December 30, 2012
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.
My Portuguese grandfather was part of a generation of immigrants who wanted to be completely American.
On that path, he became the first Portuguese member of the Metacomet Country Club in Providence, Rhode Island, and was later two-term president of the club.
He served as secretary of the Rhode Island Golf Association, overseeing thirty years of Rhode Island Championship events. He was chiefly responsible for the establishment of the Northeast Amateur Tournament.
He married into a family that had been in America since 1637, the Burgesses of Sandwich, MA, and made a successful career as a celebrity underwriter for New England Life Insurance Company.
In his striving to assimilate, however, much of what was Portuguese about him was kept under wraps. He embraced America as a nation rather than hyphenation. I favored my mother’s side; my father’s side was Scotch-Irish. I looked more “Portagee” than most of my family. Too often this fact manifested itself in jokes not worth repeating here.
Throughout my childhood, there was little mention of the great Portuguese achievers: the explorers (Henry the Navigator, Magellan, De Gama), painters (Nuno Goncalves, Josefa de Obidos, Viera da Silva, Paula Rego), or writers (Camoes, Pessoa, Saramago). Even if I knew of them, I never thought of them as Portuguese.
Only much later did I understand how rich my heritage was. My grandfather seemed to take pride when, shortly before his death, I pursued him about the family history from his side of the Atlantic. He came from the Azores, the tiny archipelago in the middle of the ocean, which is still a place of myth and magic to me. He called me “amigo – one of us.”
In the search for my “lost” heritage, I discovered the poetry of Fernando Pessoa, Portugal’s great poet of the 20th Century. Pessoa, like his hero Walt Whitman, “contained multitudes.” Only in Pessoa’s case, this was quite literally true. Pessoa took on what he called “heteronyms”: pseudonyms that were more than noms de plume. For each persona, Pessoa created a unique personality, creative style, and body of work.
The most successful of Pessoa’s heteronyms was the shepherd-poet, Alberto Caeiro. Caeiro, like Robert Burns and John Clare before him, was a genius plucked straight from the fields. Whereas Burns and Clare were truly of the fields, Alberto Caeiro sprung from the field of Pessoa’s imagination. Pessoa wrote the poems of Alberto Caeiro from the top of his dresser in a Lisbon apartment.
In many ways, Caeiro in Pessoa’s invention is a pure nature poet. Perhaps only poet Gary Snyder achieves greater reconciliation with nature in his work. One of my favorite Pessoa-Caeiro poems is “Só a Natureza é Divina” (Only Nature is divine…) Here it is in the original Portuguese and in my translation:
|Só a natureza é divina, e ela não é divina…Se falo dela como de um ente
É que para falar dela preciso usar da linguagem dos homens
Que dá personalidade às cousas,
E impõe nome às cousas.
Mas as cousas não têm nome nem personalidade:
Bendito seja eu por tudo quanto sei.
Only Nature is divine, and she is not divine…
If I speak of her as of an entity
It is for to speak of her it is necessary to use the language of men,
Which gives personality to things,
And imposes names on things.
But things have neither name nor personality:
They exist, just as the sky is big and the land is wide,
And our hearts are the size of a closed fist…
I am blessed by everything as far as I know.
I enjoy everything as one who knows the sun is always there.
–Fernando Pessoa (writing as Alberto Caeiro) translated from the Portuguese by Scott Edward Anderson