16 July 2018, 8.09 am
Yesterday evening the sea was green and opaque under slate-grey clouds. I watched one seagull cruising, slow, lightness stretched wingtip to wingtip. When I toweled myself off at the beach, it landed in a determined semicircle and did a few of those cumbersome-looking, mechanical steps, eyeing me sideways. What a difference between sand-bound walking and soaring. The sun emerged and lit up a cloud that sent its reflection down on the sea in a glimmering band. The seagull took off.
I thought about what our mind does to those birds. Our choices.
There is the famous movie that uses seagulls, perverts them to create suspense, fear, horror. A cock’s warning call captured in its maker’s name, made famous by that film. And there is the fairytale of Jonathan, the gull, off on a spiritual venture that enchanted many, nudged some to try first tentative steps on the sand of freedom. Artistic creations sometimes re-imprint the mind—or superimpose another shot: like the aggressive grin of an ugly, evil set of teeth projected before on to a soaring, gorgeous birds-eye view of Rio de Janeiro.
Re-storied birds, re-branded birds-eye views.
Time to sweep the leaves from the terrace, the stone table, set it up for breakfast. A southerly, playful wind is blowing, skipping then adding beats to its out-of-sync heart, its restless breath clamors for more air, more space unaware it’s waiting, open-ended.
How to create open-endedness?
By having lots of doors in view. Like, eight. If six are closet doors, hey, that’s what’s owned, earned, been conquered. OUFFFFF. Time to relish the outbreath. Door seven door leads to the bathroom – clearing and cleansing. Number eight to the bedroom: sleep, dream, love. In varied sequential order. I’m set.
I’m sweeping up the carob leaves. During the Spanish war, people used carobs for food. The brown, bean-like fruit has a distinct, oddly sweet flavor that grows on you as you chew. In Greece they make a cola-like drink from it. Once, hungry after a long hike in Crete, I munched on a few. It was quite a satisfying discovery. If I found a carob tree in a desert I’d likely believe I’d stumbled across manna. Here, on this part of the Spanish coast, carobs are used as animal feed. If the carobs aren’t picked but allowed to freely ripen on the tree, they’ll regale everything underneath with sweet gooey droplets that create brown stains. Carob trees can grow big and old; now they’re often cut down. People have started thinking about such things as value, effort and cost-effectiveness.
Our big, old tree has worked its roots into the water cistern under the house; if you stick your head deep enough into the shaft of the well and blink until you get accustomed to the humid dark, you can admire its astonishingly far-reaching, finely woven network of roots. The tree gets pruned every spring a length all round corresponding to the height of a window it immediately sets out to covering again with fresh leafy twigs and branches; you can watch its live curtain inch its way up and up, till it’s swallowed the view of the driveway and the entrance gate and turned Hub’s office into a green ivory tower.
Today, it’s not so much leaves but stems strewn across the terracotta tiles. Like slim, black parenthesis. Done the growing, the holding on, the converting light into the colors of life. Stems fall after the leaves are gone. They stick around longer, they’re more steadfast. Even if they’ve let go of what depended on them, they are slow in letting go of what held them. Spread out there on the ochre terrace floor they look like eyelashes lost by some giant red-faced princess. She’d wept tears of leaves, then her grief washed away her long, curved, black eyelashes. Scattered on the ground they look sad and lonely, like parentheses closed for good. Without anyone ever having filled them with content throwing light on what’s ahead or behind. The princess must have lost a love that meant a lot to her.
How do I weigh a love? By its meaning? Significance? The signs it sets for me. Traffic signs? Where to go?
When to overtake? When to stop? At an inverted triangle: give way, yield?
I guess the yielding is what squalifies love. What are you trying to say, sister Spello? Qualify as—or squander? Is squandering good? Sure, if you overflow. Love lavishes. Doesn’t love always overflow beyond the edge of my own pond, my river’s embankment? Or can love also vibrate as a tranquil echo? Two parallels breathing? In the intimate knowledge that despite the forever distance in between they’re destined to meet up in a thousand night years and meld into one? Two waterways streaming toward an unknown estuary, a galaxy away maybe? Isn’t that what keeps me going? Hoping for eels in the estuary?
I remember one of my first trips to Spain, going with a local fisherman out to watch him catch eels. The briny water, mighty yet slow-flowing; something inert, final, about the elephantine mass underneath from which gleaming black, slithering wriggles emerged – to be served and savored as a delicacy—with a green, garlicky sauce? That liquid monster mammal underneath seemed kind and generous, forever life-giving while flowing, flowing, not knowing where.