Yesterday was May Day, and a national holiday here in Portugal. While I did not have either the occasion or ability to celebrate, many other people did, and all afternoon we could hear drums, music, and amplified voices drifting up from a parade making its way down the Avenida.

They were still marching when we went to the gym in the late afternoon, and on the way back, we wound our way between big groups of people holding signs and banners — presumably the labor unions. Some of them were dressed in traditional costumes and dancing, others were dressed normally. There was even a squad of men dressed in baby pink banging on humongous drums.

It was all very jolly, but as I’d just gone for a swim and a hot tub and was feeling pretty weak, we continued our way slowly up the hill to home. (Never has that short hill looked so long — this really is not a good city in which to have limited mobility!)

Traditionally though, May Day marked the beginning of summer, which began as a pagan celebration back in the day and was then appropriated under Christianity into the more secular celebration we see today. Of course neither is a big deal in the States, but I know it’s a bank holiday in Britain, and is clearly an occasion to celebrate here. Under the guise of International Worker’s Day, May 1 was also very important in Soviet Russia, and continues to be so in Cuba.

I’m not sure which of those many forms of May Day I celebrated yesterday, but I’m sure spending all day reading on the couch (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) and feeling poorly counted as solidarity of one kind or another.

On a similar note… after yesterday’s post, a gentle reader pointed me to a blog post on solitude by the author Mary Morris. Morris says, “I wanted my solitude, but was not enjoying my loneliness… Solitude implies a choice. But loneliness is imposed. It’s a kind of stealth emotion.” That’s exactly what I was trying to say in my own much clumsier way yesterday.

I have always been a solitary person. There is no doubt about that. At home in Santa Cruz though, that is a choice: I have people to call, friends to see, family to visit. Here, my solitary state soon became synonymous with loneliness, because there was no choice. Even when I want to be around people, the possibilities are few and far between. So this week, when I returned to solitude after six weeks of companionship, the loneliness quickly overpowered my relief at being solitary once more.

I’m very relieved to be able to make this distinction. I still do relish my solitude, and would feel like I was losing an old friend if suddenly I were to stop valuing it as much. But loneliness — well, that is one acquaintance I can certainly do without.

Either way, the entire debate will be rendered moot in about three weeks, when we go to visit family in Sweden. After that, it’s pretty much nonstop travel, company, and moving until we get home in August, by which point solitude will once again seem like a sweet desert oasis shimmering on the horizon.

The grass is always greener, I suppose.

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