Weaving thoughts

I like to tell myself I got as close to thinking like a sheep when I became obsessed by apples, but I don’t know if that is true. For weeks I walked with them and no walk was the same. It was the best part of the day, the two best parts of the day, the hours after sunrise and the hours before sunset. I never knew what would happen, where we would go. They didn’t know either, but they were in charge, as long as they didn’t try to go where they weren’t allowed to go, which weren’t many places. I counted them now and then, to make sure they were all there, 19 black and 21 white ones, but they themselves didn’t perceive each other as coloured differently. The lambs randomly approached ewes of any colour and appearance until they found the proper scent. I sometimes tried to bleat like them if I wanted their attention and it sometimes worked, but just as often they ignored me. Now and then I wondered what they were thinking, but the only moment I had the feeling I knew was just after I let them out and they started running. “Apples!” While I observed them eating, listened to them chewing, I ate an apple myself. Afterwards, in the wide open fields, I collected their favourite plants of the moment. While they were grazing, I was picking: wild plants, tree leaves, grass, the same things they were eating. Apples were their favourites though and wherever we went, there was always an apple tree close by. At home, a yellow house we kept warm with a wood fire, I turned everything into ink: different kinds of green material, plums, the charcoal from our stove, giving me a whole range of colours.

The best teachers don’t tell you what to do. They make you wonder, question yourself and your actions, they don’t give you the answers, they just show you a way to move through life. Literally, in this case.

Does spinning thread out of wool from sheep you herded bring you closer to them because your fingers sense something about the specific sheep the wool is from, or does it - even when it is necessary and first of all for their own benefit to shear them - widen the gap because you are turning something that was originally, before they were domesticated, meant to keep them warm and protected only, into a human product? I didn’t know what was the right answer, I just knew it was another way to be in the moment, like walking with them was. When I was spinning wool, my mind stopped spinning. I spun for hours at length and even considered spinning a thread as long as the distance between the sheep’s grazing grounds and the gallery where the artist-shepherds would present their work, until I realised spinning an 18 kilometre thread would take forever.

Apples were everywhere, it wasn’t just the sheep eating them every day. I made apple sauce, apple compote, dried apple slices and since there was no oven I could only dream of apple pies. When visiting local events, there were baskets of apples to welcome people. The trees around the house carried big yellow apples and smaller pink ones, sturdy green and cute little red crab apples for which the sheep broke through the fence one afternoon because they were irresistible, perfectly sheep bite-sized. Sour apples and deliciously sweet apples, most of them not perfect enough to be able to make it into a supermarket, but even the ones that didn’t taste great had the potential to turn into a whole new tree. Sometimes when I thought I was drawing an apple, it turned out to look more like a planet.

If I didn’t hide the balls of thread I had spun, the little cat that had entered the house as a wild creature a week after I arrived, stole them and unspun them under my bed. I was delighted the first time I found the result of our collective actions. In my mother tongue, the purring sound of a cat is called spinning because it sounds like a spinning wheel. She sat on my shoulder whenever I was typing on my Apple computer, which wasn’t very often because I preferred the apple world I was sharing with the sheep.


My apples are for human consumption only. When you look at them, remember that they contain what the sheep ate and what remained of the wood that kept me and everybody else in the house - my fellow shepherd, our host and our guests - warm. Feast on them with your eyes. They are not perfect but they are not supposed to be, they are the complete harvest - some unripe, some rotten - of the last two days I was in Kabeliai. I didn’t draw them to resemble apples but “to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination”, as John Berger wrote so beautifully about the act of making something visible through drawing. I don’t know what they are, only that they are just as much sheep and shepherd as they are apple.

Title: Gravitating (natural inks on paper)

we think we own what is inside the skin
we store the heaviness within us
whereas the lightness of its being
could easily repair us

Title: Gravitas (birch bark, black and white sheep wool, red thread)


A random day


At 6.30 the darkness starts to lift and the blackbird sings his song. I don't know if it is the same one, the song sounds the same every morning and the bird looks the same but they might take turns and maybe they think the same about the person sitting on the balcony at that hour. I also wonder if I am the same person I was yesterday when I was sitting here, waiting for the black to turn into a deep blue. The streets are still empty at this hour, the first cars start to drive by, people walking the sidewalk to get to work, dog walkers, a sleep deprived father with a baby on his chest, two young girls coming back from an all night party, laughing just a little too loud, underdressed for the early morning temperature.

My route is the same every morning. Across the street they call the new Soho, along the triangular square with the church I never entered, past the stairs where later in spring the steps will be covered in little yellow flowers and later on in the morning a man will throw bread crumbs out of the window that will attract dozens of pigeons. The fountain under the trees where a multitude of little birds chirp and chatter, through the street with the homeless man sleeping under a soft brown blanket on the windowsill of a shop window, along miniature fenced off gardens carefully planted around tree trunks. The sky is my favorite shade of blue now, a melancholic blue, warm and cold at the same time. Street cleaners pass by now and then, the streets are wet, not because it has rained but because they desinfect the city every day.

It gets busier close to the train station but the little ally next to it is devoid of people. The hole in the earth, where parts of the Roman wall still stand, is empty. Sometimes little improvised bedrooms are installed in the far away corners, matresses and shopping carts with random belongings, picked up from the street. Grafiti is covering the walls, colourful tags, the Catalan flag, three windows have been covered for ages in the letters VA GI NA. Every time I pass it I wonder what on earth was going on in the mind of the person who sprayed it there. Was it meant as an offensive word? Some obnoxious kids who said "let's write VAGINA!" Or was it the opposite, somebody who thought it is a word we shouldn`t be afraid to use? Probably not. I feel the urge to add another body part. Earlobe maybe. Or hippocampus.

The last stretch goes through Barceloneta, the former fishermen`s quarters. These days there aren't a lot of fishermen living there. The beach is not a natural beach, it was constructed before the olympics, to make it more attractive for visitors. Nowadays, tractors straighten the beach every morning. Cleaners pick up the pieces of nature that are annoying for bathers. Driftwood, jellyfish, but also the endless amount of trash that is left by the tourists.
The sun is about to rise from the waves, there is a small audience spread out across the sand, the view is slightly spoiled by little figures on paddle boards. I prefer the days when the weather is less glorious and there is nothing on the water surface apart from the big fishing boat in the far distance surrounded by hungry seagulls.

On my way back I cross the Plaça del Poeta Boscà, for a while I thought it had something to do with a poet from the forest, bosque, until I realised it was his name, Joan Boscà There is a monument dedicated to him on the corner where I always drink my coffee. It doesn't look like a monument, more like a weird construction part of the underground garage one can enter just next to the monument.
The regulars are not there anymore. Some of them are still around, the younger ones, but the two sisters, always meticuously dressed, wearing red lipstick and looking as if they were ready to go to a party, have not been around. Jordi - I only know his name because the woman were always greeting him when he walked up from the newspaper stand - who used to be there at exactly five minutes after nine, seating himself at ¨his¨ table next to mine, has not been around. Maybe they didn`t survive the pandemic. Or maybe they moved out of the city. Others have been absent as well. These days I seem to be one of the last regulars at this terrace.
A man with a plastic cup in his hand asks me for money. I don`t have any coins on me and I say sorry but he doesn`t mind. He smiles and takes my hand and kisses it and wishes me a good day. I can`t help thinking that it is still unsafe to let a stranger kiss your hand but I deem it unhealthier to live with these conditioned responses to unexpected affection and let him hold my hand a bit longer. He continues his little journey, still smiling. I smile as well, order another coffee and search for Joan Boscà’s poetry online.

Amor es todo quanto aquí se trata;
es la sazón del tiempo enamorada;
todo muere d'amor o d'amor mata;
sin amor no veréyes ni una pisada;
d'amores se negocia y se barata;
toda la tierra en esto es ocupada;
si veys bullir d'un árbol una hoja,
diréys que amor aquello se os antoja

Love is everything treated here;
it is love's season;
all dies of love or kills for love;
without love you'll see hardly a footstep;
with love, you trade and barter;
the entire world is thus occupied;
if a tree's leaf buds
you will say that love tickles your desire.

Joan Boscà (1490-1542)


Here now

 It has been a while since I've been here. March 2020. I realise it is when we went into lockdown.



To believe

De lamentatione

Incantation of tempest
A new doom
Purple noise

Old ocean

How I learned to earn rewards

Wrap your troubles in dreams
Climb that mountain

(the poetry in the titles of my Spotify New Releases weekly song list)

This song title didn't make it in the poem but sort of says the same thing in sound: Ben Lucas Boysen, Medela


Letter to a dear friend

Dear Larry,

It has been a while since I wrote to you. The last time was November 15, 2019. It was a cold beautiful night and I was sitting outside on the terrace at Sanilles, the place where we finally met, in 2016, after having corresponded for years. My friends had organised a Natural Farming course there, in the Spanish Pyrenees and had invited you to cross the ocean. It was the first time you were teaching a week long course about Natural Farming and a lot of people had gathered from around the world, you were a hero to some of them but when they met you and listened to you they also realised you were the most humble person, dedicated to being in service to others, to nature. Not only wise but also very funny and fun to be around with. I think true heroes are like that. People who subtly and slowly, with a lot of care and dedication change the world. And show us that we can all be heroes. There is no big or small.

We met there again in 2017. This time I didn’t participate in the course but I helped out in the kitchen. In the breaks or in the evening we would sometimes sit on the bench outside drinking a glass of wine while staring at the big mountains, talking about how we were all each others teachers but that the forest around us and the big mountains in the distance were our main teachers really. Of course I thought about you when I sat there again last November and the moonlight lit up those mountains beautifully. I wrote you straight away but I never got an answer. I received the sad news a few days later. I don’t know if my words ever reached you but it doesn’t matter really.

The first two things I wrote down in my notebook from that first Natural Farming course in 2016, were the words you started your teaching with.

“Soil is my entry into the kosmos. I’ve been madly in love with it all my life.”

And something Fukuoka-san said: “We can’t understand soil but we can become it.”

After I heard about your passing, alongside the gratefulness I felt for having been able to spend time with you, to have learned from you, to have laughed with you, I felt sad about not being able to share words and thoughts with you any longer. I knew you would always be my friend and teacher, like you always had been, in presence or in absence but something had changed now. It took me a while though before I realised that my last letter to you, on the 15th of November, doesn’t have to be the last one. I can still write you letters, I can still share things with you and ask you things. But I will have to walk through the forest now to get an answer. Sit on my balcony and look at my plants or at the sky. Climb mountains. Stick my hands in the soil. You’ll be there.

Once, when you were working on your book, you wrote me about your struggle with words. “Words can only take you so far” you wrote. “Even for poets like my favorites, William Blake and Walt Whitman. And Sensei had the same frustration”. Words are useless in a way. But I still don’t know what I would do without them. And I wonder who I would be if I wouldn’t have read The One Straw Revolution, which led me to you and all the other books and words for which you were responsible. Words that will continue to spread an important message.

We have all that. We have amazing memories of you. I am tempted to write about the boat club in Barcelona as well where you pretended to be a genuine captain and boat owner, putting on dark sunglasses to make it more convincing. And the look on your face when we stepped out of the metro, babbling and joking and you turned around and stood in the shade of Gaudi’s magnificent unfinished cathedral. But this letter would become too long then. And I have - well, have …. they’re not mine so I am happy I can share them here, the words you wrote me when we were talking about a recent death: "Life is a constant unfolding. Always, things come into existence, grow, mature and die. It is all happening at once, all the time. We are part of it and cannot become attached. Well, we can, but at risk of sorrow ….. I’m no guru or anything, but the simpler life becomes the closer to reality you get, and to my way of thinking, that's a good thing. But still, in times when you are struggling with loss you just have to, I don't know, get through it and let time heal. ….. Gotta go for now!"

Gotta go for now. I like that last line, even when it gets a different meaning when I read it again now. And I like those words. I did become attached though and I guess everybody who knew you became attached as well. How could we not have. And we are sad. But equally happy. Because loosing somebody makes you aware of how much you gained. Still I would have given something very dear to me to sit on that bench with you once more. But who knows, maybe we are there still. Like you might be in all those places with all your friends where you are in their memories of you.

I imagined how much fun it would be if you would walk around your own memorial service today incognito. I bet we would have recognised you by your arm gestures. Or maybe because you forgot to take off your Mu Landscaping sweater. Or because we recognised your jokes.

Take care, dear friend. I’ll go on a little walk to the sea now to hear your reply. There are many trees on the way and not too much soil in sight but I know it is everywhere under the concrete of the city.


At the heart of things

First the world appeared and then it disappeared. Sometimes because it covered itself in darkness or hid in low hanging clouds. Sometimes because my gaze was directed inwards instead of outwards. Nature does that. It draws you in. And when you withdraw into yourself it is only because you are nature as well. In your smallness you are a world in itself. A world within a world. Moving through both at the same time. In matching speed sometimes, slower or faster in one than the other at times. The stones in my pockets rattling in the rhythm of my steps.


Morning song

Sunday morning. The starling is doing its daily broadcast from the neighbour's antenna. Old tunes and new ones. We are listening.