In Plenary, Practice on August 17, 2011 at 11:35 am

“Shush!” I tell K, by way of encouragement.

She is at her newly acquired sewing machine, struggling with the spool or the spindle or whatever it is. I am at the laptop twittering. She came back to the apartment this afternoon with some blue print cotton and in an impressively few minutes has knocked out a thoroughly decent looking sleeveless top. No pattern or anything to work from. Nothing gets K going like couture. It must occur to her from time to time that I am not so much of a catch on that front – my idea of fashion is a “nice white shirt” or – if the occasion requires serious effort – a blazer.

The buying of the machine was a mental milestone for her. We have both been nervous this summer. Not nervous bad; nervous good. We are approaching the end of our first year here and so all self-congratulation must now be put aside; we have to get serious – we made the move to chase our dreams and we haven’t caught up with them yet. We are beginning to see that year two will be more pivotal for us than year one. We will need very good Spanish and a lot of guts. We will need to embrace the shot in the dark, the white knuckle, the wing, the prayer.

Anyway, K turns to me and shows me the completed top.

“It’s a bit crappy” she says.

“Shush!” I tell her. It isn’t crappy at all.

Right, cards on the table – I’m not sure where this post is going. I have nothing. There is no underpinning idea. No metaphor. We haven’t had one of those little moments that spawn a story. We didn’t go anywhere this week (we’re afraid that if we do we won’t be able to get back). I did see a lot of vultures that one time, but then I’ve seen them before and told you about it. This was more though; there must have been a hundred at least on the day this week that the levante gave way to the poniente. Everybody was staring – it wasn’t just the hapless Irishman looking up as it usually is whenever a bird does something around here.

So that’s the vultures. Don’t over think it, I’m just telling you about some vultures I saw – it isn’t an analogy for anything.

Now let’s see…oh yes; cows. On the beach. I’m not making it up; early in the morning as I ran, a little line of seven or eight – farmer in front, leading them I don’t know where. Not a thing you see every day. Often the cattle would be transformed in my imagination into some kind of allegorical truth, but not that day; they were just cows. The thing about running in the mornings is that I never have the camera on me – a photograph like that of Tarifa‘s famous strand and the turqoise Atlantic, but with cattle included, would be a big seller in the souvenir shops. Perhaps I should alternate the jogging with photo treks, but you never know what you’re going to see, or when.

On Fridays I go into Algeciras in the morning with K as I have a client there. This week K spots a big bird hovering at the roadside ahead of us.

“Big bird” she says.

Familiar words these days – I peer ahead expecting to see one of the vultures I have grown so fond of, or perhaps a falcon. As we pull alongside the bird on this mountainous road we are at the same level so I get a good look for a minute or so till we pass. It doesn’t have the fanned wings of a vulture and is way too big for a falcon. I suddenly realise I am looking at an eagle, and from close quarters. This can’t be common – to get this close for this long. It glides along, just a little slower than the car.

My first eagle sighting. I am – briefly – mesmerised. This qualifies as a moment, surely! Something epiphanic in it? Some increase in synaptic activity? An insight, the makings of a story?


We take a walk one evening down to the Isla de las Palomas and discover a full moon. It bathes the little bay of La Chica in chalky light and the long line of reflected silver on the water is punctuated by bobbing sailing boats and catamarans. I resolve to return the following night with my camera and that we do.

While we wait for night to fall we have a drink in a beach bar and watch the sun sink. There are pools of water on the beach and I take my leave of K to go down there and get some shots while they are still reflecting the sky’s colours.

Down on the sand I am not disappointed. The pool in front of me is mirror smooth – the heaving masses of the day have disappeared and it is ripple free – a perfect reflection of the sky above. The two are separated by a thin line of sand and rock; black silhouettes against the thin line of brilliant yellow that runs along the edge of both pool and sky. Then, above and below in water and air, burnt orange, then bands of pink, blue, indigo and finally the night sky.

Uninterrupted space; creamy colours that chart the passage of time. Exquisite and inhuman; our reality is tainted with fuss. We are busy creatures; we struggle to imagine a future and we leave a mess in our wake. This expanse of unpopulated time and light is medicine to creatures who create such clutter; an awe inspiring cleanser. The spectacle of a full moon will be an anticlimax after it.

Three little figures make their way across the water line bringing movement and human scale to the otherwise lonely landscape. In these small numbers, and moving quietly as they do, they are not unwelcome.

Ok, I’m not sure what, but I think that last bit might have meant something.

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  1. Enjoyed this immensely even if you thought you had nothing to say!

  2. I always see the best photo ops when I am out jogging. I know that if I instead walked with my camera in the early mornings those moments would not happen (and I wouldn’t burn off the dessert and wine I had the night before).

  3. Ha! You’re right on both counts – beer too; I drank more than the recommended daily intake yesterday so it was definitely a run this morning and not a photo trip 🙂

  4. Often it is the small things in life that are the best! Sunset on a beach, soaring eagle, bottle of chilled beer!!!

  5. I enjoyed reading your story about nothing 🙂

  6. Doesn’t sound like nothing to me? Could it be the heat making everything seem a bit fuzzy and uninspiring? We’ve finally made our way to southern Europe and the high temperatures make me feel like doing nothing but laying in a hammock with some ice water by my side and a good book.

  7. You made the post entertaining, and I loved visualizing the Eagle. That must have been an beautiful sight. I’m glad the crowds leave at night, and you can get out and enjoy the views..

    • It was a beautiful sight – one of those that grow in the memory because I didn’t even really appreciate what I was looking at at the time, it was so novel!

  8. Hm, the only thing I don’t agree with here is the title. Definitely not nada. I really enjoyed reading about the richness of what you experience. Loved the pools of water reflecting the colours of the sky!

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