We have been in Segovia for the last week , since Covid finally got us. I was going to say “stuck “ in Segovia,but that’s not entirely correct although some days it does feel like we’re in limbo. Like “ you can’t go over it , you can’t go under it…” we could go through it , and onward. However that requires energy and motivation, both in short supply in recovery mode.
But this blog is not about Covid or being unmotivated. It’s about rediscovering happiness.
Early on in my Covid story, before I started to feel really unwell I shut the door of our Airbnb and walked. It was a directionless walk with no map, no phone, no intention of seeing a particular building, landmark or gallery. After the first 10 minutes I felt free. Unhassled. I didn’t have to get anywhere at all and there was no one with me. I just had to move and look.
I’m attracted by a sign on the steps towards the aqueduct “Puerta de La Luna”. The gate of the moon. Steps lead through an archway to a garden alongside the old wall. In the distance are the mountains, soft and blue this sunny morning, and the few clouds above are mere wisps of cotton. I’ve walked here before, but this time I’m meandering and thinking. I’ve missed the corners and shadows before. There are tiny bits that maybe I can call regalos (gifts) : shapes and textures and colours, small scratched plaques that commemorate poets and statesmen, a sparkling fountain.
After a while I turn back up the steps to the Church of San Martin and on the wall, hidden in the shadows, is a plaque to those Segovia resistance fighters who died fighting the Franco Nationalists: 3,000 Segovian men (31 May to I June 1937). A lot of men .
Then I see the sign”Espana Oculta”(Hidden Spain).I go into into an amazing exhibition of photos taken over 10 years from 1973, by Cristina Garcia Rodero. I was in Spain thirty years ago, in Seville working in a bar in the last few years of Franco. I was young and ignorant: now I can see some of the fervour, the intensity which I felt then but couldn’t explain. An intensity of emotion in the cities where I was mostly: emotions clamped tightly under the women’s black mantillas, hiding within the ugly dark,shapeless clothes of widows and threatening to break out from beneath the skirts of carefully covered up young girls. The men strode around jauntily with their “guapa ”(attractive, but given an edge that implies sexy, or similar ) and other words that I didn’t understand tossed into the air at random women.
Cristina’s photos of that time tell of poverty and humour, of anger and religious intensity, and of cruelty. Many of the photos are of the Semana Santa rituals in the villages especially of Northern Spain.There are penitents on bloody knees in the mud or on hard stones, bare feet bleeding, old women standing stoney faced as they look towards the image of Jesus on his cross, villagers in processions klu-klux clan-like walking with the stark landscape in the background, carrying the Madonna or the crucified Christ. And these statues are heavy.
There are also photos filled with humour, families eating and drinking together, children playing, young girls dressed for first communion.
My mind goes back to the beginning of the Madrid Camino, a long 4 weeks away now, back in Fontiveros. We joined a celebration , a launch of a book of poems by Sanchez-Teran. The poet wrote on my copy : “Stay within the borders”. This suddenly makes sense.
His poems are about homelessness, poverty and war Corri (run) says the title, as if evil has no borders. We run but the borders shift, even as we run.
But there are no borders to interior thought. Some things are are always present, even within the chaos of our lives, within those borders. Perhaps especially within the borders: family, friendship, home, love. Also passages named Puerta de la Luna .
Ref;Gonzalo Sanchez-Teran Y Corri si el Mal Tuviera Lindes(2022)
Ref: Cristina Garcia Rodero.Espana Oculta(1989).