I’m missing the mountains. Which means it will be that much more wonderful when I get to walk in them again. Meanwhile, patience! Draw them. Close my eyes at night and walk down paths like this in my mind.
We spend our summers out of Madrid, up in these great Pyrenean mountains and my wife and I notice within about a week how much of their calm and solidity they lend us. And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, how they teach me not to worry about difficult current events. They’ve seen a thousand centuries of human troubles come and go – wars, famines, power-shifts, pandemics – they understand better than anyone that everything passes sooner or later. A year or two for us is like a second for them. So they smile quietly and seem to whisper, ‘patience, patience…’
Well, while we wait to get up to the Pyrenees again I’m reading Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, an absolute delight of a book. I’d forgotten how much I like reading a beautifully written travel book. I’d forgotten how much I like tales of the road. He took 3 months off to drive 10,000 miles around America aged around 58. He thought he’d lost touch with his country and wanted to get a feel for it again. Sounds like a very good idea to me.
I feel an urge to reconnect with the rawness of Spain that captivated me the moment I drove into this great country for the first time in 1997:
“…ferry tickets led my friend Tom and I on a long drive to Spain, crossing the border from Andorra, high in the Pyrenees, on 31st of December, 1997. Nothing much at first. Just cloud cover, thick fog and isolated villages whose defining feature was rain. Then we picked out a tiny road on the map, the C1311, that would lead us in the right direction. Immediately the monotonous Pyrenean gloom cleared to reveal a precarious road perched on the edge of an infinite vista of arid, broken foothills that stretched scraggily into the distance – it looked like an image of the American Badlands. We passed a flock of thin, floppy-eared sheep, then spotted our first Spaniard, a shepherd, an ancient man squatting by the side of the road who raised an arm and smiled. I was smiling too, caught in the clutches of a fairy-tale landscape, entranced.
We drove all day, down from the mountains, over endless empty plains, past contours and colours I had never seen before, chiselled gorges shifting to endless horizons, fields of swirling purple and red earth – so un-Northern European, what happened when you crossed the Pyrenees? – and finally, in darkness, we arrived in San Sebastian.” (Excerpt from my book Errant in Iberia)
I owe a lot to the Pyrenees. That day, long ago, was like driving through a magic portal down into a completely different world that’s plotted my life out for me ever since.