Coincidence or fate?

I think this is my favourite piece of writing ever. It contains my first written reference to two of my closest friends currently in my life; it has a wonderful “photo essay” flow, and I like how I ratchet up the tension throughout the piece.

The serendipity and mysticism of that fateful day are also cool.

I am a writer. For now, this writer lives on an island in the middle of the Atlantic. This island fact is quite an important part of my story from Sunday.

If I were to choose a setting to explore my virtue as a budding writer (ideally somewhere which accommodates all the pushed stereotypes of the tortured creative), it would be here.

There’s a genuine otherworldliness about this place. The grass is spongey, soft and simply splendid to lie down on. The sand is black. The green is more ‘green’ and vibrant than your standard place’s ‘green’, and has more tones and nuance. Your dark greens are darker and more solemn, your bright greens are shinier and happier and there’s a tone in between for every mood.

The clouds hang over you ominously, flirtily flaunting every possible weather type you can imagine. They don’t lie when they say you get every season in a day here! I could go on and on, but I won’t – it’s story time.

Setting the scene for that fateful Sunday

The story starts in a hostel. I had to stay in a hostel in the centre of the main city, Ponta Delgada, because finding a room was … to put it lightly, a bit of a nightmare.

Becoming increasingly anxious and overwhelmed as my “7 days left” became “2”, I explored every option I had and leant heavily on my beloved friends and colleagues back on the mainland. I wasn’t totally without options. There was that room with the kind older lady who sweetly offered to cover the difference in bills if prices went up over winter. There was also that house in the garden I had found on Facebook – that one was cool! It was within my budget, was near the beach on the North (but very opposite) side of the island and came with the added benefit of 4 whole dogs to jazz up my Island Vibe – gorgeous curls, 4 dogs and coastal walks? Don’t mind if I do. Whack that on the web 😉

But it wasn’t ideal. I had one last option though, that I had never really considered, but was also quite intriguing.

A dear friend of mine from Porto explained that an uncle of one of her friends had a beautiful little eco-hut set against the collosal cliffs in a remote corner of the island called Ponto do Ermo. It was off the grid, had no electricity and was far from all civilisation. I was sent a photo which confirmed that the view was SPLENDID, and I felt an urge to consider it as a last resort.

And I did. I had very few options, and the inconvenience of asking the uncle for a lift to a cafe to work from every morning was an obstacle I could overcome if I had to.

Fortunately, last Friday, I found one somewhere. It’s a basic room. I don’t love it, but I’m safe here, I have internet and I can cook my own meals. It’s fine for a month. I told my friend I wouldn’t take the eco-hut, but said I’d reach out to her friend’s uncle to say thank you. Surprise, surprise:

I forgot.

That fateful Sunday.

Sunday was the day of the move. I’d had a great Saturday and made some friends at a bbq I was invited to. Arsenal had also vanquished arch-rivals 3-1 in the North London Derby so I woke up full of spirits and excited for my first day adventuring around the island. Oh, I also got a text from my friend telling me to reach out to the uncle – fair enough! It’s rude to keep people waiting.

I put a reminder in my calendar for Monday morning, and thought nothing else of it.

A friend I made at the hostel had kindly offered to pick me up, help me with the move and then drive me around the island to join her on her day’s travels.

After arriving at my new ‘home’ and trying to put my key into the wrong flat on the 3rd floor (embarrassing!), we got into her car and set off.

We stopped at one viewpoint, sat in awe at the indescribable beauty of what we were seeing for a good 45 mins or so, and chatted a little. My friend is a quiet, introverted woman meaning conversation was slow and ponderous but wholly enjoyable. It set the scene for a very peaceful day.

After a quick lunch, we got in the car and decided to drive on until we stopped somewhere we liked the look of. So we did!

The road forked – left or right? We went left.

We parked our car. Popped a pin on Google Maps, that’d do it.

We set off on foot. I mentioned I fancied a swim so arbitrarily when the road forked again, we went left towards the coast. Even though there was a slightly ominous, rusty metal gate that had been left open, we persisted and went left.

We went up a small incline and saw that the field next to us was blocked off by some metal fencing. We chuckled about how the wonderful, expansive cliffs we could see were out of reach and we’d have to turn back eventually and head right at the rusty gate. Just 5 more minutes, I said.

On we went. “Look how beautiful the cliffs over there are, should we go back?” said my friend. We’d just passed an old abandoned white shed that suggested we had indeed stumbled into someone’s land. We kept going, passing two inconspicuous black houses.

huh, look at those black houses, they look nice.

Eventually, we came to a cliff and sat down to enjoy the view. This is what we saw.

We sat there in silence. Occasionally, as thoughts whirled through my head, I’d chuckle, or share an observation with my friend. “Look at the texture over there on the rock”, “look at the swirl of the water”, “Look at that bird”.

I don’t know how long we sat there. My mind went to some truly beautiful places. I was at peace. Total peace… until I was distracted.

Had I been here before? Obviously not, but something had just stirred inside me. Had I seen that rock formation in the middle of the water before? Had I seen those white cliffs?

I tentatively checked the messages my friend from Porto had sent me and saw the photo she sent me. I showed it to the girl next to me.

Is this the same place? I can’t work out if this is the same place.

It was. I checked where we were on the map, and there it was. We were sat on Ponto do Ermo. My heart and spirit swelled. I took a deep breath. How on earth had this happened? What were the chances of me finding myself sat on this rock, and not any other rock?

I rang the man, explained that we were literally next to him and he laughed. He was in the little black wooden house on the right. He said “wait 20 minutes whilst I finish my lunch, if it rains, you can come and sit under shelter”.

We waited, and then we sat down with the old man and had a cup of water with him. He shared tales of his life. We learned how he had found his plot of land and listened eagerly to some of his adventures from when he was younger.

He was soft, kind and warm. He was humble, frank and had a genuine love for all that he had built by hand. It was one of those interactions you sometimes have with people of exceptional wisdom that sticks with you. He reverberated a deep, profound knowledge of life that matched that of the island – otherworldly.

We said our goodbyes and headed back to the car to head to the next spot on our list. I was left with a tickly knot in my stomach. How on earth had everything fallen into place as it had over the last week to create such a beautiful, beautiful encounter? Did this mean something, or was this just a smile from the universe. A little nod and wink to say:

You’ll be alright here, kiddo.

I think it was. And I think I will be.

I don’t think it matters whether these kinds of situations are “fate“, “coincidence” or “just a bit of luck“. There’s no working out or understanding. These moments are perfect as they are, exactly how they happen.

All I need to do when these things happen is stop, smile back at the universe and say:

Thank you.

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