Jorgen and Alentejo, Part 1

By Eli Benveniste

About 30 years ago, Jorgen and I bought a palm tree and planted it next to a lake I made from a passing stream, which ran through the land of our home here in Portugal. 

This little lake with granite walls is fed by water coming from a spring. In summer it is low and in winter it is full, passing on the water to the bigger stream running through the rest of the land.

I haven’t been here since 2019, when Jorgen and I spent what turned out to be his last summer here in Alentejo. Two years of Covid and one year of illness kept us in Italy. 

Summers overtook winters and last spring, or was it the one before that, a shepherd had his herd of sheep grazing next to the lake. I imagine him sitting on the green metal chair I brought from a bar in Barcelona, leaning back on the palm tree, smoking his cigarette. Perhaps he was careful and didn’t want to cause a fire by stubbing out the butt on the ground and instead he chose the trunk of the palm tree. 

What I was told, much later, was it had nevertheless caught fire and the “beard” of the very tall palm must have looked like a gigantic torch, burning away a whole history of times past. 

I’m now sitting here listening to the sound from the crown of the surviving palm, it is similar to the sound of the sea, which is pleasant in this heat. The trunk is now dark brown and black, quite beautiful actually, with no beard left of withered leaves, just the green crown shining in the sun, moved by the currents of winds above. 

Where the stream turns into the land of my neighbor, the path to Jorgen’s cave begins. Last week I had the land cleared by two strong men from Carreiras.  Jorgen’s wish was for his ashes to rest in the prehistoric cave at the bottom of the land belonging to our house. The cave is not a cave as you might picture it, but a space created beneath an enormous round rock which once had landed on another. Perhaps it was the ice, from the last ice age, which has strewn all the loose stones around which you find in this amazing landscape. This place is full of sculptural stones; Jorgen was obviously inspired by the work created by Nature’s powers and eons of time.

Photographers: Simon Lautrop og Heine Pedersen