Walking in Mind

A Trail of Thoughts


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Fennel

By late spring the fennel has bolted all along the trail that winds its way through the vineyards. Walk there towards evening and you will see, clinging to the long stems, countless little snails. I have a mind to gather a hundred or more of these caragolines and take them home as a gift for P. She would cook them the simple way, the way they do in Lleida, the way her mother taught her. She would bring them to the boil in fresh water, adding only a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, some salt and pepper. In ten minutes they would be ready. There is nothing, she says, as sweet as a caragolina that has gorged itself on fennel.

But P. is far away right now, so instead I will send her this photograph.

It will be the last thing I do today as I lie on our bed, ready to sleep. In the morning, over breakfast, she will open her iPad and there it will be. A reminder that I miss her and that I am holding on to the little things she brings to life, clinging to them like a caragolina.

A photograph as kiss, leaving on her lips the taste of fennel.


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Seeing, Feeling, Telling

1. In Catalan

Entre marges i vinyes

hi ha un camí

que em porta

a la gratitud de viure.

 

2. Landschap

 

3. En anglès

A spring afternoon,

between stone wall and vines,

I stumble across

the gratitude

for what is,

for a place

becoming home.

 

4. What do you see, what do you feel, in the language(s) you inhabit?

 

5. The invitation of the poet, Neruda:

que no nos llenemos la boca […] con tanto tuyo y tanto mío

…let us not fill our mouths […] with so much of yours and mine

 

6. Rebel against hate, rebel against indifference, rebel against those who would divide us.


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All The Things You Give

It is All Souls’ Day. This is what I am thinking, although I say nothing. After work I go with P. to the hospital, where we find her father already asleep, or so it seems. He is still dressed, but covered with a blanket and facing the wall. The television is on, an early-evening action film, but he is oblivious. I lean over, kiss him on the cheek and rest my hand on his shoulder. He begins to stir, so I speak my name. Kiss, hand, name. He shifts a little, squints, and closes his eyes once more. Then, to my surprise, he turns open-eyed towards me and says something that I take, at first, to be delirium.

‘I’ve left you some fruit on the…’

He pauses, the sentence hangs in the air, the word not found. Lost in the twilight brain.

‘The bedside table, on the bedside table. Some fruit.’

The words come. I look to my right and see a mobile phone, a box of tissues and a glass of water. No fruit. But then I find them, tucked beneath an open tissue. Two ripe berries from a strawberry tree. I realize then what he has done.

A few days ago I had taken him out in his wheelchair, half an hour together in the hospital gardens. It was a sunny morning and I lingered, trusting that he wouldn’t catch cold. Along a path I had never before explored, we discovered, the two of us, a small grove of lemon trees, separated from the garden by a mesh fence, its diamond holes just too small to pass a hand through. And then, at the end of the path, another tree.

‘Miri, un arboç,’ I said. Look, a strawberry tree.

I reached up and picked one of the berries, knowing from its colour and feel that it was not yet ripe. I placed it in his hand and waited. With his right index finger, he rolled it back and forth across his left palm.

‘No te lo comas.’ Don’t eat it. ‘It’ll be sharp.’

He let the berry fall to the ground, and I wheeled him back to his room.

So, he had remembered all this today. A daughter this morning had taken him for a walk along the same path and they had picked a few berries from the tree. Ripe enough to eat. He must have held two of them in his hand, trusting that later I would visit. They were there waiting for me. The sweetest berries I’ve ever tasted. As sweet as a father’s love.

 

Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), and ripe berries


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A Loss Foretold

No words here these days and weeks. It has been a time of listening, of uncertainty, and sometimes it is best to remain silent. Keats spoke of negative capability, and psychoanalysis has made a virtue of being able to hold one’s words in the face of not knowing. But a time comes when something has to be said. To be offered. Doubts prevail, but as one of my Catalan psychoanalytic tutors used to say: “S’ha de dir.” You must say it.

***

For Maria

Two hands, 85 and 88.

First entwined in ’55,

they’re at it still,

holding on

and holding out

against an imminent farewell.

 

Not long now,

she knows,

unknows,

until her hand will close

around his absence,

seeking still

that wordless love

to see her through the days.

 

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Salut

Tomorrow (29 June) is the Feast of Saint Peter, so here in my Catalan hometown of Sant Pere de Ribes it’s time for our annual festival. The sun is shining and the atmosphere on the streets is a lesson in conviviality.

The festivities were formally inaugurated a couple of hours ago in the town square. Each year is the same. At 1 p.m. the toll of the church bells is followed by the explosive sound of a series of mortars. Boom, boom, boom. And then the fun really starts. Here’s a photo of the town square just before it all kicked off:

 

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Strung between lamp-posts and trees, tens upon tens of fireworks, small sticks of dynamite linked in one long fuse.

You have to give the Catalans their due. They don’t let health and safety get in the way of a good street party. Well, OK, they did put up a flimsy plastic tape to keep the public out of the arena!

Anyway, the video below should give you a taster of what happened next.

For now, and in the spirit of these festivities, I raise my glass to you all, and wish you Salut – especially if your name so happens to be Peter or Pere or Pierre.

 

 

 

 


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His bones are elsewhere

For those of you who don’t follow my ramblings on Twitter, I’m posting a link here to a piece I’ve written and which has been selected by C.C. O’Hanlon for publication on the website of Burning House Press. I recommend a leisurely browse around their site, where you’ll find a rich array of words and images that will lead you off, both geographically and emotionally, into other worlds.

My piece is entitled This is not a memorial, and other stories of remembrance, and you can read it here.

 

Portbou

 


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A Separation

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That late winter day, do you remember it still? The rain had passed, the sun was out and off we went, skipping work like a couple of truant teenagers, five or six miles up through the woods and back home along the vineyard trails.

We hardly said a word that afternoon, but later, when making some tea, you told me you’d kept your head high, your gaze wide. You talked to me about the sky that looked as if it had been painted by a young Yves Klein, about the little birds flitting in and out of the still dormant vines, about the light on the far-off sea. Only once, you said, did you kneel to ground, there where the white rocket flowers had colonized the field.

You were disappointed that I’d noticed none of these things, but courteous enough to listen when I compared the hole in the neighbour’s wall to the stoma in my belly — the Bocca della Verità, you said, shit will out. You carried on listening when I talked about how beautiful I found the still damp wood of the telegraph pole, the archipelago of algae on the rainwater puddle, the yolky lichen on the fallen mastic branch. Why didn’t you call me over? That was what you asked when I told you about the bitter almond flowers and the pawprint in the newly resurfaced track.

Not long after we went our separate ways. Your question haunts me still.

 

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