Walking in Mind

A Trail of Thoughts


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After The Storm

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.


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242

Her neck is scraggy,

and she needs help standing,

but how majestic she looks

with that fine head of broccoli hair.

A mother of pines,

wearing her age so well.

 

 

[The Pi d’en Xandri is a stone pine (Pinus pinea) that stands near the head of a path leading from Sant Cugat (Catalonia) into the hills of the Parc de Collserola, on the other side of which lies the city of Barcelona. Dendrological analysis suggests that the tree germinated in 1774.]


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Wishing Wall

As a piece of graffiti it lacks artistry. The letters are prototypical, like those which children produce before their fine motor skills become a match for their imagination. Yet we are drawn in all the same, hooked by what is missing, by the lack at the heart of the message.

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BEFORE I DIE I WANT THE

Was the author disturbed before the wish could be fully uttered? Did he – something about those letters tells me it was a he – flee of his own accord, racked by indecision in the face of life’s possibilities? Or is there, perhaps, a rogue Lacanian roaming the streets, having the last laugh and reminding us that desire is always a story without end.


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In the Pyrenees There is Beauty in Both Life and Death

1.

High in the Catalan Pyrenees

a lignified cetacean,

a washed-up monument to deep time,

to the singularity of sea bed and mountain peak.

 

Mountain pine. Pinus uncinata

Mountain pine. Pinus uncinata

 

2.

The Catalans call it clavell de pastor, shepherd’s carnation,

the name a reminder

that this is the wild source

of a flower we know from elsewhere,

a decoration for table or gravestone,

and once a symbol of revolution.

 

 

Maiden pinks. Dianthus deltoides

Maiden pinks. Dianthus deltoides

 

3.

Its purple cowls draw the eye,

invite the hand to touch,

revealing nothing, yet,

of the poisonous heart

that for millennia

has served schemers

and fooled the unknowing.

 

 

Wolf’s bane, monkshood. Aconitum napellus

Wolf’s bane, monkshood. Aconitum napellus

 

4.

Here at the source,

before contamination and ownership,

we may drink freely of the water of life.

 


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He was talking of you and me…

I was born in Cornwall, but live in Catalonia.

I have a British passport and a Spanish wife.

I am an immigrant here and I am loved and accepted in my adopted home.

But today I am afraid, afraid about what has been unleashed in my country of origin by politicians who are happy to foment hatred in order to further their personal ambitions, who are willing to sacrifice community and compassion on the altar of greed and prejudice.

Today I have wept, and will weep again for what my country is becoming.

In March 1939 – the date says it all, surely? – WH Auden wrote:

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,

Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there. 

We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

How hard it is for us to learn. So let us come together and speak out against hatred and prejudice, against bigotry and lies, before it is too late. And let us not think that the victims of our silence and inaction will be others. That is not the case now, just as it wasn’t the case in 1939. As Auden wrote, a few lines later in the same poem:

Came to a public meeting, the speaker got up and said:

“If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread”;

He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Jo Cox, RIP. Like so many, I never knew you, but like so many I will reap the rewards of your efforts. Thank you.


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Postcard from Cadaqués (Catalonia)

The photo poster in the window of the bar is as faded and familiar as the black and white image it displays. There on a stone bench sits the owner of the bar in his youth. He is playing a small Spanish guitar in the company of a much older man who is sitting to his right, Salvador Dalí.

Inside, the Café de La Habana has changed little since I first came here over twenty years ago. Tealights on the low wooden tables, rickety chairs, and, in one corner, a little cube of stage adorned with a single microphone stand.

At 11 o’clock sharp the owner appears carrying the guitar that he once played for Dalí. Both he and his instrument are old now, but together they continue to offer songs of protest and of love, songs sung in Catalan, Spanish, French and English. Borders are crossed, the edges of time blur. I am held in the present day only by the absence of cigarette smoke, by an unsilenced mobile phone, and then by the words of a song.

In Ancient Greece, a foreigner without citizen rights in his or her city-state of residence was called a metic. The English word is formal and uncommon, but the French métèque acquired the tone of our ‘mongrel’ and became a derogatory term for Mediterranean immigrants regarded as having impure origins and shifty-looking features. It seems that we have learned little in the almost fifty years since Georges Moustaki composed Le Métèque, proudly proclaiming himself to be a cultural mongrel and inviting us to think again about what we see. Here I am, he says, that man with the ugly mug of a wandering Jew, of a Greek shepherd; that man with the hands of a petty thief; that vagabond among you, offering this song of love.

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