Six Seventy Four

It has been almost two years since leaving my life in Mauritania. Since then, my wife and I attended my brother’s wedding in California, backpacked for a year from Mexico to Peru, spent the summer visiting family and friends in the United States, took a road trip with a Prius and a tent from California to Oklahoma and back, wintered outside Madrid, bought and converted a campervan, and took two three-week trips before finally reaching in Cologne yesterday. We had been planning this move for months but we wanted to wait for the winter. And the extra months in Spain gave me the opportunity to really improve my Spanish comprehension.

And now, a new chapter emerges; living in a city, navigating life in a new language, project-based work with friends, and another region to explore.

Fanā

Laying down and ready
Strummed guitar strings slow,
Not even heard anymore.
The vision closes in and packs up
Runes, hieroglyphs, totems, masks,
Everything ancient collides into an single atom.

Of course, all this is the same,
Gifted from One Source.
Idols of the mind meet on an illusory Earth
And produce distance, distraction.
So much searching for something already here,
Closer to me than my jugular vein.
But who will listen?

Falling now,
Through the cushions, the floor
Underground and now,
Into deep, dark cosmos.
No mind, no body, no bother.
Melted into and meshed with something
Vast and Majestic.

Light on top of Light,
It is so crystal clear now.
A multiverse, rays of warmth
Reflected inward and outward
Like an empty house of mirrors.

No panic, only consuming Peace.
Reverberations of a single frequency hit
Where my head once was.
A silent whisper written onto my heart,
They need to remember.

Coming out
Bathed in the moonlight,
Awakened, fearless and ready.

A Rainy Week In Southwestern France

  • After leaving Spain we drove north, past French Basqueland and into the Parc Naturel Régional des Landes de Gascogne for a night outside of Sabres. In the morning, we drove into town and bumped into the twice-weekly farmers’ market, which was perfect because we needed veggies and cheese.
  • The weather was terrible so we kept driving, through Bordeaux and close to Angoulême to visit a second natural regional park, the Parc Naturel Régional Périgord-Limousin.
  • Regional natural parks in France are “inhabited rural areas recognized at a national level for the value of its heritage and landscapes which form part of a concerted sustainable development effort to protect and promote that heritage”, according to a brochure I got of activities and patrimonial sites in Brantôme. Périgord-Limousin has a five point action plan to work towards that:
    • Point I: improve water quality in the three heads of the drainage basins
    • Point II: preserve the diversity
    • Point III: encourage improvement of local resources as part of a sustainable development drive
    • Point IV: combat climate change
    • Point V: strengthen local identity and social networks
  • It’s inspiring to see local communities (network of villages, museums, nearby castles, restaurants, workshops and seasonal, holiday businesses) organize to promote economic good and environmental sustainability.
  • The problem for us is we’re passing through in March. It’s low season, so many things are closed or unavailable due to weather. It’s been raining off-and-on the whole week, with only a few moments of fleeting sun before being swallowed by the clouds. There aren’t as many hiking trails around these parks.
  • There hasn’t been much of an opportunity to meet French people this trip either. Everyone is at work, school, or inside and we haven’t visited any hotels, restaurants, or cafés.
  • In any case, we have a destination and we keep ourselves pointed that way. How is southwestern France? Beautiful, green, rainy, somnambulant, elusive.

Artazu and Puente La Reina

Navarra is breathtaking; lush hills and valleys, villages and churches built with ancient stone, a distinctive Roman bridge, wind turbines, and the requisite Basque aupa in response to hola! While we just arrived from Logroño yesterday, I’m astounded by how much there is to see just outside Pamplona. I read Navarra leads Europe in the use of renewable energy and Spain in education.

We spent yesterday night near Artazu, a village on the Arga river. The air was much warmer than the night before, and we opened the back door of the van to take advantage of our new two burner camping stove.

The next morning we walked a loop around our camping spot next to a small ermita meeting some Sunday cyclists on the way back. We did our daily cleaning (hand broom, vacuum, shake dog bed, etc.) and took off. A few kilometers away is Puente La Reina. It’s the meeting point of the camino francés and camino aragonés and there are guest houses and restaurants catered towards pilgrims.

We stopped at Casa Martija mostly to charge the MacBook but enjoyed a delicious vegetarian torta de txantxigorri with a coffee. As we walked through the town, signs of the massive national huelga feminista were everywhere. It is amazing to see how much feminism permeates even small towns.

Finding a good camping spot can be tricky some days. We try heading down a bumpy road only for it to lead nowhere. Or we rely too much on coordinates found on a van camping app and it ends up being underwhelming.

But other times, we find those gems through no doing of our own; empty patches next to rivers tucked away, or a dirt road winding up into farmland outside the city. We’ve learned a lot camping through California to Oklahoma and with the van in Andalusia. One things keeps resonating with us; don’t force anything.

On our way back from the afternoon’s walk, we were treated to grandeur.