Spring morning in the Sierra Nevada

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Alpujarras Region of Spain 

Legions of hills and beyond, mountains stretch along the horizon. Large cumulous clouds lie above – mighty emperors reclining on rocky couches. Near our little cabin sits  a terraced farmers plot. Almond blossoms of white  and of a shocking neon pink bless a chicken coop. A yellow and white cat treads along a narrow plank between the coop and a grassy bank. Her own private bridge?

The sun is direct and hot even at an early hour but it is easily vanquished by the mountain breeze. We can hear many nesting birds, little finches, quite a flock of what look like large house sparrows, robins and this morning – a story-book pair of blackbirds. Their feathers glossy, their beaks sun yellow.

They fluttered about their business, tilting their broad fan-like tails upon alighting on a branch.

The dog barked and pulled on the lead and it was time to go back to coffee on the terrace.

‘Wedding Pictures’ by Isobel Cunningham

So great to have an original illustration!

Montréal Writes

Wedding Pictures

Illustration by Andres Garzon

Hi, Honey! Oh, Granny is so glad to see you. I hardly ever get a chance to baby-sit now that Nanna lives with you guys. I can’t compete with her!

Oh, my. Look how you’ve grown. You’re a big girl now, five years old already! C’mon in, Granny has oatmeal cookies and milky tea just like the other time. Only don’t tell Mummy or you’ll never be allowed back! Just kidding, darling . . . wave bye-bye to Mummy in the car.

Yes, Granny’s been decluttering—throwing out old pictures and books and things. What, this big white book? That’s Granny’s wedding album. Pictures of the day Granny got married to Grandpa. No, Grandpa doesn’t live with Granny any more.

It’s a wedding, you know, the day people get married. Marriage. Do you know what that is? Well, maybe you don’t.

You’ve seen people riding around…

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Jewels of the Volcano

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Yesterday we went jewel hunting – and we found some! On Wednesday we met some very kind Germans who were parked in their camper out in a wilderness just down the ravine from a volcano caldera. Now, there’s a something you don’t read every day! These two people were shuffling around in the dust with their heads down. It turns out they were looking for garnets…and finding them! I was very interested and so today we came back with a pick and a bottle for our treasures. As you can see we found lots of garnets and even some lovely crystals. All this bounty is the result of volcanic action that took place about 10 million years ago. This area (Cabo de Gata in southern Spain) is full of volcanic hills and calderas. After we had picked up quite a lot of garnets, Joe wanted to go into  the caldera. The path doesn’t look too difficult, does it? The picture is deceiving. As one approaches the lip of the crater, the path becomes steep and, of course, it is composed of unstable pebbles. As soon as we embarked on the top part I knew I would have trouble coming down but I certainly wasn’t going to give up when I was almost there.

It was so inspiring to stand about half way up the wide depression that forms the crater and look across to the other side. All around there are crags but the bowl of the crater is quite flat except for a little hill. Think of dropping a pebble into a glass of water and how the water flies up. Probably that was how the little hill was made. It was a wonderful sensation to stand there, totally alone since at this time of year, hikers are rare enough. The wind was whistling through the “bite” in the caldera wall and the sky was perfectly clear. There were large boulders all over the place and smaller stones scattered around. It just made me think about the millions of years that had passed since everything was in a turmoil and how surreal it was that we could turn around and see not far away a modern highway and the awful plastic greenhouses that cover a lot of Andalusia.

Now, the coming down part was less enjoyable. I have a bit of a problem with my right knee. My usual tactic is simply to ignore the pain and take care to go up with the good leg. Going down with the bad knee was rather perilous. To handle my deathly fear of falling and truly smashing up my knee I simply sat down and scooted down on my butt for the steepest parts. Needs must. Good thing I was wearing an ancient pair of jeans.

I am thrilled with my “Jewels” and even more so with the memory of climbing up to the caldera and looking over the extinct volcano.

The pictures – one shows the garnets just sitting there waiting to be taken home (down at the bottom of the pic)

. One shows the path up to the volcano lip, One shows the garnets and crystals after they had been cleaned up.  I can hardly wait to find some crafty type who will make them into jewelry for me and my granddaughter!

Talk to me, Baby


Find that dime, that quarter, that dollar, that card

Find the time, find the words.

Find the sea song that sends the sigh

over the waves

on the white wings of gulls.

Let me hear your breath, soft with a faint rasp

like the ripple of a wave that drags down pebbles.

Press the receiver to your shell ear.

Hear me lick my lips, draw in my breath

whisper ” Hello” before the goodbye.

Do I Have To?

  Spanish hunters buy these birds to use as live lures for wild partridge. We saw lots of them in clean, well-watered cages today. It seemed a kind of mean way to fool the birds. I know, we use duck decoys and moose calls to fool game into getting shot but this seems particularly gruesome to me. There were about thirty birds priced anywhere from €3 to €6 depending on the type of bird . ( They all looked the same to me) 

I could only imagine the procedure in the field as the captive bird calls and his wild brothers and sisters approach. What happens to him at the end  of hunting season, I wonder?

Carnival in Cartagena


  

We spent a few days visiting this ancient city recently. Yes, it’s named after Carthage in North Africa and it has a marvellous ruin of a Roman theatre  Last weekend was carnival weekend and I was astonished to see the energy and sheer number of people engaged in the carnival parade. There were a lot of very scantily clad ladies with huge feather headdresses but—seen one, you’ve seen ’em all! I was more interested in the political side of things. Spain is in the midst of a debate about the remains of Fransisco Franco, the general who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975. I am learning a lot about the Spanish Civil War and also about Franco …..I’m not getting into it! OK? A vote in the parliament last year approved the exhumation of his remains. Not so fast, where will he be buried then? The grandchildren of Franco oppose the move and propose that their ancestor be buried in the Cathedral of Madrid. The Government fear that such a move would encourage veneration of Franco so they refuse this alternative. The government even appealed to the Vatican to help decide where he should be reburied. That’s why the pope appears in the carnival float. This topic has been a hot issue for several years and so…. the float.

Despite this note of political turmoil, the rest of the parade was a joyful muddle of diverse themes. Hawaiians, showgirls, Chinese, Indian, Arabian, Mexican – all dancing along to infectious Brazilian carnival music! My favorite was a two year old dressed as a bee. She insisted that she must march in the parade. Over and over again, her dad marched her up and down 40 feet beside the parade route.  On the walk up she sulked. On the way down she beamed. To me, that’s the spirit of Carnival. Humor a bee! Why not?