along, though, delivery trucks soon superseded trolley service and the bridge became a weedy eyesore: “It was too expensive to destroy, yet it was not needed as a footbridge. It could not be destroyed partly because of expense and because it carried the water main to the Buckland side of the river.”
By the 1970s, the bridge had again deteriorated, and again the women’s club was asked to raise money to restore it, this time $580,000 for structural and other repairs. In 1983, reconstruction commenced: “Every plant, tree and shrub was removed from the Bridge and cared for in private gardens during the Restoration Project.”
You can read more details in the Bridge of Flowers website’s history section.
This is what the bridge looked like last June:
(We had lunch in that red building, the West End Pub, and it was very good, with great views. if you go, visit the basement bathroom and read about floods.)
Here we are, excited to see it!
Near the entrance:
The sky was a bit dark when we began our walk:
I think the darkness enhances the flowers’ colour.
Poppies were blooming!
Giant alliums, as above, and below:
And yellow baptisia, one of my favourites; this one is called ‘Solar Flare:’
There were also Asiatic lilies (amid the white-flowered Anemone sylvestris):
My Wife the Gardener
by Peter (poem in old magazine)
She dug the plot on Monday –
the soil was rich and fine,
She forgot to thaw out dinner –
so we went out to dine…
I mentioned in February that I was ordering my seedlings — veggie, herb, flower — from Good Earth Farm in Weare, NH, this year. The list of what I ordered is at the link. There were 120 plants in all, and yesterday, when I went with a friend to the farm to collect our seedlings, I bought another 9 plants (1 ‘Clarke’s Heavenly Blue’ morning glory, 1 ‘Sunrise Serenade’ morning glory, 6 ‘Bright Lights’ cosmos, and a rosemary), for a total of 129 plants.
So, yesterday afternoon, while dvr’ing the Indy 500 (funny how dvr’ing and driving look alike), I planted 121 of those plants, all but 5 parsley, which I really don’t need — they come up year after year and have spread widely — and 3 of the Queen Red Lime zinnias, which will go in the ground when the rain stops.
129 seedlings don’t look like a lot of plants ….
… but they are. Especially when you first have to spend about two hours weeding the main vegetable garden, and another hour or so on other projects involving more weeding, pruning, tearing python-sized roots out, mulching, watering, transplanting other plants that you want to save but not right there (milkweed in particular).
For me, with only a small part of the yard that gets 6 or 8 hours of sun most days, and with an even smaller area that’s got a fence around it to firmly discourage deer, figuring out where the plants should go is the most difficult part of planting them. Some people are smart about this and plot it all out on paper. I tend to carry plants around until I find what seems like a suitable spot for them.
Spouse was able to enlarge the fenced-in garden a bit yesterday, by about 8 square feet — and we only managed to grab that space after I hacked the mound o’ lemon balm in half, not that it will notice. That added area is large enough for me to fit 3 cucumbers, a summer squash, and a bush bean inside it.
(The extended part is a triangle to the right of the green-framed door.)
I managed to get most of the veggies into the fenced vegetable garden, but there are plenty of cucumbers, summer squash, lettuce, and chard outside of it in various other parts of the yard. Some of the flowers are in the veggie garden, to provide pollination sources for bees and whatnot, and most are outside it, shoved in among perennials and shrubs.
Here is what the vegetable garden looks like now; it may seem sparse but everything will grow! And I need walkways to the hose and for harvesting. Labels are below each photo.
Today it’s raining fairly hard, and it’s chilly, 49F right now at 1:30 p.m. I worry for the cucumbers especially. They’re sensitive and supposed to be watered with warm water in the spring (until the soil and night temps warm up), which I did yesterday, but I can’t control the temperature of the rain. I could cover all 12 of them (actually, 10; two the Divas were wilted when I got to planting them) with plastic containers but I’m not. I also could have waited a few days or a week to plant them, especially the cucumbers and peppers, but due to some pressing family issues and a possible sudden trip away in the near future, I decided I had better get them in the ground while I’m available to do it. I’m hoping forecasts for temps near 70 this week will keep them alive.
He had been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put into vials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw, inclement summers.
— Jonathan Swift