Going through life in circles. Grasshoppers, blue memories and the gift of food repeated.

Five years ago I was walking from Amsterdam to the south of France. People had adopted my walking days by giving me something to get me through "their" day. People often gave me assignments as well or asked me to think about somebody or something. 16 September 2013 I posted this:

“Day 33. Two companions today. Alison Bell asked me : "Think of past lovers and the joy they brought into your life, think of this, for all of us out there who remember and smile."
Solla asked me to use my heart today: "Ask for food, ask nature or people you meet, you can do it straight out or in a more delicate way and by giving something from your heart on that day." She asked me to really look at people, look them in the eye and see them from my heart.

I left Luc early, it was freezing cold. I sacrificed a pair of socks. Cut two small holes in them. Now they were mittens.
The blackberries were back and I ate them, hadn't seen them for days which was good because I was getting afraid my blood would turn into blackberry juice. I can't resist them.
Coffee in La Bastide-Puylaurent. I don't like asking for food or drinks. I payed. I looked the lady in the eyes. She smiled. I gave her a tip.

I had received so much already during this walk. Coffee, tea, pancakes, fruit, dinners and deserts, wine and snacks. We had been generous, the people and me. Sharing stories, chocolate, attention, smiles, food, ideas, anything. Today was a day to remember that. And smile at anybody, even on this cold day, especially on this cold day.

I thought about past lovers, about love, about being loved. And it warmed me. And there is much to say about that. Not so long ago I read Barthes' "A lovers discourse", a shocking book in a way, but I realised again we are all the same, we do the same thing again and again. Love is never a new thing, it is the same thing always. And it is true what Bobin writes:

"... love does not fill anything, not the hole you have in your head, not the abyss that you have in your heart. Love is an absence much more than a fullness. Love is a fullness of absence, this is, I grant you, an incomprehensible thing. But this thing that is impossible to understand is so very simple to live ....."

and wearing my suit, my soft armour, my body, I thought of John Berger too:

“To be so desired – if the desire is also reciprocal – renders the one who is desired fearless. No suit of armour ... ever offered, when worn, a comparable sense of protection. To be desired is perhaps the closest anybody can reach in this life to feeling immortal.”

I walked and the sun started to shine. The views were amazing. Finally I walked in the mountains without just looking at them from a distance.
There were no villages. And at some point the path I walked on turned into silver. There were hundreds of grasshoppers sitting in the sun and with every step I took they jumped up, showing the beautiful blue of their hind wings which is usually hidden.
I tried to catch the blue and I failed but it is in my memory and when I close my eyes I can see it.

I walked to Prévenchères where a friend was waiting for me. I looked him in the eye. He took me out for a very nice dinner.


The words from Alison and Solla were still in my head when I walked over to the supermarket across the street this morning. I passed the monument where last Tuesday, the Catalan National Day, people had put flowers at the feet of Casanova. The air was warm. The street was empty again, earlier today the sounds of thousands of feet running through the street had reminded me of the sea, it sounded like waves crashing on the beach and when I looked down from my balcony I saw runners in blue t-shirts in the middle of a 10 km run, la Cursa de Mercè, named after La Mare de Déu de la Mercè, Our Lady of Mercy. The legend says that in 1687 Barcelona suffered a plague of locusts and placed its fate in the hands of the Virgin of La Mercè. Once the city overcame the plague, the Council of Barcelona named La Mercè patron saint of Barcelona.

In the supermarket I saw a woman who seemed to be deep in thought. She was looking at the packed meat. When I was about to pass her she asked me if the pink slices of something that looked like pork were indeed half price. It is my regular supermarket so I know how it works: you have to buy two of the same product and you pay 50% of the price for the second one only. I explained in my bad Spanish. “Is it nice?” she asked. And then “Does it have many calories?” I wondered if she mistook me for an employee but she couldn’t have, I was wearing weird stretchy black pants and an old t-shirt without sleeves saying “I will kick you out of my house if you don’t cut that hair!!!” and even if she wouldn’t have noticed I didn’t look like a supermarket employee my Spanish would have given me away. She was wearing a running outfit but she didn’t look like she had been running 10km. “I don’t know about calories” I said, I don’t care about them. “ She slapped her rather voluminous butt, laughing, and said: “I have to!” She looked at the meat again. She wanted it but she was worried about her figure. She looked great though, she was chubby but it didn’t make her unattractive, maybe even the opposite. “It is nice meat, buy it!” I said. I had no idea if that was true. She smiled and put it in her shopping basket.

The woman at the counter greeted me and scanned my few items. She struggled with the giant water mellon, it didn’t fit on the scale and kept rolling off. I payed. Very little. And when I came home and checked the receipt I saw she hadn’t charged me for the mellon.



It feels like returning after a long holiday but it wasn´t me who was a tourist elsewhere and came back home. Other people were tourists here and I stopped going on my early morning walks when the streets were taken over by drunk tourists and the beach had turned into a party area. Today the morning silence has returned and although the beach bars are still there - they pop up in spring and disappear in the fall - and lifeless bodies are scattered on the sand as if they washed up on the shore in the night, it is quiet and and the sand is free of trash. The big ugly sign is new. An enormous cigarette butt with the puzzling text "don´t leave me in this mess" dominates the view. A different kind of polution.

I don´t see the sunrise but it must have happened because the sky is turning lighter, from dark grey to light grey. A blanket of clouds. The sea is stale blue and doesn´t care what is happening on its shore. Two big basalt blocks sticking out of the waves have been transformed into rubic cubes. A cormorant sits on one of the other blocks that has been painted bright pink and spreads its wings to let them dry in the wind.

The last photo I took of the sea is dated June 30. The meter of shame wasn´t working that day but a few days earlier it had displayed the number 857. Today the number is 1549. It almost doubled. In the last two monts almost 700 people drowned in the Mediterranean.

I sit on the sand. I look at the man grooming his dog. At the elderly couple swimming. At the treasure hunter with the metal detector. It is windy.

I am the first one to arrive at the terrace but soon after I sit down the others make their way slowly across the market square. They wear carefully chosen dresses, bright red lipstick, they look like they just came back from the hairdresser. The slowest ones, the ones behind their walking aids, are being greeted from afar by the ones who are already seated, "hola guapa!" They are beauties indeed, with their amazing wrinkles like rivers running through a landscape. I sometimes wonder if they recognise me. I am not here as often as they are, which is daily, always looking as if they dressed up for a celebration, but I am a regular here.

The waiter brings me my café con leche and calls me cariño. The sun appears.


From the balcony

I hear loud cheerful voices, laughter. “You there with the hat!” I look down. A rikshaw bike is waiting in front of the red traffic light. Three middle aged tourists wave at a young woman waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to turn green. “Nice hat!” one of the men shouts. “Thank you!” she shouts back and quickly looks at her phone. “Do you want his number?” one of the other men shouts. She answers: “No!” and the man who complimented her on her hat shouts: “No, she wants my body!”
She looks at her phone again. The traffic light turns green. The rickshaw bike starts to move. The men wave at the woman and laugh out loud. She waves back.

Not really worth writing about. Or to make a fuss about. Didn’t she wave back politely? Maybe she didn’t mind the encounter. But the fact that she responded didn’t mean she didn’t mind. She had to do something. Ignore them while waiting and risk that they would become more intrusive than they already were. Walk away and cross the street somewhere else. Or just smile and be polite and hope the light would turn green quickly. Their traffic light first. Because otherwise she had to walk past the rickshaw.

Maybe she didn’t think all of this. Maybe she thought it was normal. Or funny even. But that thought bothers me even more.