Arànsa, a hamlet high in the Catalan Pyrenees. On the covered wooden terrace of the hostel an old man sits staring out onto the little village square, his two hands, right over left, pressing down on the stubby head of a walking cane held straight between his knees. I step past him onto the street and there, in contemplation of the mountains, hear a voice speak to me from behind.
At the edge of the village, look for a wooden sign nailed to a tree with roots for branches.
Dare to follow the empty road
into the monochrome Zone
and you will find signs of life
sheltering among the stones,
flowing free towards the valley floor.
Press on, and through a crown of thorns
you will see streaks of blue
begin to lift the pallor from the sky.
Back at the hostel, the old man is nowhere to be seen, and my description of him draws no recognition from any of the locals.