We’re here in Segovia and just moved into an Airbnb above the bar I’m sitting in right now. I’m drinking a hierbas, a light yellow liquor, telling myself it’s good for diminishing the remaining symptoms of Covid, and for adding to my Spanish learning. The bar is filling up gradually. It’s still early in Spain; 10pm is the beginning of the night. Even Sunday night.The people standing beside me at the bar are not young. At home they’d be in bed by now, especially on a Sunday night.
So what am I learning, or rather what am I having to remember from the learnings on the Camino just finished. Only a week ago , before Covid struck.
Obviously patience. Surprisingly, patience with myself first of all. I want to rush ahead, experiencing this borrowed life before it all fades or changes. Before I’m back in my real life and the this life loses its vividness, is diminished as it becomes another travel tale accompanied by a swag of photos. The Covid has just acted as a “stop” sign; stop and take in the scenes for longer, wait, rest, relish the slowness. So I’ll have another Hierbas ( only half though, it’s 70 % alcohol)
The father in Elizabeth Jolley’s My Fathers Moon (1989) insists that his daughter take in the “splendid view.” This is what I’m still trying to do, to take in that view. It is the long look, the abstracted, metaphorical sweep of what’s ahead. Like this morning when I saw the view from the surrounds of Segovia’s Alcazar in its clear light. The view was a Namatjira painting ,with unencumbered sky and the trees just sticking up above the line of the hills.
Patience also means another sort of seeing: to absorb the immediate. To stop and really see, not just glance. Listen, note, take in the gestures, the voices, the colours. Hey, that’s why I’m in this bar with Hierbas. Spanish voices float over me. There are instructions, explanations, descriptions, too early in the night for arguments. There’s a lot of “ claro”,”valle” and nods and hand movements. As usual, the men talk more but then there are more men here in the bar.
Patience also means dropping my expectations and accepting differences. I’m doing well with taking in the music performances on the Plaza Mayor here that have happened each night we have been in Segovia. Music lasts until 6am. In addition the bar underneath our hostal finally called it a day at 8am, and people spilled out underneath our window as we grabbed a few hours early morning sleep. But I have to acknowledge a degree of relief that Sunday night, right now, this bar below our present place is closing at 11 pm.
There’s patience too with my partner and fellow traveller. He doesn’t feel well enough to frequent bars or needs to rest when I feel like walking on, or drinking on. That’s up to him, and patience means doing what I want to do and leaving him to do what he needs to do, without resentment. We are not inextricably bound together at all times. I remember all the things he does that I don’t do, like finding the way, looking out for both of us. I acknowledge that and am thankful, while I go ahead and drink Hierbas in this bar, listen and write.