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  • Writer's pictureDiann Schindler, Ph.D.

I could not escape learning about philosopher Fernando Pessoa and scientist Branca Edmée Marques

In my openness to learn more about Portugal, my new country of residence, striking information serendipitously filters through to me in a string of happenings. To be clear, I don’t simply come across this information. No, quite the opposite. It comes to me, grabs me, shakes me… relentlessly. The Universe demands I pay attention.

Here the most recent example:

A small hardbound book sat on my nightstand for over two years. It was given to me after I taught "Cultivating Compassion through Travel" for the Charter for Compassion. I had never found the time to even open "The Wander Society” by Keri Smith.* For some unknown reason, three days ago, I took it with me for my late morning Chinese (what Madeira Islanders call coffee,similar to macchiato) at the Restaurante Mercado Velho.

I often join friends at the Mercado, but on this day they had not yet arrived. In hindsight, this was fortuitous because I had the chance to read my little book in its entirety.

Most important, on page 39, I came upon Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publisher and philosopher. He is described as one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language. About his wandering the streets of Lisbon, he said, “I am a nomadic wanderer though my consciousness.”

I'm writing a new edition to my 2017 nonfiction book, “The Essential Guide to a Life of Travel: the ABC’s International Travel,” I had planned to include a section on walking. However, this new read spurred me on to realized I needed to look at wandering and urge readers to consider walking, exploring, ambling in an unplanned or aimless way with a complete openness to the unknown.

I'm suggesting beyond exploring the aspects of travel we all love - the history, architecture, food, music – we wander - with no real plan to eat, see a monument or shop. Simply wander and allow our minds to open.

Wandering has many benefits. Usually, we breathe deeper when we wander. Curiosity fills our thoughts. Gradually, the sounds, smells, observations of our surroundings have a special interpretation, only to us.

Keri Smith writes, “You’re presented with a multitude of magical experiences…meant for you.” (p12)

While wandering, we often get in touch with ourselves - our thoughts, our emotions - that which we seldom have time for, or take time for, during our busy lives away from travel.

Now, back to Pessoa. Obviously, I was intrigued, not only by his wandering but also by his book, “The Book of Disquiet.”** Admittedly, the description of its contents seemed too esoteric for my taste. I doubted I’d take the time I would need to digest his messages. After all, I am new to Portugal. I have places to go, people to see, more practical things to do.

I dismissed it without a second thought.

Fast forward, later that afternoon. I met with a group of people, seemingly interested in writing, reading, and similar topics. I had asked people who were writers or who wanted to write to come together to talk about the craft of writing. It didn’t take long to see that wasn’t going to happen. Although disappointed, it would be rude to leave so I chose to linger.

An hour later, two of us were left: Phil from the UK and myself. I learned Phil had been visiting Madeira for years and he had come to discuss writing. Further, he had studied comparative literature in England and was extremely well read. We began comparing notes about books, the classics, styles of novels, etc.

I mentioned reading “The Wander Society,” and my excitement about discovering Fernando Pessoa. I was stunned to hear Phil knew all about Pessoa! And, he had read–and continues to read “The Book of Disquiet.” Phil’s descriptions were inspiring. I was hooked.

The next day, I went to a bookstore in Funchal, the capital city of Madeira Island, found an English version. I rushed home and read the first entry. It was amazing.

It's crazy. Who would have believed these connections would have occurred in a span of 24 hours and move me from interested, to intrigued, to inspired. I know I’ll be better for it, thanks to Phil.

Another outstanding person from Portugal caught my eye recently.

Branca Edmée Marques, according to She Thought It, was a Portuguese scientist. She dedicated her scientific work to the research and teaching of nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry. The first to implement and develop research on radioactivity and its associated discoveries, Marques played an important role in the development of scientific knowledge in this specific field. She spent five years in France doing research and preparing

her doctorate thesis under the mentorship of one of the most famous scientists of all time, Marie Curie. Marques deserves to be acknowledged for her notable contributions to the advancement of scientific research in Portugal, in particular at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. She was the founder of the Laboratory of Radiochemistry, the precursor of the Centre for Radiochemistry Studies and the first research laboratory of chemistry at the Faculty of Sciences of Lisbon. Read MORE.

Happily, there is no escape from these fabulous opportunities to learn and grow! I look forward to what tomorrow day will bring.


In case you missed it, please listen to my latest podcast: “Madeira, Machico, Moby Dick, and more!” I talk about my new experiences during the first two weeks living on Madeira Island, Portugal.

*“The Wander Society” by Keri Smith

**”The Book of Disquiet” by Fernando Pessoa.

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1 Comment

Faith Ross
Faith Ross
Sep 02, 2021

Diann, Great site! Wish you were here to read about the Port. Miss my swimming buddy! Keep growing and learning!

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