Tag Archives: Sierra Aracena

Loving and leaving Andalusian blue skies. A Ghazal poem for Al Andaluz, land of light

Church and plaza bajo in the village of Valdelarco in the Sierra Aracena

I have lost track of time with the wonders of spring back in Spain. Lots of time spent walking, talking, working the land, making cheese, yoga and Tai Chi. There has been little time for writing as I rush to get an irrigation system working before my return to family and wedding bells for my older daughter.

  I was introduced to ghazals and the poet Ghalib from my sojourns in India and Pakistan. That was some years ago now and I remember the time when all the Pakistani newspapers on the front page honoured a well loved poet and throngs of people came out to mourn the loss of this important poet. A ghazal is to be heard, sung and responded to immediately by an audience. It is often about love, loss, longing for an earthly delight or the sacred.

 Now I live in Andalucia, famed for its light and clear blue skies but also its history of many conquests and settlers: Roman, Visigoth, Islamic, Sephardic Jews, Christian and many others. All with songs and poetry of loving this land of light! And for many the sorrow of being forced to leave.

This is an attempt of writing a ghazal for the Dverse poetry form challenge. Notes on the Ghazal form traditional and contemporary can be found at Dverse.

 

 

 

 

Ghazal for Al Andaluz

 

Andalusian sky, land of light, with bright songs of deep blue.

On leaving I wonder how long will I long  for my return to you?

 

Remains of roman towns remind us of our constant defeat by time.

Wild wolves that roamed far extinct but all we do is long for you.

 

Passion tempered by conquest built on stones from the past.

Sevilla, Granada, fortresses that fight for me to stay with you.


Night brown hues touch the flesh of delight. What will tear us apart?

Defend this land of light, for so long as I can be here with you.


Poems for paradise, gardens to die in, tall palms shade intense light.

Rare richness of water, fountains for life, we long to return to you.


Foliage to ferment in, fronds to fan breezes, scents to seduce,

Water to soothe the smooth skinned sadness of life without you.


Calls from the minaret fade in the falling of the soft glow of light.

Ojala, obrigada, al andaluz, may we not be long away from you.

 

What dreams, what failures slip without sense from our sight.

Beauty of blue, land of  sharp light, we must not betray you.


Inshallah, with God’s gift we will return to your light.

Dark is the earth we till as we gaze right into the blue to see you.

 

Arbutus Unedo berries.

The associations came to me on a bus travelling from Aracena, our town in the mountains, to Sevilla, city of beautiful gardens! These were then put into couplets and the first two lines chosen to repeat in some way. In the last couplet there is reference to my first name Georgina which has connections with the earth and farming, a tiller of the soil  and my second name Jane, gift of God! And ‘right’ of course.

 

I always feel a sense of loss when leaving and wonder about when we will return, Inshallah, God Willing we keep healthy and young at heart and can ‘rage against the dying of the light’ so we can enjoy more time in our own wild woodland in Andalusia, land of light.

winter trees by the ivy perimeter wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am posting late but will do my best to read more ghazals on the Dverse Mr Linky links.

 

Feliz Navidad, Felices Fiestas a todos. Seasons Greetings from Southern Spain

Greetings to all and as many of you know it has been a busy year but we are now in the Sierra Aracena and able to have a restful Christmastide. At present we can enjoy the Andalusian blue skies in the middle of the day and log fires for the evening chill. We managed a midday walk around the pueblo of Valdelarco. Here the Sierra villages have a tradition of crochet decoration for winter. In Valdelarco the trees in the square and the benches have been given a warm covering of colourful crochet.  A great idea for the cold iron benches.

It was our intention for our walk to be circular and we headed off from the upper part of the village. It was hard to park as all the parents and local school buses were attending a festive programme for the linked primary schools of our three local villages. Rural life seems well supported in Spain and there are the local school, village pharmacies and regular GP surgeries. As we climbed up there were some good views back over the village and through to the other hills of the Sierra Morena of which our Sierra is a part of.

We followed the map and turned right before the barranco/ stream with the pilgrimage church for the romeria on the other side. The romeria is the local village festival and usually takes place on the feast day of the village saint but usually in warmer weather! I showed the major romeria for most of the local villages in September when horses, carts and the bullocks set off for the church of the ‘Queen of the Angels.(La Reina de Los Angeles.)We walked quite a way and were hoping to complete a circular route. The path was pretty but finally came to an end with an impressive locked gate and lots of notices to confirm we would not be welcome to continue. Sin pasar! A lot of the well know public paths are kept open forming a network of ‘senderos’ but most of these are long distance and there are few circular routes. There is also a local group that tries to keep paths open and this had certainly looked a very clear path on the map.

Walking back was uphill! We planned to eat by the pilgrimage church in the full sun but ended up by a signed post and opposite the red sandy banks where the bee eaters nest in the spring. They have gone for a warm respite to somewhere in Africa. These birds also feature in my novel so I am very fond of them!

Greetings to all. We are all well and Trevor managed to overcome some of his difficulties with walking. We are plodding on with finishing the house hence view of my new shelves with Christmas cards and tools. I also managed to create a festive space with some solar lights.

We will have a pot luck veggie Christmas with friends. Chestnut and Apricot nut loaf and a trifle with sherry and madroño are my offerings. I am finally finished with the chestnuts and the blisters they give me. Why such a tasty and nutritious nut should prove so difficult to peel is beyond me! I managed to complete a vegan challenge in November and certainly felt good with the diet and overcame my desire for tea with milk. I now have light black tea with ginger and/ or lemon.

I am beginning to look into how the way we eat and farm does affect the natural world and is probably one of our biggest threats and challenges for the loss of biodiversity and climate change. In the news there was a report about the scale of recent deforestation amounting to the size of Spain. Spain is huge. The views I show of the Sierra should really be covered in trees. Reforestation could halt drastic rises in world temperatures.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2017/dec/22/failing-our-forests-in-two-years-weve-lost-enough-trees-to-cover-spain?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Thanks to everyone for all the love,support, cards, messages and comments this year. This is the time of year for the Baby Jesus story so I will sign off with the first smiles of my first grandchild. Babies seem to encourage us to look after them and think about doing what we can to provide a good life, inner and outer. Here’s to our desire and hope for peace, and for a future that’s good for all living things on this beautiful planet earth. Abrazos a todos. Hugs to everyone.

Gardens and Butterflies 

David Attenborough is asking folk in the U.K. to help with a butterfly survey. The numbers of British butterflies seem to be going into a decline. There has been a lot of interest in gardening for wildlife and it was hoped that bees and butterflies could be recovering but there have been a range of factors affecting numbers and particular species.
Here are some of the butterflies I was fortunate enough to photograph at Navasola in May and June. I love the wild plants and flowers here and these seem to support a variety of wildlife but I have been delighted that my efforts in creating some small patches of garden have not only paid off with a range of flowers but also brought these beautiful butterflies close by.
Last year I was given some Sweet Williams by a friend nearby. These were planted last year and survived August heat and bloomed beautifully from the end of April to June. I hope these will self seed but I have collected seeds too. I may also be lucky and get a second show of flowers from the same plants next year. Seeing how these flowers have attracted a range of butterflies and bees means they are a must for any wildlife garden and nature lover.

Please let me know any hardy flowers that have attracted butterflies in your gardens and parks. Of course the eggs and larva also need very specific plants too and these are often wild ones that are seen as weeds. Enjoy!

Who is looking at who? A Cardinal in the Sierra Aracena.
A newly hatched Cardinal spreading its wings out to dry.
A fritillary we struggled to fully identify. Visited at same time as the Cardinal.
Swallowtail heaven!

A Meadow Brown keeping an eye on me!

All taken by me but with a LUMIX camera borrowed from my naturalist friend and artist.

A Butterfly and a Flower for a Birthday. And final celebrations on the birth of Jesus. Los Reyes Magos: The Night of the Visit of the Three Kings. 

Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta
Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta

This post is for my daughter Theodora. I cannot be with her on her birthday but can send this beautiful flower and a butterfly photo  from Southern Spain. So far the sun has shone and the red admiral came out of its hideaway and posed for us. I also bought this gazania to brighten up the rock garden and on looking up its name found it was named after Theodorus Gaza, in the 15 th Century.( On Wikipedia, and he translated Theophrastus on plants)

A popular garden flower; a gazania
A popular garden flower; a gazania

On one of those pregnant impulses I had decided to name my baby after the Saints day she or he would be born on. Luckily she decided against Jan 6 th and Epiphany and came on the day of St Theodosius. And are those days so long ago that we didn’t know or need to know the gender. So Theo sounded like a great idea at the time! But I was pushed to make it more feminine.

For the past two years I have missed her birthday as I had never been able to see the celebrations in Spain for the feast of the Kings. ( Joy of being a teacher and the Return to School) It all happens on the eve of Jan 6 th. Last year a friend came to stay and we visited the ‘big’ one in Higuera de la Sierra.  More in last year’s post. Los Reyes Magos in the Sierra Aracena. Feast of the Kings Processions.

Mary's mother waiting.
Mary’s mother waiting.

This year we went to Linares on the south side of the Sierra Aracena. Here they create scenes from the nativity story in their houses and gardens. Linares is a special village with cobblestone art work on the ground in front of many of the houses. This event is also very special and different from the processions.

I loved seeing inside some of the houses and also small stores, naves where animals would and still might be kept. It was very reminiscent of the closeness of village life over the centuries and miles to Bethlehem. Most of all I loved being able to see into the gardens and orchards. I am a little jealous because they can grow oranges on that side of the Sierra and we have to cope with chestnuts!

After this it was back to see our village procession. Although there may be many tourists here for the Los Reyes processions it is truly a local event. All the children of a village receive presents from the Three Wise Kings. First there is the procession led by the star. She must be the one who gets cold! She is followed by a variety of floats with different scenes, some biblical, some original. These may vary each year. The richness of the scenes shown really tell so many aspects of the Nativity.  The final three floats are for the three wise kings who bring gifts. Balls and sweets were thrown to the crowds watching and following.The irony of the sweets were ‘love bites’ made in Hyderabad, India, where we lived some years ago. Just for trade wars, there were also some made in Córdoba, Spain.

Here in our village it was charming and very much all the local people involved with small tractors pulling brightly decorated carts.

One thing that stood out were the smiles on everyone’s faces: children and adults.
Wishing Theo and everyone who reads my blog a very happy and peaceful 2017. And in 2018 and future years Theo, Josie, family and friends can visit the Sierra to see the wise men, women and children who create this event.

Summer journeys almost over: butterflies, bees and boars.

P1140134

 

From a very lush and wet warm summer in London, through the beautiful greens of France, stained glass of Chartres, Cloudy heights of the Pyrennes, Cool air of Bejar, to the hot and dry Sierra Aracena. However, the Sierra is always green in summer because of its varied trees; chestnuts, oaks and various poplars and willow.

The red admiral landed happily on the sunflower planted by my daughter in London. She loves the garden, birds but is not so sure about the flying insect world! The wild bit at the back with nettles helps the red admiral thrive.

Arriving at our finca there were few wild flowers. It’s the wild carrot time and a few yellow mullein. Most was quite dry. Apart from my garden areas where Ruth had admirably kept the plants well watered from the drought and heat of July and August.

A pretty wall brown landed for a while on the echinacea near the house. Bees and other pollinators seem to like this cultivated flower.

P1140469

Another long journey. This cricket was on the windscreenwipers. We thought it would jump or be blown off. It stayed on its green home, our car, while we collected our freshly baked bread from our local village. It is an alternative bakery with organically grown wheat or rye flour. A large traditional clay oven is used. The cricket waited.

And the cricket returned for its photo opportunity and chance to be a celebrity in my animal stories of Navasola! We think its pholidoptera griseoptera, a dark bush cricket.  There are so many, and then there’s the true crickets. And the cave cricket. And a camel cricket! It was light brown and the Dominion guide suggests there are several similar species in Southern Europe.

There is certainly a cricket with a high pitched chirp and it keeps me awake at night too. At least its not aircraft noise and it is rather soothing.

P1140481

In April and May it was so wet. The rainfall in May filled our pond to overflowing. We went down to investigate the water level in the pond now. There was nothing. Last year it had retained water at a lower level through the long dry summer. Why had it dried out? The evidence was before us. That wild boar family that loved rolling in the mud in May. I guess now they’ve scored an own goal. No more water in the pond. Tusk marks in the strong, expensive, plastic base. Without this, the water did just drain away. We will have to rethink on this one. Seems a shame to put a boarproof fence around a water hole.

We’ve also just been reading about reports of wild boar, jabeli, visiting the beaches in Spain. At dusk I think and still not quite sure which beaches.The report in Spanish was about the increase in the wild boar population. Not enough hunters? I say, not enough wolves! We’ve got 7 more baby boar on our small finca. Perhaps some will move to the coast?

Apologies for not much blogging recently. I think I have been suffering from my own drought. I have been trying to re edit the first chapter of my novel.It’s been quite a journey writing it, literally as it has taken in a quest through Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and the UK. A nature quest! I have also spent a lot of time struggling with rewriting the beginning and becoming anxious about the next stage. There have also been the chores and the DIY and clearing of beloved brambles and the heat! Most needs to be done in the early morning!

Thank you to all who read this far and have been following my journey. I look forward to some more catching up with you all. The weather is a little bit cooler. I have re edited my first chapter!

A Room to Breathe In. My inner sanctuary at Navasola.

Here I am sitting in my sun room
Retreating from the unforgiving,
Too much heat at times.
Now too cold, wet and windy.
But always I can see the rocks,
The tiny path leading to the Era.
The trees, the trees, the trees.
Outside, Outside, Outside.

A room to feel at home in
A room to be quite quiet in
A room to retreat into.
White walls, less clutter
Clears the mind, Warms the heart.
Away from the building work,
Away from the rush of life.
Inside, Inside, Inside.

I have been fond of all my rooms
Some for sleep, some for work
Some for all the family.
This room is for me a sanctuary
To write in, be silent in.
A welcome break from the
Busyness of life,
Where now I have a chance
To breathe in the rocks.
Breath out the words.
From Outside to Inside
And Inside to Out.

This has been inspired by another Dverse Prompt night  dverse website and an interesting post on examples of poems about rooms. I was so relieved to create this space for myself in the middle of an ongoing building project as we reform the house at Navasola.

image
Outside the window. Wild and not so wild flowers.
image
My favourite view from the window of my room.
image
Natural tree sculpture seen from my room!
image
Inside the room with my friend’s dog Lotti, mirror made in an old Castano tree frame.

A poem for the birds at Navasola.

Another really interesting   Dverse poetry prompt I cannot ignore. It’s worth following the link to where Abhra tells us about a famous Bengali poet and quotes some beautiful lines about the kind of bird he might like to be reborn as.

These words came to me in the early hours as the birds began to sing. Although today I should be working outside in the sun and gathering wood I cannot resist having fun with this. It’s a tribute to all the birds with the hope that they may survive the cold, the long journeys, human interference, and be with us as truly wild ones.

 

If I was reborn I would like to be a bird in the Navasola valley. They seem quite happy here, with plenty of food to eat. But which one ?

 

To the Biodiversity of Birds

 

I would love to be

A bee eater, glorious gold blue green.

But maybe not with such decline

In numbers with a risky journey South

And far too few bees to eat.

I am not a risk taker.

 

Or could I be a darting swift

Flying fast round village spires

Screaming to the God inside.

I fear I cannot go so fast.

 

To go with the warblers and the swallows south

On African plains would be a dream.

Guided by the distant stars.

But migrant birds in current climes

Travel with joy but suffer loss.

I do not want so much grief.

 

An owl gliding through the night

Silent flight now that I’d like.

But I would miss the sun.

 

A stork is not I think the best

Bringing babes frogs to the high up nest.

I think from that I need a rest!

 

So perhaps a resident is what I should be

A Mrs brown blackbird, or robin dear.

With sludgey worms slugging down my throat.

Perhaps that’s not quite my cup of tea.

 

 

A tiny wren with cracking voice

Varied tits with varying tails.

Winter cold small body fails

I like a fire to keep me warm.

 

The goldfinch flies with such glitter

A song so pretty but here so often caught

Put in a cage , no place for wings to flutter.

I like to be free.

 

From gliding vultures high above

Eagles with their boots on, ravens, jays.

Living on corpses to the end of my days.

I cannot change my vegetarian ways.

 

The woodpecker too noisy with the wood

I prefer some silence and some song.

 

Ah, there’s a bird I surely could be

When it’s cold it goes by the sea

Hovering high notes sung with joy

Up and down in perfect pitch.

A singing voice I have not had.

So I will be the lark

And sing and sing and sing.

 

Thanks for reading and I apologise that I have no photos of the birds and I do envy some of the American bloggers photos of birds in the USA; Boeta in South Africa, Simon Bowler in the UK and all others. Here in this woodland the birds are so wild and elusive. They sense binoculars and dodge between the many leaves of the evergreen oak, cork and olive. Sometimes they preen on a tall bare leaved cherry or the stag head of an ancient chestnut.  There are blackcaps and redstarts about but many warblers haven’t arrived yet and neither has the bee eater. Some storks have become resident on church towers around here but others have returned from an African sojourn. I have seen some different buntings. Cirl and Rock bunting and Wheatear but all elude my attempts to photo them! Yet!