Our casita here in Mairena has a south facing terrace. It’s a pleasant place. I especially enjoy watching as clouds across the valley arise, linger for a while, and then fade. The quiet spectacle always eases my mind.
Last evening I was thus engaged when the sun, contemplating the western horizon, paused a moment to add a pale peach accent to the clouds. And I heard a soft rhythm announcing the imminent arrival of Antonio’s flock coming up from the valley below. The gentle harmony of sun, cloud, and herd was so softly beautiful I might have lost myself in the wonder it.
I started thinking about that moment this morning as Ricco and I shared some quiet time waiting before getting the coffee started. When it comes to noise, I was born in the wrong century. As college roommates were blasting stereos, I was regretting the invention of amplified music. On game days at Mestalla Stadium, I doubly regretted commercial sound systems. What a dramatic contrast with days here in Mairena.
Long before sunrise, Ricco and I start our day on the tiny patio outside the kitchen door. Listening to the world awaken is a habit I began with Meg Dog back in Salem.
The first days here I mistook a murmuration. "It must be the stirring of leaves,' I though. But there was no breeze, just that sound. Gradually, I resolved the whispering of irrigation waters that have been running in the same channels for centuries.
Before first light, one voice, then many as the birds begin their chatter over the day’s agenda. So many different voices. I’d like to know them better.
We, Ricco and I, see the first vehicle, almost always a small van, long before we hear it. Headlights stabbing out over the valley, sweeping a corner, disappearing in a dip, back again, gone again, then suddenly rushing by, and finally gone leaving only a doppler memory behind. Soon the day will unfold.
The bell tower of the village church, Iglesia del Santo Cristo de la Luz, started its life as a minaret back when the church was a mosque. I was surprised when first I noticed that the church bell always rings the hour twice. Only a couple minutes separate the first and second
chiming clanking of the hour. I don’t know why the sexton always rings twice.
The cacophony of traffic was a constant back in Valencia. Here, not so much. I think fewer vehicles pass by our casita in a day than passed our Valencia apartment in an average minute.
There is one sound I don’t much appreciate. The warm south-facing walls to the house attract a plague of flies, some of whom invite themselves into the house buzzing about the inevitable coming of winter. This will pass as the days continue to cool.
My days are filled with gentle listening. As evening rolls around, like the cowboy song intimates, we "sit by ourselves in the evening breeze, listening to the murmur of the cottonwood trees..." (Turn me out forever, but I ask you please, don’t fence me in). Black poplar (Populus nigra) is the European twin of the North American cottonwood tree (Populus deltoides).
And of course, the gentle bleating and bells of Antonio’s flock down in the valley slowly building to a soft crescendo as first, shepherd and dogs, then sheep, and finally the belled goats climb the hill and pass by on their way home.
Tomorrow it will all be pretty much the same.