You can fall in love with a place, and you can feel a sense of spiritual homecoming for a while. You can do brave things and hold art workshops in a place and gather all the people together and the paints and the canvas and devise the process, curate an inspiring music playlist, hold space for the participants for a while and plan walks and expeditions. You can jump into the waterfalls and drink the high mountain spring waters and gather the water in as many bottles as possible and take them down with you to the town with the labrynthine streets and the loud church bells which clang their quarterly message that sounds more like an iron foundry than anything holy. Then when the people leave the workshop you are alone for a while. There is a relief. The air starts to cool and you sleep and sleep and sit at the cafes with the old men. The old, round and funny waiter knows what you order; a cafe con leche and agua con gaz. You know the rental car is scratched and you didn’t get enough insurance on the car, and you try to find a bodywork painter who can fix the scratches on the car. You ask them what they can do but when they answer they put a mask over their mouth because there is a mysterious virus circulating the earth. You can’t really understand what they are saying because your Spanish isn’t good enough, and to understand, you need to partially lip-read. He says to come back when the boss arrives, so you go into town again and try to find a parking space, and everyone else is trying to do the same, tempers frayed. You eventually find a space and have to photograph the name of the street because it is miles from the house you are renting.
In the streets, the people are masked; faceless. You have bought some food at last, and decide to cook a meal that makes you feel at home. Roast chicken, potatoes and broccoli. You have friends here but feel you can never really belong. When you were young, you took off to California and France and made a home there for some years. Now things are different, and belonging isn’t something you feel you can create that way any more. Belonging is where your children are, your family is, and where laughter, hugs and endless cups of tea are shared. Where you all sing around the piano or share your stories.
You miss the sea and the rugged coastline. The green grass and the blackberries and apples of autumn. It was brave coming here alone and there is nowhere on earth quite like it and your soul is filled by flat-roofed Berber houses and the mystery and bewitching magic of mountains, that endlessly change with the light and each bend in the road. Maybe it is time to stop searching, as you already have it.
Does every sweet soul remind you of your father? Are you always searching for him? Your father you lost too young, when you had just had your first baby and were unable to grieve properly for him. Maybe it’s a lifetime’s work, trying to replace him. Maybe mountains are a physical manifestation of a father for you. Strong, exquisitely beautiful, majestic, priest-like. You were so lucky to have him. His name was Cliff. He was the divine masculine. Sacred. He had your wanderlust and the same rare nomadic blood group. You are so happy your son and daughter carry his genes, his height, his nobility, his humour, his gentleness and bravery.
Maybe soon, in these strangest of strange times, it is time to go home to the heart.
Yet another day comes. It feels kinder, you feel stronger and you start to not mind the alienation so much. You sit on the roof terrace at night and listen to the old women sitting in the street and crocheting the world to rights. You talk to friends and loved ones and buy yourself something beautiful, you do your laundry and tidy your room and feel a oneness and peace with this mountain town.