The sense of a place

The sense of a place

I have a different sense of this place this year. Less refuge and retreat. More? I’m not sure what word describes it. Let’s just say ‘uncertain’.

The same hillside stretches east of the tiny cortijo towards the sea. The Mediterranean is back to blue today after the dismal dishwater grey of yesterday. The sun doesn’t always shine nor the sea sparkle in southern Spain; there are wintry interludes, usually brief. Today the sea is a broad sash of steely blue with a smudged band of almost-but-not-quite-white like a huge, hazy, halo spread horizontally at the point where it meets the sky, whose uninterrupted blue fades gently to that same almost-white where it fastens itself to the sea. Sunlight and sea create sensations of light that mesmerise.

Back on land, in the same fields the almonds are, once again, reaching their peak of splendour, their canopy coiffed like a pink rinse and full perm gone wrong but in a good way; people say they’re earlier this year. Some rain of late, respectfully confining itself mostly to night-time, has dampened the dust and revived the wayside flora that looked so dead and desolate four weeks ago when we arrived. The same flowers are easing out of their buds for another season. There’s a fine yellow flower held aloft on long stems above clumps of delicate pale green leaves. I’ve tried in vain to find out what it’s called – the photos don’t quite fit, the Latin names sound too much like terminal diseases to be relevant to such a fair beauty. A species of tiny lavender thrives at the roadside waving fragile flower-heads above foliage the colour of oxidised copper.  Rosemary and thyme thread the verges too, announcing themselves boldly in the breeze, their aroma amplified in the sun. We snip sprigs casually as we pass, like seasoned foragers, just as we did last year and the years before.


Like the dark, distant ridges of the sierras that, once again turn lighter and come closer as the sun arcs daily across the sky. Like the shadowy barrancas criss-crossing one another down below, mottled with sullen, unlovely shrubs coloured somewhere between green, grey and brown. Unchanging, it seems.

This sense of it being different this year? It must be me, I suppose, after all that’s happened, all that’s shifted.

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