Rooftop Experiences

Infrequently do we think about the roofs atop of our buildings.

When purchasing a property, we may have their roofs inspected for leaks and other potential problems . We curse them for their wear and tear–and the rotten expense of replacing them periodically. Some of us mutter under our breath when we must climb a ladder to adorn them with timely ornamentation.

Roofs can make for great metaphors. But what about their sheer grit and beauty, the plumage of their composition?

In Portugal, like Spain, you can’t help but notice the rooftops. Everywhere, they’re as distinctive and colorful as a patchwork quilt sewn by the souls of seamstresses.

Unlike the pasty composite shingle, formidable slate, enduring metal, and flexible rubber roofs covering up most American properties, the multi-color brick and terracotta tiles atop homes of every stripe and size here in Iberia are characteristically appealing.

Indeed, they’re integral to the landscape.

Perched on the steep, stepped grade of the countryside, we look down and across at the rooftops here from our vantage points on the balconies and terraces that are part and parcel of inter-connected buildings.

Roofs are their own crowning glory, telling tales out of school about the wear-and-tear they’ve experienced over the years. By the climate. Invading armies. And their genealogies.

Especially in areas dating back to Moorish times, these colorful wrappers can be windows into the souls of the people and their places. So, we feel for the feeble roofs remaining as vestiges of neighborhood “ruinas,” reminding us of better times … while waiting for these distressed properties to be purchased and reconstructed (top-down).

I’m reminded of what some refer to as “mountaintop experiences,” those times and places when we feel truly connected to the universal, the integral, the almighty and eternal.

Have you ever climbed to the top of a mountain – or taken an elevator to the top floor of a skyscraper – and then looked down at the view below? Each offers an experience similar to peering at rooftops: Whether you are at the top a mountain or up on the roof, the world beyond looks very different.

Most of the time, life looms pretty large before me … filling my personal screen of attention.

But from the perspective of a roof here in a Portuguese town or a Spanish village, life seems smaller—not inconsequential–but smaller, simply part of what’s going on in the world around us.

That’s rather humbling, all things considered.

Photo Credit: Luís Francisco Fotografía

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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