After the encounter with the wind we returned to puttering – the wind assisted frontal lobotomy still in place. In a few days we’d be back on the road to Belgium. The weather continued to improve and we took advantage of the unclouded sky and warm Spanish sun to follow two of our most favourite pastimes – staring vacantly out to sea and rock pooling. Wednesday morning, still in a dreamlike state, we wandered along the coastal path, high above the waterline, meandering around carpets of wild flowers, succulents and cactuses.
As we approached a point on the coast the scene changed. The flowers and plants petered out as the scratchy gravel under our feet gave way to rock. It felt like we’d entered another world. The rocks,
all pockmarked and twisted, conveyed a story at which we could only guess. The scene brought to mind my geology professor from university days. He was, without doubt, one of the best teachers I’d ever been lucky enough to meet. His enthusiasm for his subject was infectious. Our classroom, as often as not, was outdoors and we’d walk along a forest path until we came across a cutting exposing the rock. He new the area intimately and could point to every line of the sedimentary rock and explain how each was built up, how it was compressed, folded and twisted before being thrust once again to the surface. If you closed your eyes you could see the earth’s past come alive as the layers of life and erosion spread across the surface to sink, be crushed together, furrowed and curled before being hoisted to the surface by the mighty engine bubbling beneath the earth’s crust. His influence made it possible to see each rock as an encapsulation of the patience and persistence of nature’s force as it created art.
That evening after a quiet dinner I sat on the settee noodling vacantly on the guitar letting my fingers slide or stop wherever they wished. Slowly something recognisable floated to the surface. It was a tune that I’d wanted to learn ever since I could remember but that had always eluded me. With my eyes shut I kept playing not looking at where my fingers should go or which string was the right one to pluck but feeling the vibrations of the instrument and moving towards those that felt good and from there feeling where the next sound should come from. With patience and persistence the song revealed itself.
The next day, our last full day in Spain, we took a picnic and, not being able to find a better location, settled at our pitch from the previous day to once again stare vacantly at the sea, nibble a sandwich and snooze. As the afternoon drew on we got restless and got up to return but instead of following the coastal path we clattered down to the water’s edge and spent the afternoon rock pooling. We clambered about shouting out each new discovery, stepped delicately towards the water’s edge to peer into the clear water of the Mediterranean, and, the flush of youth having left our legs years ago, eventually crawled wearily back to the coastal path to return.
That evening, our last, we chose our favourite seat in our favourite restaurant facing back over the bay towards town. We chatted slowly over tapas – remembering the good points and thinking about where we were going from here. We talked about reviving our artistic pursuits which had lagged dreadfully over the last several months and revived plans for an extended tour of Scotland, 3 months in Devon, 6 months here and maybe a year there and what we needed to carry and what we needed to hire as a vehicle and what we needed to organise for accommodation and what we needed to do to make the house secure in our absence and what we needed to keep the noisy water heater quiet and what we needed to keep the garden tended and what we……. KERPLUNK!!
It fell into and fit perfectly in the space in my mind that had been created by the wind. We didn’t need anything. We’d built and stocked our home with everything we required – we’d spent two years planning, preparing, building and here we were making plans to run away from it. We didn’t have to go anywhere. We didn’t need to acquire anything. We only needed to bring the purified thoughts deep within ourselves, like nature brought the rocks, to the surface. Artists we’d read counselled that art does not require genius. It does require hard work, attention to detail, patience, objectivity and persistence… and something else – some – thing – else – and in that moment from another dimension a gruff old voice barked “What are you doing here?” That was the question. I took a sip of wine and muttered ‘Bloody good question.’
That night as I slept the whirling house from the Wizard of Oz reoccupied my dreams. It melted into the crystal ball at the witches castle where the Lion came into focus – (“What have they got that I haven’t got?” “Courage!!”). The crystal ball morphed into the ruby slippers. Tap tap tap – It’s very simple – tap tap tap. Perspective, that was the something else. Far too often, for me anyway, it is the first thing that is lost in the hurly-burly of life but now it had returned.
Throughout the journey home the next day the ruby slippers hovered just above the eye line. Tap tap tap – confidence – courage – patience. Tap tap tap – persistence – perspective – detail. Over and over and over. The journey home became a meditation.
We got home in good time, discharged the car, returned it to the garage and wandered off to the grocery store to replenish the kitchen stocks. As we walked back along our normal route I looked up and noticed a flowering cherry.
“Welcome back.” it said, “Are you ready to get started?”. I nodded my head in ascent and continued towards home. As I carried on it occurred to me that I’d never noticed a flowering cherry at that junction ever before. I looked back to double check but it was out of sight. I’d turned a corner.