I was not sure whether I had any photos for this but realised that the eyes of the wild were central to a discussion I had with my friend and artist Ruth Koenigsberger. We were talking about illustrations for some of the animal characters in my novel. So I looked back and there were lots of eyes looking out at me!
For one of Ruth’s first local exhibitions I wrote a poem which was about when we see wild animals and they look back at us. Her painting of the owl and her drawing for my character Milvana, the black kite, show how eyes are the ways we can make connections. We can also think there are eyes when perhaps there are not such as the tree and the butterfly wing markings.
Above – a chameleon seen in the Olhaö nature reserve on the Algarve. (Iphone and then cropped.) Ancient one eyed tree and butterfly in the Sierra Aracena.
House Martin babies, of only one pair, near Congleton, UK. ( Lumix camera zoom and cropped) I hope now in March, the house martins are back from Africa and building up their nests in the Algarve. 1000 more miles to go if nesting in the UK. Incredible flyers.
Below Iberian frog in Sierra Aracena by source of the River Odiel. (Lumix Camera and cropped.)
These were the ‘eye’ studies that inspired my poem that was read out in Spanish at the opening of the exhibition. We both thought how important the eyes would be in illustrating the characters in my book.
Quotes from La Vida en la Huerta and I guess it’s all about eyes and seeing one another. ( Translation by Margaret Van Epp)
I see you on my terrace You see me see you Your eyes hold onto mine
Te veo en mi terraza Me observas Me sostienes la mirada
I do not want you to see me. But when you stare, I freeze. I know your eyes are on me I can be rock or leaf.
No quiero que me veas Cuando fijas la mirada Me congelo. Sé que estoy ante tus ojos Me disfrazo de roca u hoja.
••• But you do not know me Till you see me. I may never reappear. You may not even notice, I have gone forever.
Sin haberme visto No me conoces. Puede ser que nunca reaparezca. Tal vez ni te darás cuenta Me haya ido para siempre.
Thanks to Denzil again for inspiring and helping me remember these poems and the illustration ideas for representing the wild animals in my novel. https://denzilnature.com/
I venture to put forward the possibility of publication of my first novel this year! This will be discussed with the publisher more this March.
My story recently published in the anthology Evergreen is partly from within the consciousness of a fir tree grown only for Christmas. But it survives beyond the festive season and connects and inspires a variety of local children until …..The story is called Until We are Ever Green. It contains quite a few ‘untils’!
It is late January and we are finally back at Navasola after dull but changeable temperatures for the UK in the winter. It was a rather frustrating time with so much illness from bad coughs/ colds/ sinus and the worst I have had since leaving the classroom. Here at Navasola it is very cold but the sun is high and bright with andalucian blue skies. We also have our supply of wood from when so many branches of trees came down in the bad storm of 2020.
So thanks to the trees we can keep warm at night when at present the temperatures are falling below zero.
There is also so much green thanks to our own evergreen trees in stark contrast to the denuded old chestnuts. However without the leaves there is much sunshine on the woodland floor. Their leaves will come back later than most in May.
Navasola’s Ever Greens
Olea europaea, Olive Olivo.
The olive trees’ grey green leaves keep dancing in the chilly skies. All the olives need to be picked by end of December but any left will make good food for birds or other animals when fallen to the ground.
Quercus suber, alcornoques, cork oak
The cork oak leaves show different shades of pale grey green. The tree trunks are well insulated and fire resistent. Cork trees can only have their cork cut every 8 years or more.
The Holm oak, encina, Quercus ilex or known as the evergreen oak.
encinas or holm oaks are stretching higher to the sky in their self seeded grove. These are the trees of pasture land or dehesa and can be found across vast swathes of Spain evenly spaced out to provide shade for grazing animals. These trees are also excellent for wood burning too.
The common ivy or Hedera helix dresses up many a trunk and keeps its green even when the frost bites. The Mirbeck oak also hangs onto its glorious display of red orange leaves until the new arrive.
Arbutus unedo, madroño, strawberry tree.
The madroño tree or strawberry tree is very hardy in the frost or heat. And home to the caterpillar of the Two tailed Pasha.
Wild viburnum tinus does not grow into a tree but can grow very tall around the trees. It is usually in flower by the end of January as the bees wake up. But at the moment it is rather frost bitten with the colder icier winter we are having here.
There are many wild pines too. Mainly Pinus nigra or black pine. These grow very tall very quickly and thrive here on sandy soils. These are different to the cultivated umbrella pines found a bit further south towards Huelva. Stone pine, Pinus pinea.
I think many readers of my blog will enjoy the stories under the theme of Evergreen in this Bridge House Publishing anthology. Apologies that it is only easily available on Amazon but we would love you to read, review and share the stories.
At last I have a published short story titled Until We Are Ever Green and it is in a wonderful anthology of short stories titled Evergreen. This is the yearly anthology from Bridge House Publishing and the theme we were given was evergreen. From that point we were free within the word limit to write. There are quite a collection of different stories under this evergreen tree. In the UK you can buy a paperback copy but it is available on Kindle too. I think it will fall into the category ‘UPLIT’ which is uplifting literature.
Evergreen signals on the cover – Life Goes On. There is Renewal. Nature Endures. And some of the titles of the stories are ‘ Adonis Against the Odds’ ‘Watching Cormorants’ ‘Anecdote for the Pine Mother’ ‘Flower Girls’ and many more.
Last year the theme and title was Resolutions and this anthology can be found on Amazon too. Bridge House is an Independent publisher that encourages good quality writing on a variety of issues. For 2023 the theme is ‘Gifted’ and submissions for this can be sent through Submittable on the Bridge House website, usually by the end of February
Here I am at the launch of Evergreen in London and able to meet up with the publisher Gill James, my mentor for my novel Debz Hobbs Wyatt and other writers like Alison Symes. All are involved in writing different kinds of stories and Café Lit which is a great place to visit for a good short read and worth donating the cost of a coffee and maybe cake for the writers.
As it is time for my monthly blog I am taking inspiration from Margaret21 who has been to the Pyrenees and is now back in the Pennines. We have similar journeys and she loves to read. We began 2022 on a reading challenge together to complete War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy before there was ever an invasion of the Ukraine. We did both finish reading War and Peace but the tragedy of war still unfolds in the Ukraine. On the personal front it has also been a tough year with losing two good family friends.
I do not think by Saturday night I will finish my other challenge Crime and Punishment by Doestoyosky. I have only just got to the crime and being inside the murderer’s head is quite heavy going. ( Possibly worse as I am listening on Audible)
Below are some of my books of 2022 and thanks to these other sites for these ideas too.
My 2022 in Books
I began 2022 ‘ While No One Was Watching’ by Debz Hobbs Wyatt. We think the big events are all we need to know and we can miss the many stories of those caught up in events beyond our control.
My favourite food for the year was one I could not put down ‘ Sugar and Snails’ by Anne Goodwin and reminded me of the struggles of being young and growing up.
I got lost on google maps trying to find ‘ The House on Schellberg Street’ by Gill James. I needed to go back in time and understand more about those who fled and those who stayed in Nazi Germany and Austria
Another journey to navigate when locked in with Covid in May was to travel with ‘The Wandering Jews’ by Philip Roth who was a journalist in the 1920s and whose homeland was close to all the refugee upheavals of the 2020s.
I wish sometimes I could just stay in one place and be a ‘ Villager’ by Tom Cox. The place somewhere in Dartmoor is given its own voice and century full memories..
We spent many months in our own village or ‘hamlet/ Hamnet by Maggie O Farrell but unlike poor Agnes Hathaway whose knowledge of herbs cannot save her son we get well treated in the Spanish NHS.
There have been some ‘Serious Concerns’ this year by Wendy Cope. With thoughts of those we have lost this year, struggles with the care system while coming to the last page of lifelong stories together.
I would like to raise a toast to The Years by Annie Ernaux for all that we share together in our closely related cultures.
My aim for 2023 will be to consider more deeply ‘ How to be Anti Racist by Ibram X Kendi.
And maybe we will all have the strength to jump ‘ The Hurdles’ by M Thayalan. An old Sri Lankan friend from our teaching days as now he has a go at publishing in his second tongue, English. So maybe I need to try a bit harder with my Spanish.
Resolutions ? Time to take up a poetic challenge again perhaps for 2023 and return to the ‘Ode Less Travelled’ by Stephen Fry or take up ‘ Guerilla Writing’ by Carl Tighe
If you are interested in other book blogs and having fun with titles there is Margaret’s at https://margaret21.com/
November has been a hard month. It is becoming a mix of dates of friends passing and friend’s birthdays, including my own. Like the seasons the end of the year is approaching and the years go by. But while we are here lets do our best to enjoy and sow seeds for the future.
I am in Seville for two nights. Our favourite and local city. It is just over an hour away from the Sierra Aracena. Somos turistxs hoy! I am also reading an incredible novel called Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin.
We are staying in the Hotel Simon, once a casa grande of a rich Seville family, probably shipping or merchant wealth. But from the 1930s became a hotel. Today for a reasonable price you can enjoy its tiled splendours. And just walk out into the centre of Seville and come face to face with the giant Cathedral frontage.
Our walk today!
First past the market selling all kinds of figures for the nativity story of Bethlehem or Belen. This is quite a collection that builds up for people here. Some villages do a ‘living Belen’ as in a village near us called Linares.
We walk up to the university which was the old tobacco factory of the Carmen opera fame. Now you can walk in and possibly through and feel student life all around you.
From the University we cross the road by the main theatre where renovation walk is ongoing and then into the Plaza de Espana park. There is fun with the rowing of boats and serious commitment to women’s rights with the poster display for International Woman’s day.
We watch an attempt at a wedding photo shoot and am glad we asked. We thought she was an Indian bride dressed in the traditional red with all the bead work. No, it was for a Gitano wedding. And of course the romany and Spanish gypsy links are from long ago in the north of India and Pakistan. And listen in to the stamping footwork of flamenco.
From here we walk through the park and have tapas away from the central tourist part. Rested and full of garbanzos, cerveza and ensaladilla we walk through the Plaza de Americas. The archeology museum is closed but the Museo de arte y costumbres is open. We rest with the butterflies and orange lanterna. Painted Ladies. It could be summer. Pigeons abound in one place for food and parakeets squawk about in the trees. Eucalyptus and parakeets and sunshine warmth. We really could be in the southern hemisphere. But the plane trees are changing colour and there is a chill on the shade and at night
We walk back by the river where Seville is ready with an ice rink and fairground for Christmas fun. And a strange glass container for eating churros and chocolate with the Torre de Oro in the background
Saludos from Sevilla with all its history, art, culture and natural beauty built up around the grand river Guadalquivir. From the Moorish power base of the Alcazar and Islamic rule, through the colonial Spanish architecture and build to impress, to the more nuanced post Franco Spain, a modern democracy with rights, values and standards at its heart. Ready hopefully to tackle the next global problem of climate change. Drought is not new to Andalucia and water is a blessing. However, the drought and high temperatures are longer and the water levels lower.
There is such beauty on this planet created by human hand and by nature. Let’s enjoy while we can and leave this world safer for those who come next. Lets watch our water consumption and keep the rivers flowing for wildlife too.
Time to celebrate too. I am attending the book launch of an anthology of short stories this Saturday in London. Evergreen is the title. ‘Until we are Ever Green’ is my story about a neglected silver fir Christmas tree.
Lets hope The Call of the Wild Valley gets published soon too. It’s on the list!
Sometimes we just have to take the long view and if the Outwood ancient rocks could tell us their story it would take millennia. So why at present are we humans missing the point of what is needed to survive? With the next COP coming up and too many domestic issues for our new Prime minister to deal with he cannot go. There are many reasons why life is frustrating here in the UK. But we do not quite have drought like in East Africa or floods as in Pakistan. Farmers who were once self sufficient no longer can be because of extreme weather.
I have not returned to Navasola and still wondering how my September post got ‘lost’. But life has been the same busy here on the personal level. And in both Spain and the UK we still face increasing climate challenges and hope leaders will respond better and cooperate to achieve climate targets. Too many people in other places are suffering from extremes as predicted by scientists and Andalucia is in severe drought.
On a walk through a place called the Outwoods in middle England there are ancient rocks. Once the height of Everest, once volcanic and without any fossils so pre known life forms.
Under foot are a range of fungus species and the dampness and smell of a forest floor ready to rest through the winter. It is one of the warmest Octobers with some days rainy and others sunny. I have been close to the beauty of this once forested UK with its temperate island climate on several journeys across the Pennine hills. We did destroy our temperate rain forests but now we must support the last remaining forests around the globe.
All is changing and we can only hope and work towards peaceful and positive resolutions for all life on this amazing Earth and vote for wise leaders who will protect and restore the natural beauty of this earth and our life support system. My prayers are for Brazil and the Amazon at present.
I am not sure how but this September post seems to have been posted with some likes and comments but now does not show up. This was my attempt using my phone. October has been very much the same as September but included grandkids’ birthdays and some glorious leaf colours.
September too has been a busy month and while I stay in the UK Trevor returns to Navasola. Autumn is blowing in now with a chill and wind factor as I…
This August we have been in Spain, Portugal, and then the UK and in various counties, Oxfordshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, Yorkshire. Holiday time for the grandchildren has been busy and also catching up with friends, family and a wedding after those two quiet years.
And so this is a quick post to catch up with myself and with the blog on the last day of August.
Finally family can visit but now has to be August because of school holidays. Water is becoming problematic even in our ‘wet’ Sierra. Some villages now have water shortages. The water levels are low and there is no way to pipe water from the reservoir. So Seville gets plenty and no restrictions but many here do not. Fuenteheridos springs still flowing but down in the important wetlands of Doñana so many lagoons are completely dry which is devastating for birdlife there.
Exploring Navasola and the local villages where each have a municipal pool with good showers and a bar. ‘Encanto’ the film was a bit of a theme. Did this link us to ‘building a house with the help of the village’!
We were also lucky in Portugal to see wild dolphins ‘playing’ off the Algarve coast along the Ria Formosa. A first for me. They stayed awhile and it was as if the whole beach were given a spectacular show. Sorry no pics just in the ‘inner eye’.
And we loved the gecko in our bathroom.
And it was also so good to have so much open air music; in the local village squares, in Tavira and back in the UK at Cropredy with Fairport Convention. I finally get to use my ticket after a two year wait.
Bee eaters visit Norfolk, build a nest in a sandhole and at least two babes have now fledged.
In London German Shepherds ‘parent’ a rescued kitten.
I hope August has brought some happiness and holiday time in spite of all the news and for us the problems with drought and wildfires in Europe. It is time for governments to act on climate change issues. Our grandchildren deserve to inherit and enjoy a nature rich world where extremes of climate do not destroy lives.