Today

TODAY

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.
Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

– Mary Oliver –

“I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance.” – How this line resonates. A week ago I learned about a live stream virtual travel tour company and have been literally around the world, in real time, sitting still. Paris and Lyon, Florence, Venice and Pisa, Cusco, the desert in Dubai, Dubrovnik, Istanbul – 30, 45 and 60 minute tours hosted by professional guides on a “pay what you will” tip basis. I take photos “postcards”, ask questions, and delight in this remarkable use of technology that is providing a livelihood for guides, and “green” travel for me. One of the guides, Mike from Peru, shared the unforeseen, but countless benefits of this “pivot” for him, his company and community, making it all the more worthwhile. It’s been a door back into the world and the people living in it.

Roses in Winter

“Must be brain freeze,” I just tapped out to a friend, as I’m late again for this week’s post.

It. Is. Cold. An Arctic vortex has descended upon the prairies. Years ago, I recall my city’s well-loved and highly respected meteorologist calling it “the dreaded of all meteorological phenomena: the Siberian High.” Sunshine and signature Alberta blue skies, but with wind blowing steady, take those already frigid temperatures well below zero – centigrade or Fahrenheit – and drop them at least another ten, dangerous degrees. Since the weekend, weather apps have shown red banners and yellow exclamation points and maps show red across the entire province.

But last Thursday, in advance of its arrival, we waxed up the skies and went out to our local provincial park, Blackfoot-Waskahegan, for some easy-going cross-country skiing. As it had been several years since I’d been on the trails, we took a practice run the week before in the new-this-year tracks set on the golf course. Quiet except for the scratch of the skies on snow, my breathing, the squawking and chirping magpies and chickadees, it was heaven sent, though for now, on pause.

Sunday, dressed warmly in a fleece lined wool toque, down parka, gortex snow pants, shearling boots and new “extreme cold” Hesta mitts, I met many folks on the paths, similarly bundled, each enjoying our daily walks in the sunshine. An hour later, the mitts standing up to their reputation, my hands were sweating. The wind blew in that evening, and now even Annie, ever ready to brave the elements – except rain – is less than enthusiastic to be outside. She’s conceded to wearing her boots again with her stylish coat, and we manage a walk around the block. But she didn’t hesitate or pull the other way when I turned down the street headed home. Yesterday after sending her indoors, I took on clearing the sidewalk and driveway of hard packed snow. Got nearly 10,000 steps with it all. That sunshine is a powerful draw. But right this moment, in a day just beginning to clear, she’s napping on her cushion by the space heater as I write.

A year ago today, we were making our way to Sevilla for a winter sojourn in Andalusia. Right about now we were napping in a cozy sleep pod at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Later in the afternoon, we’d catch our flight to Sevilla, check into our hotel, and enjoy our first of many “al fresco” Spanish tapas. Smoky olives, sweet red vermut on ice, grilled octopus.

Ahhhh memory. “The power to gather roses in Winter.”

During the next few weeks, to mark the occasion I’ll mix an Americano cocktail (first enjoyed during my first visit to Andalusia in 2017) with a slice of orange (not Sevillian, too bitter), chew on Spanish olives, and “gather roses” as I wander across the pages of my journal and photo book from last year’s last trip before the pandemic.

And now, after finishing this post, I’ll check to see if a walk is doable.  And then, inspired by returning to reading Melanie Falick’s beautiful story of hand makers and DIYers, Making a Life, I’ll continue embellishing the sweater I knitted a few years back. Worked from a pattern I’d rejigged, with very fine lacy yarn – a silk mohair blend – it’s rife with mis-takes and mis-stitches, too big, and too disappointing after numerous tear-outs and restarts. After taking it out from hiding a few months ago, glancing at it every now and then, holding lightly what and how to proceed, last night I took needle and thread and using a running straight stitch, took in the sides and arms in an exposed French seam. I roll hemmed the entire sweater, again using a straight stitch, letting it show. Then, with a skein of similarly spun yarn from a sweater my mother made for me years ago, I’m running it though those uneven ladders to bring in texture and colour. A true “wabi sabi” creation, using what’s imperfect with what’s on hand, to make beautiful.

Like the little water colour I did while attending a conference last Saturday on Medieval Pilgrimages. Bored with the academic posturing and paper reading, and needing distraction to sort and discern what was of value for me, I adhered to the principles of intuitive painting – no premeditation, design, or meaning – and simply worked with colour and stroke. And then, almost as an afterthought, used a fine black pen to outline the shapes that emerged. Delightful, colourful, nonsensical.

“Ways to trust one’s own wisdom
to bless the imperfections
to see and make apparent the inherent beauty
to smell crimson roses
even in Winter
when her blizzards blow and blind.”

KW

Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.

Close In

Start Close In

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

– David Whyte –
 River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Closer to Home

Thinking about this week’s post came from a few rambling experiences finally resting on the need and practicality of being closer to home.

Lifting a page from the books of some friends, we’ve taken a couple of day trips to see some local sights, obscure and otherwise. Like most folks these days, we’ve opted for the “staycation,” sticking closer to home, not yet venturing far enough for an overnight accommodation. While the mountains call, from what we hear people are flocking in droves to Jasper, Banff and Canmore, so we’ll hold off until…. Plus, we didn’t want to kennel Annie. She’s been such a stalwart companion these months, relying on us as much as we her for a steady supply of love and attention. We just didn’t have the heart to leave her cooped up with strangers. And being on leash, the only way in the mountains, gets pretty frustrating with so much wild scent around. After all, she’s a bird dog. Scenting, hunting, stalking and pointing are her nature.

So a drive east down a prairie highway to Viking, a right turn south across the rolling pastures and freshly cut hay fields, up the hill to a white fence enclosing the two Viking Ribstones. An ancient aboriginal site, now adorned with colourful prayer cloths, these large quarzite boulders were carved thousands of years ago to resemble the ribcages of the revered bison, the main source of sustenance for the plains people.

Last week, north and east to Metis Crossing, we spent another few hot, sunny hours enjoying the quiet of this cultural interpretative centre along the shores of the North Saskatchewan River. Bison sausage with saskatoon relish, bannock with fresh rhubarb jelly and saskatoon lemonade were in keeping with history and today’s garden harvest. Flowers grew in abundance.

A stop en route at the Skaro Grotto.

I’d like for us to make a further trek south towards Rosebud and Blackfoot Crossing. That landscape of treeless, golden high prairie cut by deep coulees green with willow and cottonwood, set against an endless horizon of blue begs acknowledgement that it, too, is as magnificent as the mountains. An acknowledgement I’m only too willing to give, though it would be a long day.

This weekend would have been the 40th anniversary of the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. It, like every other festival in Alberta and large gatherings around the world, was cancelled due to the pandemic. Here, every summer weekend we watch rodeos, listen to music of every genre, see theatre at the famous Fringe festival, revel in parades and gatherings celebrating culture and heritage. We mark our all too short summer with one or several of these “must attends.” It’s helps us get through winters that go on and on. All weekend my radio station, CKUA, an ardent supporter of Alberta culture, featured music and interviews from past years’ performers, while the Festival commissioned a full-length film feature, The Hill, to stream and hosted over fifty videos of past performances. As beautiful the efforts to be on “the hill at home,” as I drove past the festival site early Saturday morning, a time when any other year I’d see orange vested volunteers managing traffic, I felt a bit bereft and wondered, when, if ever, would, what has been called North America’s finest folk festival, return. I recalled having had my first pandemic meltdown, weeping the morning I heard it, and my go to, the Canmore Folk Festival, had been cancelled. The ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning of grief. That day it came closer to home and landed on my doorstep.

Yesterday I zoomed in on a conversation hosted by Melanie Falik, author of the recently published Making A Life: Working By Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live. A few hundred people from around the world, mostly knitters, listened along. As a kind of checkout, we were invited to type in the chat box one project we’d start this week. I got to thinking that for the past week or so I’d been saying out loud that I needed a project. Something I could sink my teeth into. Something on which to focus my ebbing and flowing, waxing and waning energy. Something besides cooking that would engage my curiosity and creativity.

The photo books from this past year’s trips are done. I’m writing a bit. I’m still committed to not learning how to bake sourdough bread, nor grow a garden (hell, I’m having enough of a time picking slugs off my flowers, and we love the bounty from our bi-weekly CSA, thank you). Like most knitters, though I blush to call myself such, I have a started sweater in a bag and a few patterns and skeins waiting in the bin. But I hardly need more sweaters, or scarves, or shawls, even if Friday’s sudden cold weather reminds me what’s coming.

No, what I realized, as I knitted together these recent bits of my life, was that the dreams I’d been keeping, hoping to sustain me through these days of uncertainty and change, were too far out of reach. I knew I couldn’t hold my breath as long as it would take, if ever, to return to the folk festival as I had known it, or to Morocco as I’d planned for this September. I realized I needed to dream closer to home.

I have no idea what dream or project. Not yet.
But I feel a smile inside and out as I begin to wonder and feel those energies shimmer, swirl and coalesce.

With love and kindest regards.

Good to Remember

Memories of traveling to Newfoundland five years ago were evoked this week, thanks to photos I’d posted on Face Book coming back to remind me, and viewing the beautifully shot episode “Strange & Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island.” I didn’t get to Fogo Island then. Hadn’t even known about it. But it’s been on my list since, and visiting may come sooner than later as international travel might now be a thing of the past.

That trip, with its magnificent vistas of land, sea and sky, awakened a deep love for the wild and inspired words that remarkably won me a writing contest sponsored by the tour company.

It’s been good during these my fallow days – when the only vistas I’m seeing are those in my back yard and community, and the only words that come are few and far between – to remember back then, to trust in now.

Seeing Newfoundland in Six Vignettes

I
The Table Lands, Gros Morne
June 20, 2015

The vastness of this Island’s spirit,
holding the Earth’s very own heart
exposed to all the elements.

A paradox of deep beauty,
magnificence and awe,
with a cutting desperation for
survival.

A people who, fierce and proud –
despite what we mainlanders think –
know what matters.

This mater.

This Mother.

Earth.

II
Woody Point, Gros Morne
Early Sunday Summer Solstice Morn
June 21, 2015

A Bonne Bay full of Sun on this
Sacred Sunday Summer Solstice morn.

Shhhh…
the only sounds…

A choir of birds.
Robin singing, thrilling, trilling.
Black Crow cawing.
Meadow Lark warbling.
Red winged Blackbird wooing.

Blood red blossoms about to burst forth on
the front yard crab apple tree.

Water softly lapping on the stony shore.

Locals sitting on their front porch stoops,
sipping coffee,
smoking the day’s first cigarette.

The “from aways” their laughter and chatter
break the spell.

I stand on yet another threshold
looking for the middle way.

III
Norris Point, Gros Morne
Our Summer Solstice Prayer
June 21, 2015

Intention held in the hearts and minds of twelve women
wild to witness the whale,
grand dame of our species.

A blow…once, twice
seen along the rock and tree faced cliff.

Colour full kayaks skim the surface,
carry us Home.

Our hands drum the chant of welcome,
invoking her wisdom, calling her in.

A tail sighted…once, twice
breaking though the glassy bay.

A sudden breach.

Our collective Heart leaps with
the closeness of her show.

A prayer received and delivered.

IV
Woody Point, Gros Morne
Last Breakfast at the Granite Cafe
June 22, 2015

“I’d be nervous all the time,” explains the sweet young server
(can’t be more than twenty-two,
eyebrow piercing twinkles a delicate blue,
matches her eyes),
sharing a bit about her baby girl,
why she’ll stay put on Woody Point,
where the closest traffic light is in Corner Brook,
so Adrianna can run
free.

V
Western Brook Pond, Gros Morne
June 22, 2015

At last.

That long-awaited landscape.
The one I first saw on TV.
You know, the one that grabbed my Heart and fired my Imagination.
The one with the cliffs.

“I’d like to go there one day.”

So what fired the Imagination of those ancient mariners?
The ones whose fjords evoke
the very one I’m travelling down
right now?

VI
Long Time Home
L’Anse aux Meadows and Home
July 7, 2015

Two days travelling then waiting.  Anticipation grows with the wish to be settled back home.  Thankful all uneventful, as a day later, and for several more, re-routing, premature landings, delays, all in response to bomb threats
on my airline.

 The world’s madness – is it more than ever, or the consequence of instantaneous connection – hits my consciousness broadside, closer to home.

And what of those ancient mariners and the many days’ and weeks’ and months’ anticipation and sailing across the ocean? 
What bold imagination and steel-hearted courage, madness even, drove them from their Nordic homeland to what we now call Iceland, Greenland?
And then further south, to be the first of their kind, my kind, to settle on this, my home and native land?

L’Anse aux Meadows, the very tip of Newfoundland’s northern most shore. 
One thousand years ago.  We now know centuries before the likes of men we call Cabot, Columbus, Cartier.

When I recall the day I disembarked from the van, set foot on and looked out over that first “from away settlement,” over the bare expanse of naked land and sea and sky – cold and windy and grey and raining – I can hardly imagine, in a thousand years, their first reaction to seeing and setting foot. 
Unless I search in my own DNA and evoke that of my father’s,
when he first saw, from the ship carrying him across the ocean
from post-war Germany, and set foot on the land that he would claim
and make home, that day over a mid-century ago.

Dance

Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.

– Rumi –
translated by Coleman Barks in The Essential Rumi, 1995

_______

Sweet synchronicity – no sooner had I written this post when I heard a musical interpretation of these verses. Composer Anna Clyne created an orchestral arrangement featuring the cello, titled DANCE. Listen to the fourth movement, “in your blood,” with cellist Inbal Segev and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

What Traveling Gives Me

Iceland, Perspectives with Panache, 2018

What’s needed are eyes that focus with the soul.
What’s needed are spirits open to everything.
What’s needed are the belief that wonder is the glue of the universe
and the desire to seek more of it.
Be filled with wonder.

–  Richard Wagamese –
Embers, 2016

Andalusian Impressions, Take Five and Final

This is my final collection of vignettes and photos from our time in Andalusia. Over the month, they have become my love letters to Spain, sent out to thank her land and her people for hosting us so beautifully in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic swept over her and the rest of our precious planet.
So much is uncertain, may be impossible, but these love letters hold my heart’s desire to return one day to help restore Spain’s people to their livelihoods. Perhaps they will inspire you, too. Kindest regards…and thank you for reading, liking and sharing.

Sevilla has a place in my heart much like Tuscany’s Florence. Maybe it’s the easy-to-walk accessibility to art and architecture, and abundance of cafes with good food and wine.  Or that, unlike at home, I’m quick to orient and have a keen sense of direction and memory for where I’m going. (His first time in Florence, my husband, lost in google maps, swore I’d had past lives there, given how quick I was to mark the way with street signs, remembered sights and feelings, and paper map my references.) Making this return, with several days to linger, and then a couple more, was a charmed and cherished way rekindle my affection and conclude our time in Andalusia. And given we spent more time here than elsewhere, this collection of vignettes is longer, and interspersed with photos along the way. May you enjoy!

V   Sevilla

coming full circle, we finish where we started, Sevilla
what stayed the same, what changed in that ten-day absence?
what continues to shift in the days remaining?

luxe bus from Malaga, leisurely drive north
white stone walls, white lacy almond trees
grey green globes of olive trees row upon row, up and down hillsides
broken by a village, a road, now a mountain range
contrasted by a cerulean sky, and clouds heavy with sea water from the Costa del Sol

arrived and settled into the perfect Santa Cruz apartment,
thoughtful amenities compensate for the lack of light in this classic courtyard setting
shuttered windows will be a blessing in the frying pan heat of a Sevillian summer

famished, we stop at the local plaza for a platter of the fresh fried catch
cold cerveza, chilled manzanilla – could anything taste better?
then to walk and discover along this residential maze of dusky corridors, we really are only ten minutes away from it all

tourists milling in touristy places
servers tend to the calle lined tables, patrons anxious for their mid-afternoon tapas
Giralda continues to command my attention as she did from the first, shining against that afternoon sky
recalling she was my first photo that first evening that first trip in 2017
predestined next step to make the easy cobbled climb of her interior, thirty-four rounds in the sky
and feel compelled to photograph her again and again, morning, noon and night

the cathedral, Giralda’s raison d’etre, the world’s largest gothic church
rose glass window
first elliptical ceiling
Columbus’ final resting place
all bedecked in gilt and grandeur

 

 

the Alcazar continued to please, though the growing crowds had us make quick haste
grateful for the grace and space, hush and lush of its gardens
my enchantment with Mudejar beauty
that confluence of east meets west design unique to Spain
deepens in appreciation and respect with every sighting
and the local artist’s rendering brings even more to those moments and my regard

and now, those once tight green buds bursting to reveal
waxy white petals and golden centre, scattered like wedding confetti
sweet fragrance of orange fills the air
evokes childhood memories
belies the bitterness of its fruit

Ole! Flamenco!
I dance it at home (or try, how I pine I didn’t start at six, or have another lifetime to learn)
I’ve seen flamenco at home and on this very stage
even with reservations, urged us to walk fast, to be early in line,
to get front row seats in the small casa, as it’s first come first seated


welcome given, performers take the stage, I recognize the “bailaor”, the ”cantaor”
I know it will be a good show, but who was to know how good
never had I seen before such ferocity, such passion,
I feel rise in me, in him, in us – with every “golpe”, every “tacon”
he knows, we know – Ole! Duende!
Ole! Ole! because there aren’t words to acknowledge what we witness
if I’d had a long stem rose, I’d have tossed it on the stage

 

caught up in this sunny Sunday Sevilla Marathon, plans to visit Plaza de Espana now dashed
as 14,000 runners pace themselves to qualify for the 2020 Olympics
(this, before the global coronavirus threatens to quash Tokyo’s summer games)
African men and women break records for the win and places, in mere minutes over two hours

detoured, we walk along the river, same one we meandered along in Cordoba
past bullring, and cafes
a chance turn and we see a sign: La Vermutera de Sevilla
my kind of place for my kind of drink
served over ice with a slice of orange and a green olive
a closet sized bar
walls lined with bottles of Spanish vermut (vermouth) never seen at home
platters of home-made tapas elegantly displayed
local DJ spinning vinyl this Sunday, another serendipitous stroke of luck
lovely young couple with a 16 month daughter – realizing their dream

 

restless, anxious, dream-filled sleep, always the same the night before I travel
tomorrow the early morn departure, to be soon enough homeward bound
and too, will I remember the way to the hammam today?
wondering, down which alley did my intrepid travel nature go without  me?
it’s OK to be afraid, I’m OK, I found my way, I remembered, I arrived

 

so the universe has given us the gift of 36 more hours
Sevilla, not yet ready to bid us “adios”, what does she have in store?
Mercury in Retrograde an astrological blessing, and fog as thick as gazpacho (hey, it’s Spain)
45 minutes later new tickets, new hotel reservations in here and in Madrid
and hey, look, is this a business class upgrade? Madrid to Amsterdam? Amsterdam home?

 

Ash Wednesday in Triana, this old gypsy town across the river revers the holy ritual
red velvet draped balconies and wafting incense signal this Catholic church is open for ceremony
I step past the heavy curtained doorway
into this darkened, silent, hallowed space
to mark the beginning of Lent
dozens of six foot tapers burn, baskets full of purple alstroemeria,
the setting for the life sized Mary holding the crown of thorns,
for Christ bearing his cross, and ours
I sit and watch as one by one, each steps forward, bows, kisses His hand
I sit and hold the sacred space for their prayers and mine
acutely knowing how the distance from home had coalesced
into the timelessness of faith that knows no borders

 

the pup tied to the grilled gate, its water bowl filled, its soft bed on the sidewalk
still it cries for its person, wagging its tail
is it you? me? us?
missing our Annie dog suddenly pierces my moments before freshly pierced heart

 

coming full circle, that final lunch of fresh fried fish, and longed for salad
your cold cervezas and my three chilled manzanillas give us a glow
we’re easy targets for earnest, busking troubadours with Spanish guitars
African women selling bracelets, men selling sunglasses
those still warm, soft and crispy, Portuguese tarts from the wee bakery by our hotel
a sweet farewell to Sevilla
a portent of our next shared adventure

Andalusian Impressions, Take Four

Still with me?  We’re just about at the end. Here, and one final, easy, sunny, slow finale in Sevilla before heading back to snowy winter at home.

Malaga. Why Malaga?  Last spring I followed a friend – a very seasoned solo traveler – as she made her way through Andalucia. She was taking three weeks, had the first two booked and posted how she might spend the third. I suggested visiting Finca Buen Vino (our first stop) and she took it from there. She spent a few days in Malaga, visited the “de rigeur” Picasso Museum, and did some other meanderings and musings. I was intrigued, found a great Air BnB (my first overseas booking and IT WAS TERRIFIC! just like the pictures and a perfect location) and took it from there.

From Granada arrived by bus. By taxi found our apartment. And then set off.  Here are glimpses into those two days. Wished it had been two more as it’s a city I loved, with its  more local, less “tourista” vibe. I day-dreamed out loud coming back to that sun-filled apartment, using it as a base to explore the Costa del Sol, the sherry town of Jerez, Cadiz, and Ronda. Hmmmmm, maybe some day…..

IV  Malaga

trade high speed train for bus, ease our way south through mountains and groves
at a pace more in rhythm with our being – from 350 km now to 80 at the most
takes more time but it’s siesta for our souls and soles

 

cabbie confers with his mates, the route to our first Air bnb
finds the street, but the number disappears
“una momento” as I scurry across before the next wave of taxis, cars and motorcycles
seeing three anonymous doorbells, I ring numero dos – una, dos, tres
seeing the woman through the open office door, peek in and ask for her help

“si, si” she is to meet us, has keys and text confirmation
cabbie gathers bags with relief
a most generous tip for his kindness, staying with and not stranding us

climb three narrow twisting stories of blinding yellow stairs
the better to see in the dark, perhaps
thinking mimosa blossoms in the dark forest hillside,
Monica murmurs apologies – “the way it is in a two hundred year old building”
door opens, shutters open, sun streams in, I see exactly the photo that captivated me on the website
“si, si, si” it’s three for three my sleeping selections so far

even better, the location was not exaggerated
within minutes we find our way to galleries, cafes, mercado and museum
this entire trip different as I make time for art
permanent collections depict a curated intention, temporary thrill with exception
late tapas lunch, a contemporary take on an old form
it, too, thrills

 

Picasso.
his birth and childhood only here and then into the bigger world
following intuition, drive and art that inspired, of forms he would create
working in mediums beyond canvas and paper – ceramic, wood, metal
each in response to a curiosity that knew no, would not be, bound

his palette fierce with audacity, courage, bravado
Duende.
his deep and utter, ruthless truth

 

from coffee and torte to sea and port
a walk along the palmed promenade brisk with sea breeze
no beach bathers here, that’s further down and later in the season
though tourists disembarked from cruise ships, baring legs, shoulders, and sockless
have me dressed in down shivering

 

last day shines sunny and blue
a final walkabout reveals artisanal creations and collaborations in ceramic and steel
the most beautiful and innovative work I’ve seen so far
glorious to behold, and that will have to do
as travelling light with little space for extras is intentional in all ways

 

 

 

Andalusian Impressions, Take Three

So much has changed in our precious world since we departed for and returned home from Spain. During our travels, we saw very little evidence of the impact of COVID-19 in the airports of Amsterdam, Sevilla and Madrid. During our last days abroad, we began to read of cases in Italy, though none had been yet reported in Spain. But now, home eighteen days,  much has changed. Spain follows Italy in its exponential growth of confirmed cases; in its closure, cancellation and lock-down containment strategies. Here in Canada, we wait, close and cancel, practice self isolation, prepare for what we don’t really know.
Thankfully, my husband and I have been well, limiting our social engagements, and will continue to do so, more strictly, during these next weeks. And as most everything has been cancelled, I’ll spend my time preparing my taxes, cooking good food, walking with Annie.
I’ll stay connected with family and friends via email, text and phone.
I’ll create spaces – as are many others –  for kindness and solace, in my home, writing, blog, social media platforms, in my heart and mind.
I’ll listen deeply to self and others, and “make something beautiful,” which, after all, are one in the same.

_________

After walking that beauty and magnificence of Sevilla’s Alcazar in 2017, I knew I’d appreciate seeing its more famous cousin, the Al Hambra in Granada. So when we decided to focus our time in Spain to Andalusia, Granada was right up there on the list of “must sees.”

Donning my former travel consultant’s hat (one I really like wearing!), I booked a cozy little hotel in the Albayzin neighbourhood, purported to be right below and across the river and down below that hillside, iconic palatial fortress. Sure enough, that’s exactly where it was. Not a fifty steps from the foot bridge and steep path up the hill, we timed it to ensure we’d arrive on time for our morning tour the next day. Fifteen minutes, door to door, with some panting to accompany the gurgling creek and small waterfalls by the paved path. (The next morning, chagrined as a fellow, a bit younger than me, and obviously fitter, ran up the path for his morning workout!)

One of those serendipitous travel hits, we were across the street from the walkway and plaza bordering the Rio Darro, where on the third Sunday of the month, the “I Love Granada” gathering of local artisans convened in booths to showcase their creations. A  street festival feeling as friends and families met, patrons filled the outdoor tapas patios, and the sun shone warmly on us all.

Below, my collection of vignettes from our two days in Granada.

III   Granada

patchwork quilts of orange and olive groves
for as far as the eye can see
travelling by train allows this kind of noticing and taking in

glimpses of snow-capped mountains
the Sierra Nevadas soar ten thousand feet into an azure sky
ice glistening glacier mirage like in the distance

 

Al Hambra, another andalusian paradox
my raison d’etre – here in Granada
the mix of cultures,
conquest, construct, create homage to
Allah – God
Sultan – King
Sultana – Queen
love letters in bas relief

gardens and groves
water flows through trough and fountain
purple iris, pink magnolia, one lone yellow rose
rainbow ranunculus foretell of lushness and colour to come

cyprus keep stately silent vigil over a past sultana’s secrets
oleander arches shade soon with innocent poisonous blooms

 

despite the sun, I feel the cold in the shade of these ancient walls
built so solidly along the hillside above so many centuries ago
but walking along the Rio Darro,
amidst that monthly Sunday gathering of local artisans
bubbles glisten as we revel in the warm exception of an early spring

 

red pomegranate stiff skin broken open
red wet seeds spill out staining the paper doily
homage to the virgin statue standing in the dim church alcove
a prayer for what? for whom?
holding and hiding whose cherished secret?

pomegranate, the city’s namesake and symbol
an artist’s rendering pressed into my journal
a small silver orb with red crystal seeds now hangs above my heart

 

red lacquered nails text “I love you” in Spanish, or so I imagine,
watching her stand outside the bus, bid adios and
blow one last farewell kiss to her lover
as I give one to mine