Peer pressure in the waves

Part 1. Mara alone

When the mind says go and the body says go

You run through the sand till you reach the shore

And once your toes touch the water

Your will comes to a halt.

Too cold, too cold.

You’ll get used to it, surely.

Too cold, too cold, retreat!

Oh come on, in such heat?

Fresh cool water, the treat.

Too cold, too cold.

So you walk back to your towel and soak up the sun.

They’d call you a wet blanket if they could, but you’re not even that, you’re a dry scaredy cat. you’re no fun.

Part 2. Mara and peer pressure

When the mind says go and the body says go

and the group you are in is running merrily as one

You’re in shorts and a top, not even stripped to your bathing suit which clings to you, prepared.

And you run with them, pulled by their strings and contagious joy

“It’s part of the training” your mind tells you.

Your body obeys.

Toes touch water. Brain thinks Fuck, it’s still too cold.

Body keeps going till you’ve flung yourself in

Lungs protest,

Breaths get louder,

Brain keeps thinking Fuck, it’s too cold.

But you’ve made it.

Your first swim this year!

All you ever had to do was have 20 people around you.

***And perhaps it was no pressure, you’re right,

It’s more the delight of being part of a bigger something

Where your contact with slightly colder water than you’d have prefered

is validated by all and smiled upon.

 

*Thanks to Urban Gorillas and their free trial beach workout!

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It’s never too late or too summer to write about a November escape to Malaga

This gallery contains 18 photos.

I think there’s a lot of pressure to write about things just after you’ve experienced them…or damn it, even while you are there. Don’t look around! write, post, share, make people think you’ve got an amazing life instead. You all … Continue reading

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Nano poems and unrelated photos 1

She found a feather, put in it her head.

She forgot the feather, took it to bed.

Why did she even wonder about the crushed wing?

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The Collserola Park: Barcelona’s secret garden

The first time I took a trip to the Collserola park was when I had very little to do one Sunday and a friend (thanks, Viv!) recommended it to me. She said it was a huge natural park very close to the city and I didn’t really understand why I had never heard of it before. Sure enough, I have only lived here for almost a year now, but I never once heard other people mention it. They spoke of Montserrat, the beach, Girona, but nothing of this bit of peace situated so close.

  • How do you get there?

Get to Plaça Catalunya and take either the S1 (towards Terrassa) or the S2 line (towards Sabadell) from there (yep, it’s the ferrocarrils ). Both of these lines go to one of the entrances to the park. It’s called Baixador de Vallvidrera.

For lovely park, get off at this stop!

For visiting the lovely park, get off at this stop!

And it takes less than 30 minutes from Plaça Catalunya!

Do you know the hill which has Tibidabo on top? Or the gigantic radio and TV transmitter (also called the Torre de Collserola) ? Well, imagine the hill as a wall which divides Barcelona and the park, because as you get on the other side of Tibidabo and the tower, that is where the 8000 hectares of this natural park are hidden.

I have only been there twice. The first time was this spring and I went there on a Sunday. Not knowing where to go and what to see, I took the first path I saw and it led me to the information centre.

The Vil*la Joana/ Verdaguer Museum

The Vil*la Joana/ Verdaguer Museum

It also took me to the Verdaguer museum. The name might sound familiar to you if you often take the metro in BCN, because it is one of the names of a stop on the yellow/blue line. It is also the name of a much loved Catalan poet, Jacint Verdaguer, refered to as the “Prince of Catalan poets”.

The Verdaguer museum is located in a beautiful old house also known as Vil·la Joana and it is here that the poet lived his last years. Even if you don’t understand much Catalan, the walk through the museum is worth it, because it has all the rooms intact and, need I say this? pretty sepia pictures from the olden days:D Oh, and it’s free!

On the 10th of June, 1902, the *immortal* poet Verdaguer died in this house.

Guided tour led by some volunteers.

On my first trip to the park I was lucky enough to get there on time for a guided tour with some of the park’s volunteers. There is one for sure every Sunday at 11:00 and these lovely Catalan/Spanish speaking people walk with you and talk to/at you (if you wish) and show you around one of the park trails. I went with them to the pantà de Vallvidrera, which is a lovely dam at the end of a 2 kilometer hike (just a stroll, really).

Panta de Vallvidrera

dam nice reflection!  _MG_0755

Someone's getting ready to throw pebbles in the water

Someone’s getting ready to throw pebbles in the water

The second time I went there was this Sunday and I just went inside the information center, asked for directions to the start of one of the trails (Font de la Budellera) and the nice spectacled man at the counter explained how to get there.

The walk took only 2 hours and it was mostly in the shade, and as you get towards the end of it you see the Torre de Collserola and the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, framed by trees and greenery. Very close to the end there is a path that might lead to Tibidabo.

Looking for shade

Looking for shade

finding shade

finding shade

The Sagrat Cor, so close!

The Sagrat Cor, so close!

From above, a view of the park and the hills far far away

From above, a view of the park and the hills far far away

And despite the fact that it is nearly impossible to select which flower photos to post and which to leave behind, I will try to leave you with a *cough* enormous amount of nature pics, the first from my spring visit, the second from my June visit.

Enjoy!

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Enter June:

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The story of how I gave a chocolate bar to that girl on the subway

So it was a Saturday and I was doing my shopping alone. It all took place in Barcelona, where people are supposedly always happy and touched by a spell which makes them radiate warmth. I, being the special, out-of-the-ordinary girl I am, was not feeling that happy on that particular Saturday. You might wonder why (even though it is most probable that you don’t give a shit) and the thing is I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried. I just get a bit anti-social at times and feel torn between surrounding myself with people and hiding from them, which you have to admit is quite a struggle to have and quite a tear to suffer.

But let us get to the story at hand (which, mind you, is the first I’ve written in ages and is a tribute to a writer I have never read but found out had died several years back after commiting suicide. He’s David Foster Wallace and I intend to read him. There was a lovely animation done online with an interview of him and his conviction that striving for perfection always hinders creativity. That’s why this imperfect story is perfect for his tribute).

I had gone shopping in a new location, perhaps because it was the only activity I could think of, in my anti-social yet longing for excitement state, which could spice things up a notch, or a quarter of a notch. This new location was close to the metro stop Girona, on the yellow line. If that means nothing to you, it’s because you’ve obviously never lived in Barcelona and do not know about the ghost-like stop called Girona, where almost nobody gets off. Except for me and some other weirdos on that Saturday afternoon.

Carrying a 3 kilogram bag of oranges (it was very well priced, mind you, and well worth breaking my back) I was delighted to see that I had a seat on the metro and took it gratefully, oranges nestled in their net between my legs. And I looked around me, as I often do when on a metro, believing myself invisible and stealing glances at the people nearby. Barcelona is lovely for that indeed, for there are hundreds of faces of every colour and emotion, every height and tongue and so the chances of eavesdropping on something thought-provoking are infinite.

Sitting opposite me, with her head wresting on her tightly clenched fist, was a young girl of not more than 24. Now most of the young girls I see are younger than me, which often makes me the opposite of happy, despite my knowing how ridiculous it is to worry about age when you’re merely 25 (and more than a half, which basically means you’re 26 which in turn means you’re closer to 30 than you are to 20 which makes you panic). Anyway.

Her trousers were decorated with little silver shapes and her other arm was holding a very colourful bag with cartoons on it. You could see the original shape of her eyebrows because she was dark-haired and the skin could not hide the small hairs that were waiting to reappear. There was a heavy-set guy next to her, twice her size both vertically and horizontally, and I wondered if they were together, since one of his knees was really close to her and such proximity is avoided on metros between strangers. If they were together, they were definitely not having a good day, because she was facing away from him, her mouth tense, the corners curled downwards, in an *I’m just about to cry but I am controlling it because I can’t be seen like this* pout. Her eyebrows now looked even worse than before, because they too were tense, half frown half plea, as if she was having an internal dialogue which you must admit we all have at some point and then realize our face is moving to the words we are going through silently.

I thought about what was going on with her and decided to do something uncharacteristic of me: approach a total stranger. Three more stops till I got off and I had a plan already figured out. You see, I had a secret weapon which could make any normal human being happy when they were sad: chocolate! And I was willing to share (might have been cause I had already eaten the rest of that chocolate before leaving just one individually wrapped yoghurt-strawberry bar, like the ones Kinder makes, only this one was a cheaper kind, sold by the Schlecker stores.) I took it out of my backpack and held it in my hand, looking at her, trying to figure ou if this was worth the awkwardness I felt was to come. What if she refused my offer? What if she thought I was crazy and the chocolate bar was poisoned? Who takes candy/chocolate bars from strangers nowadays? And just as I was about to get off at my stop I decided that no negative outcome could be that bad and nothing could compare to the chance that she might be so perplexed by this tiny offer of support and consequently step out of her tight circle of pain and self-absorbed anger.

And she was indeed perplexed. I had little time to finalize the transaction, so I had to show her what I wanted. “Smile”, I said, making a move with my index finger and my thumb as if to magically move the corners of my mouth into a smile. And then, thinking she might have been Spanish, I added “Te he visto triste”, which hopefully is the correct translation of “I saw you (were) sad.” She took my offering and I got off the metro, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the guy next to her looking after me, a huge smile on his face.

And I knew that my day had been worth it, because even if I personally had found no reason to smile for myself, I had managed to make someone else a little less miserable, and that, in its turn, made me smile. Because when you can’t find something to take from a world so wonderful, and you know it’s just a passing mood, you can at least give, and have someone take it from you.

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Spring in January

When the sun shines over the city, covering the neighborhoods in stripes of light, you forget the month. It’s not January. It can’t be January.

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You need to get from point A to point B, but the direct way is through the streets shaded by buildings blocking the sun, so you start ambling down the sunny line, chasing the light, barely seeing where you’re going. You’re squinting with your face upwards, smiling a dumb, childish smile. Just because it’s warm. And it’s a basic need you’re following, no reasoning behind your chosen path.

It takes you an hour to get home, instead of just 20 minutes, but you feel victorious, because you’ve tricked the shade. I barely walked through you, you say to it.

***

In Park Guell, an early Saturday morning. You’re taking your dear friend who’s come to Barcelona to show her the meandering paths and lack of straight lines that Gaudi planted in his vision of the Park, mosaic bits and pieces, palm-tree shaped columns, gingerbread-like houses.

palmtrees

There’s a thin layer of water just evaporating from the ground so you figure it has just rained. The cacti and the flowers that cover the entire park area are sprinkled with drops of rain, dew everywhere, and the air is fresh. The park, usually packed even in the morning, seems to be empty.

Up, up, to the three crosses, one of the highest points in the park,

crosses and tourists

so you can snap a touristy photo of the entire city below, with its skyline in view: the gherkin shaped building (almost a twin of the one in London, possibly the creation of some phallic-symbol-obsessed architects), the Sagrada Familia, with the cranes towering above it, the sea, a tranquil blue-green, reflecting the morning sun.

skyline

view from the three crosses 1

 

It’s perhaps one of the dozens of similar photos you’ve taken from the exact same spot, but there seems to be no limit to how different the same view appears to your eye, and the camera is thirsty.

“We’re probably looking at the park more through our lens than without it!” she says.

“I guess this means we’re going to get back, look at the photos and wonder about the beauty we could have seen directly!” I answer, aware of the trap we always fall into when eager to capture more with a machine then with our direct perception.

*A bird taking a bath in a puddle.*

*A couple of camera-shy birds that fly away as soon as you take of the lens cap.*

A cat. The cat! happy deidree 4This is our third encounter and she’s still the same predictable feline. She meows like no other and when you call her, she quickly leaves her watch-post and awaits affection. Once you stop petting her grey and white fur, she starts meowing again, as if saying “What do you think you’re doing You can’t just call me to you and only pet me for such a small amount of time!”.

deidree longing happy deidree2 ridiculous deidree2

She almost jumps on Samantha’s coat, pushing her face into the palm of Sam’s hand, and the photo-shoot takes a good couple of minutes.

Samantha names the cat Deidree. It must be one of the many names given to her by whoever passed by. Oddly enough, I realize just now that we didn’t really investigate its gender.

We find the most beautiful view in the entire park: a tree in blossom.blossoms

White flowers, rain drops still on them, no leaves on the branches, just petals. You don’t know whether to feel bad for the tree that fell for it and decided it was already spring, or to admire its boldness and response to what it perceived. No over-analyzing…just blossom.

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So we dance our photo snapping dance around the tree, from all angles , nature-paparazzi in action.

And the day unfolds gently, with warmth and conversations left pending two years ago.

Nothing is better than spring in January. Perhaps only a spring-like day in January with Samantha visiting.

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She stormed out

*last edited on August 28, 2011. In the eye of the storm.*

I walked up the hill this morning. 6:50 am. We knew Irene was coming, it was all a matter of time.

An eerie silence as I trudged up the hill, rain beating down rhythmically.

Icy brook, flume, bridges out.

From inside the country club it looked like rain, just rain. So I wondered to myself: Is this the hurricane? It doesn’t seem that dramatic. No big difference, really… except:

  • the phones at the front desk kept ringing:

can we drive up to the club? are the roads intact? do you still have electricity? did my niece arrive already?

does the club have a back-up generator? we heard that the bridge at the swimming area was swept away already

  • the news online was showing images of cities already flooded, roads engulfed by the water.
  • and the rain would NOT stop.

That night, sleeping inside the employee houses, I felt holed in with my friend Roxana, like  sleeping off a bad dream, a cold, a fever. Just sleep and maybe it’ll be gone when you wake up. Or, a tiny voice inside said, maybe it’ll all be gone, the mountains, the trees, the house, the voice inside your head as well.

If you had looked outside, through the tiny window, trying to get your eyes accustomed to the dark, they would have eventually cut through the thick curtain of rain and you would have seen the trees in a kind of ecstatic dance, branches swinging wildly.

And the weirdest questions would have appeared in your mind, like:

How much more water can the earth below the house take until we start to sink?

Where are all the deer that I have seen this summer? Where do they go during the storm?

What do the mountain peaks look like now, when there’s no human eye to behold them?

***
More than a year later I cannot remember how long the storm lasted and how many days it rained.

What I do remember is that the country club was isolated because of the roads that were swallowed by the water. I remember the tiny shop in Keene Valley that was flooded and was in danger of running out of business, but the neighbors all helped clean it up and put it back on its feet.

I remember the road, eaten up by the *once tiny* Ausable River which had turned brown with the rain and mud that had flooded it.

And the day after:

 

I remember the pig roast that the people in Keene Valley organized to raise funds for the local businesses that had been affected by the hurricane.

The lovely smiles,

the feeling of community,

the good food

and the hope.

Yes, all that mushiness.

And I remember my mountains (our mountains), one month later, when they were finally open for hiking once again. Bathed in light, from the peak of Algonquin, the valleys and hills looked like nothing had ever happened.

And the sky looked innocent.

She stormed in and then stormed out again, leaving memories and scars in the constantly self-repairing world.

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