17 Jan Seasons
To reach our cortijo, you turn hard right off the main road that winds up to the village and meander for about a kilometre across the hillside. You pass a couple of fields, one planted with olives, the other with almonds. About 16-20 almond trees in evenly-spaced rows, tended occasionally; they don’t need much attention this time of year, I suppose.
When we arrived a couple of weeks ago, a single tree had started to blossom. It stands in the centre of the field, like an actor delivering a soliloquy in a theatre in the round. The rest of the cast are still in the wings, queuing up, it would seem, for their turn in costume and make-up.
Almond trees have a dark wood, almost black. It makes them seem ancient, wizened. During January they come back to life, an explosion of delicate blossom in shades between white and pale pink – candyfloss. Memories of primary school flit into my mind’s eye, spring-term nature projects where we would screw up pieces of tissue and stick them to trees we’d drawn on sugar paper. The roughness of the paper; the smell of the glue. The teacher would pin them up on the wall.
Yesterday, on a glorious walk up the hill behind the cortijo and across the back of the village, we followed the Ruta de las Aguas, the water walk. The rivers are dry here but rainwater collects in tanks (aljibes) linked to stone and concrete sluices (acequias) that deliver it to crops that need it. Weaving up, down and across the hillside, this walk takes you around this clever irrigation system designed by the Moors, and down to the Fuente, the communal water supply. Beside it the Lavaderos, basins for washing clothes. You can hear voices of women at work, a murmur of the past beneath the soft gurgle of water.
The main crop this time of year is oranges; they hang heavy and plentiful in gardens and little plantations. We pass almonds too, many more surging into bloom; two warm weeks working their wonder. But some still stubbornly resist, as if the buds are holding their breath. Others seem unable to make up their minds. The leavings of autumn and winter – an old husk, its contents long dropped or harvested, withered leaves curled and crinkled – somehow still attached to branches; the comings of spring – sticky buds and blushes of colour – enliven other branches of the same tree. Vestiges of decay mingling with intimations of life. Seasons conflated.
Seasons confiscated more like. Today the heat is building. This is winter. You expect some days of 21º maybe 22º, much cooler in the breeze or shade. Today it’s easily 27º or 28º; yes, cooler in the shade but with hardly a breath of air. The heat is fierce. The second day like this and more forecast. It’s difficult to imagine the summer here when midwinter is like this.