Bram, who first introduced himself to me as “practically five” and then turned five last week, was telling me about the Cami El Font, just down the road from the residency, a shrine to the Virgin Mary perched above a green filmy pool topped with leaves and buzzing mosquitoes.
I came across it by accident in what I hoped would be something like a run but was more of a jaunt, where I stopped and looked at the wild rosemary and bamboo, and a butterfly with zebra stripes. And ate some wild blackberries and these tiny blueberries that grow on dark red branches. Then I found the Cami El Font, which Bram described as “like someone’s house with a pool that you can dive into when you’re hot.”
It’s very hot in El Bruc and the kids go with their dad Eric to the village pool most days. As soon as the day crosses into late afternoon, the Mont Serrat mountains push a cool breeze out onto the village which I feel if I keep the range in my sight. The mountains look like they were formed by someone letting clay fall through their fingers, and they change color from hour to hour.
Just last week, I got to talking with eight-year-old Isla about the nature of reality. She has long curly brown hair and reminds me of my self as a kid. She asked me if I believe in mermaids or wizards or good wizards or ocean fairies (who keep the ocean safe) and nature fairies (of which she informed me she is one). The she asked, “Do you remember being a kid and saying you believe but not knowing if you believe? Like my friend told me that I swim like a mermaid when we were playing Mermaid, but I know she’s not saying that I am mermaid just that I swim like one, which all that means is, I’m a good swimmer.”
Later that day, I was sitting with David and Didi and Surabhi and we were talking about how David used to work at a cheese store. He told us cheese can only be sold in the dairy section if it is more dairy than vegetable oil, which is why cheese is always in two different sections in the market. We talked about the cheese here and how delicious it is and then Didi, who works as a teaching artist for young kids, said, “Which do you think is more difficult to replicate, a smell or a taste?”
I went inside and talked to Marcel who likes to tease me for not eating fish and brought out a pile of long sheath-like creatures, which he said are called “cuchillos,” or knives, and I said, “Oh, wait, scissor—I mean, razor, clams!” And he touched their white thick insides and they moved. And then he told me about cooking: “What would it be like for you if every day you had to write a book and it had to make everybody happy. And then the next day you had to write a different book that made everybody happy? That is cooking.” And I told him how I like writing about food because it always leads to memory. And he said, “Yes, but very few can describe a smell. They can only say something is like something else. Then he said that the housekeeper Coco uses cleaning stuff and it then makes the whole house smell like something different. Then I told him that I had noticed the smell of her cleaning stuff and that it was familiar to me and smelled like herbs but mainly like basil. And he said, ”Like!” And pointed at me.
I was going to throw in the towel as far as writing was concerned today but then I picked up The Waves by Virginia Woolf, and read about kids playing games outside, which gave me a lot of comfort and made me want to write:
“I see a globe,” said Neville, “hanging down in a drop against the enormous flanks of some hill.”
“I see a crimson tassel,” Said Jinny, “twisted with gold threads.”
“The leaves are gathered round the window like pointed ears,” said Susan.
“A shadow falls on the path,” said Louis, “like an elbow bent.”
“Islands of light are swimming on the grass,” said Rhoda. “They have fallen through the trees.”
“The stalks are covered with harsh, short hairs,” said Jinny, “and drops of water have stuck to them.”
“A caterpillar is curled in a green ring,” said Susan, “notched with blunt feet.”
In the dry green hills of this landscape I feel at home because it looks just like Southern California where I grew up—minus the bougainvillea, which I love to miss.