“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
– Lao Tzu
The 19th century, wrought-iron Mercado do Bolhão in Porto, Portugal is going to be closing down for facelift. In half of the market the vendors have been replaced by walls of scaffolding. The renovations will take two years and the vendors are being moved to another location. But they’re worried they won’t be able to come back when the project is done, that the rent will be too high, that the market will be sterile and lose its character.
Last week one of the vendors who sold live birds and eggs invited me to sit with her when we figured out we could communicate in Spanish. I’m taking great liberties with this translation as my Spanish is basic and rusty and hers was minimal. No English or Portuguese was spoken.
“I started coming to this market when I was a little girl over sixty years ago,” she said. “My parents had the stall then. I became friends with all the vendors. They were like family.” She pointed to all the empty stalls and scaffolding surrounding her, looked upwards and said, “It’s sad.” When I said I was sorry she said, “What can you do, that’s life.” She lives across the Douro River in Gaia where she keeps her birds. She must close her stall and leave the market by September. When I asked what she’ll do with all her free time she looked upwards again, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Meu Deus (My God). It was never about the money. It was about family. But now the city is all about money.” I asked if she’d be coming back when they reopened the market. “No, I’m done,” she said.
I waited to post her story because I wanted to find out her name first. But I’ve gone back to the market every day and she’s not been there. Is she gone already?