Serra dos Órgãos

A lot of things in life, including a good photograph of a particular scene, never happen. Conditions change fast, and time does not wait. “One day I will come back home to live”, I have said to myself many times. But “home” changes and “here” changes also. In the end, will there be anything to come back to? “The pile of dead, and time corroding the dead” (Drummond, Viagem na Família).

I woke up very early to take the lead photo near my family’s house in Itaipava, Brazil, the place I call home. The mountains, within the boundaries of Serra dos Órgãos National Park, sit on the Cordilheira Atlântica, a chain of mountains that go from North to South along the Brazilian coast.

I vividly recall two things from the day I made this photograph: 1) the family dogs (two German Shepard’s) tried everything to ruin this frame, licking the camera, jumping on me; 2) Later, I sent a copy of the photo to a photography mentor I used to consult with at the time. His feedback was, I needed to drive 100 miles south to have the sun in the middle of the frame.

Itaipava is a neighborhood in the imperial city of Petrópolis, state of Rio de Janeiro. Petrópolis was the summer residence of Brazil’s Royal Family, back when the country was a monarchy, in the 19th century. My parents moved to Itaipava around the year 2000, from the big city of Rio de Janeiro, and built a large house in the mountains. My son and I used to travel there from the USA, where we live, every year, sometimes twice a year, and my son spent most of his summers there when he was in school.

My father died unexpectably four years ago, and the dogs followed him about two years later. My mother holds the fort. One hundred miles south is the town of Vassouras and the mountains would not be visible from there. And finally, visiting the house, my mother, and the extended family, has been difficult during the pandemics.

20 thoughts on “Serra dos Órgãos

    1. Steve Schwartzman says:

      Although I’d heard of Carlos Drummond de Andrade I don’t think I’d ever read anything by him till the poem you linked to. Ah, the sometimes sad interplay between our present and the ghosts of our personal past. Drummond’s father could be my father.

      Wikipedia says of Drummond that he “drifted towards communism at the start of World War II and took up the editorship of the Brazilian Communist Party’s official newspaper, Tribuna Popular, but later abandoned the post due to disagreements over censorship, which Drummond staunchly opposed.” Good for him, at least in his stance against censorship.

      Checking the map, I found that the Itabira in the poem is about a hundred miles north of your Itaipava. Presumably you’ve been to Itabira, and presumably the Ita- in both names comes from the same word in an indigenous language.


      1. Alessandra Chaves says:

        His poems are very interesting and often philosophical. This is a difficult poem even for native speakers but I guess with your Spanish and, almost everyone of a certain age has had a father like that. Itabira, in BL, is avós 288 miles from Itaipava, RJ. I have not been, but I would like to go.


  1. joearf says:

    Funny how different people look at things in different ways. I looked at the picture and didn’t even think anything about either the sun or where it might be. I’d been to Petrópolis when I was little (7? – I left Brasil when I was 7), all I remember is that it was a trip (for a kid, anyway) and that we were visiting a friend of my mother’s; interesting to know a little of it’s history.


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