(I wrote this last year on the 14th of February, still here, still in love ..... )
I wasn’t raised to live in a city. I was educated by trees and birds and
mud and the scent of wet leaves. I hung out at hidden corners in the
forest on my own, I knew what berries to eat and what mushrooms to leave
alone. In my mind there was a map of the locations of all the chestnut
trees in places where no regular walking trail was leading.
I learned not to be afraid of the big grasshoppers jumping around in the
fava bean field when I was cutting off the tops of the plants that were
almost as tall as I was small. I developed the soft touch necessary to
hold last year’s old wrinkled potatoes in my hand without damaging the
new young roots and putting them in the small holes my grandfather had
dug in the garden. I made ink out of aok galls before I learned to write
and I made soup from rainwater and insects and rosebuds before I
learned to cook.
I still get a sense of belonging when I see a cornfield. And when I
spend time in nature a hole fills up in my heart that I had forgotten
was there all the time.
I dream of moving to the countryside. And I could. Easily. There is
nothing really that keeps me tied to this city to which I’ve been coming
back to in the last three years and I now call my home. Where I no
longer lie awake at night because the street noise invades the silence
of my room. Where my garden is a square meter slab of concrete with
plants hanging from the metal railing and crowding the area around the
tiny table and chair I sit on every day around 17.30 to catch the only
10 minutes of straight sunshine filtered by the big plane trees planted
all along the busy road.
There is little here of some of the things I always thought would be
indispensible for me to feel at ease. But because of that, the little
there is is something I cherish immensely and enjoy deeply. The avocado
plant that unexpectedly grew out of a seed I threw in some old plant
material. The lonely broccoli plant that was part of a group of 10,
overcrowding the balcony and not producing anything but leaves so they
were discarded apart from one that now, a year after I planted the
seedlings, is producing flowers that will seed and might give me more
than the 10 plants I started out with. The sound of the birds at night
attracted by the street lights. The changing patterns of the tree
trunks. The sky that is blue every day even on days when it is grey. The
word for blue in a language so different from my mother tongue. Azul. A
word like a magic spell.
So why am I still here? It is simple. It is the same old story we walk into again and again.
I fell in love. Head over heels. Love at first sight. A love that grew
stronger through time and I still don’t completely understand. A love
that was tested, I wasn’t always faithful. I always returned though. But
this winter, my third winter here, I seriously started thinking about
whether I shouldn’t make a move. Find more green under the blue, find
more silence, find more room to grow things. Replant myself. Leave her.
I am not sure if this city is feminin. My favorite blue here is masculin
by language but in other tongues the sea is feminin or neutral. Das
Meer. La mer. El mar. I stubbornly adress it as “her” as well.
Barcelona. I learned to pronounce it in the right way, even though
saying ‘th” when reading “c” still doesn’t come naturally. I understand
more and more of what the locals are saying but my speaking skills are
not what I was hoping they would be after having been around for a
quarter of a decade. In my conversations with this city it doesn’t
matter though. We understand each other somehow. I read her from my
balcony daily. I leave my footsteps in her streets in the morning when I
walk to the sea. When I need something I find it. Warm winter sweaters
folded up in a bag next to the garbage containers. Abandoned plants
about to bloom left on the sidewalk. Wine glasses. Books.
We fit each other. We feel comfortable in each other’s company. We get
tired of each other now and then. When we aren’t attentive. When we’re
caught up in our individual drama’s. Histories. Future planning.
“Maybe I should leave” I thought this morning when I walked through
narrow streets on Valentine’s day. But then she put her oddly shaped
heart at my feet, like a shooting star. And I fell for it again.
I guess I am learning about my true nature. It isn’t carved in stone.
Only sometimes for a moment. For my eyes only. I wasn't raised to live
in a city. But I wasn't raised to not live in a city either. I was
educated by nature and now I am learning from a place that happens to be
a city. And I know it is foolish to start a love affair with a place
made out of stone when you really want to be surrounded by fields and
forests and mountains. But the longing for the countryside is a vacant
plot in my body that is a good nurturing place for sprouting words. So
for now I stick to growing small stories. And she is a generous supplier