One of my favourite parcels of time in Spain was the bus ride from Madrid to Granada. Gipuzkoa, where I had been, has quite different scenery to much of the rest of Spain; its bushy green hills very unlike the vast stretches of parched, gold-tufted land that have probably had more of a hand in shaping the Spanish spirit. Yet despite the presupposition of the imagination that dryness begets barrenness, the variety of colours and forms that I saw from the window were nothing short of enthralling. The area between Madrid and Granada was especially stimulating as the arid soil somehow still managed to give life to many green trees and shrubs.
The soil was magical, one of my favourite features. It was never one colour for several reasons: the soil type itself, whether it was fresh or set, and however shadow and light decided to transform what they fell on. On the whole the “natural” and most common colour of the dirt was pink-brown, and put like that it sounds fairly unappetising, but don’t think baby pink precipitating uncomfortably atop a brown background. The pink shines up through the brown, generating a tinge or a halo for the soil. It’s quite something to see the land as dry and so full of energy at the same time.
On much of this land a dull green tall shrub/short tree was planted in rows, forming an interesting toothbrush bristle effect against the pinky-brown terrain. The effect becomes even cooler when the base of the tree is surrounded by a circular patch of light green grass, what with the different soil colours ranging from orangey to pink brown to serious brown, and with the light leaping off the light green grass and mottling the dull green leaves. The impression is psychadelic, in this landscape you are living the mind of an impressionist.
What the overriding feeling is is that the sun doesn’t want to leave. It backs away in tiny steps and at the slowest pace possible, leaving behind the most nuanced gradations in light and shades of sky colour ever seen. You don’t quite know how brown is blue, or purple is light green, but they are. Now I know who to blame for all those mornings of abject darkness and gloom that I had to zombie through in getting ready for school in Christchurch… It was Spain! Blame Spain. It seduces the sun into staying longer than its due I’m sure.
I am reasonable in this assertion because others have observed the reluctance of light to leave this land:
“What effort it takes
for the light to leave Granada!
It weaves between the cypresses
or conceals itself under water.”
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Further on into the journey a special scene rolled into view. In the foreground, two Don Quixote windmills sat on a raised mound (too small to be a hill) within some farmland. The supportive structure was in a stout arrow shape, with a rectangular trunk of white and an arrowhead of black. The four arms were quite slender, looked to be made out of light wood and had a pretty lattice design cut into them. In the background running along a chain of hills, a modern-day wind farm was hard at work, unnaturally white pinwheels spinning continuously. The windmills on the mound were sedentary. It was perfectly a propos, the romantic and tragic Spanish windmills contrasting with the cold, almost alien appearance and efficiency of the windfarms. Necessity, fantasy, yesterday and tomorrow contained within today, symbols of history, of a people, and of globalisation that while undoubtedly has many benefits, leaves us all living in the same unimaginative country.
Now that I’ve been in Granada I know that it was one of my best travel decisions yet. Before the confirmation of experience however, it was on the heel of this windmill scene that I felt nothing but gladness over living at this very point in the timeline of the world, and that right then I was right there, in Andalucia.