There is something so peaceful and tranquil about the Spanish countryside where I am getting to be right now. My mother lives in a small pueblo (town) called Higuera la Real that is in the Spanish region of Extremadura. Since I arrived on Sunday from the busyness of Rome, I have relished the quiet and beauty that is going to be my home-base for the next couple months. It is hard to describe how good it feels…except to say that it feels so soft and looks almost surreal, like an aged renaissance painting of a European landscape.
Today I woke up with no alarm clock just before eight. The houses are built wall to wall here, nestled into long rows along the sloping streets. Where I am staying in my mother’s home is along a street that is just along the southern edge of the town and as I came out the door this morning, I could see the sun shining to the west where the street slopes down to an open vista of lush green hills and wide open sky. I was still in the shade as I headed east and then took the small road south that very quickly heads out of the town into vast countryside. The change happens so quickly that it’s like stepping into another world…beneath my feet the road turns into dirt and the buildings along either side abruptly end and give way to fields of scattered olive trees, wild grasses, and recently sheared sheep grazing among bright red poppies.
And the air! The air is so crisp and clear, not a cloud in the sky and it’s the most lovely temperature of refreshing cool that doesn’t chill me and give me goosebumps…it’s absolutely perfect and feels…so precious…I just can’t describe with words how good it feels all over me. After a brisk walk and stretching in the sun, I return to the house where my mother is making coffee in the greca. This particular morning we enjoy a second round of freshly ground coffee as we nibble on more biscuits and fruit while talking even longer about family and life. Next thing we know, Juan Antonio my mother’s boyfriend is home for his mid-morning break from work and to have some coffee himself. This break of the day is not long and pretty soon he is gone on his bike to return to the job site.
The day progresses with me writing about one of my experiences during my past couple of months in Italy and I do the usual catch up on emails and Facebook activity. At some point I also step into the little garden patio area at the back of the house that has a large citrus tree. It feels therapeutic to groom the potted flowers living there by gently picking of the dead crispy flowers to give way for new fresh ones to bloom. Around 2:30, I start to help my mom make lunch, which is the largest meal of the day in Spanish cultures, especially here. Today we make this phenomenal white fish that has no bones in the filet my mother purchased just earlier that day. Simmered slowly with fresh onions, tomatoes, herbs, mushrooms, and red and green peppers, it smells throughout the entire house and taste even more amazing. Juan Antonio arrives from work around 3:30pm to enjoy this with us and we each have a glass of local red wine and some fresh fruit or chunk of cheese for dessert.
We decide at that point that rather than make coffee at home today, we’ll go to la Chacara which is one of the small cafes that is just down the road at the edge of town. Since my mom is getting her driver’s license in Spain these days, her and Juan Antonio started off in his vehicle so she could practice driving manual again. They get a head start while I have a meeting with one of my clients I do social media marketing work for and then I enjoy a nice walk in the intensely warm sun. Hot is the better word for it…the air is dry here and the sun is very strong, reminding me a lot of my US home-base of Denver, Colorado. Meeting at the cafe, the three of us enjoy cafe con leche (coffee with milk) outside on the patio in the shade of the large awning.
Once back, I do some tasks on-line, write a little more and return emails, then I head to what I’ve been looking forward to all day – my first piano lesson with Andres. An older friend of my mother’s in the town, he plays several instruments and loves music. When I met him the other day when my mother went to practice guitar and her singing with him, we came up with the idea that he could give me piano lessons while I’m in Spain these months. This is very exciting for me since one of my aspirations for this year is to learn to play piano. So head to Andres’ home in the center of the pueblo, say hello to his wife Carmen, and enjoy a great lesson that also involves us chuckling about our abilities to communicate. You see, he knows no English and I am still trying to learn Spanish better. Keep in mind too that Andres is originally from Catalunya near Barcelona so his accent and Spanish is heavy and fast…even better! I’m getting free piano lessons and Spanish immersion lessons at the same time!
Walking back home through the town is picturesque: it’s practically 9:30pm and the sun has yet to set and the sky is bright with light everywhere. Summer’s here are breathtaking. As I near my road to turn on for home, I get a fantastic view of the dirt road I walked this morning, opening up into the colorful countryside like looking through a window. There is an old woman sitting alongside the road who pats her hand on the spot next to her for me to sit down and join her. I enjoy practicing my Spanish with her and we speak about her family and mine…she’s wonderfully kind and quick to laugh. Before I leave to continue on my way, we hear the clip-clop of a horse and look down the street to see a young neighbor boy riding a tall white horse down the street. He can’t be older than ten years old and it’s the second time I’ve seen him riding the horse through town by himself…that’s rural Spain for you. I love it!
Sitting on the front-door step I look to the east and see that more people have joined the old woman at the end of the street. Then turning to look west, I am enjoying as I write this the sunset…it’s turning the pristine sky beautiful shades soft pink, orange, and purple. There’s a little tinge of green where it fades into the light blue that spreads out into darker and darker shades of night sky. No stars are out yet, but you can bet that once they appear, the view of them is so brilliant out here in the country where there are less city lights. Now the ornate wrought-iron street lamps have come on, casting their gentle light onto the cobblestone sidewalk and illuminating the ledges of the Spanish-tiles that extend off the house roofs. This scene seems to linger now, like it’s suspended, frozen after all that has transpired while I wrote this.
And now here I am, hoping so much that I can share this day and these rich experiences with you as you have read this. I have come inside to help make a light dinner now that it’s almost 11pm and it’s finally become dark outside. This is definitely Spanish life. I hope it makes you as happy as it makes me.