Day 24 here in Spain and the coalition government under Sánchez a few days ago announced it will extend the state of alarm until at least 26 April. After that, there might be an easing of restrictions until we’re out of the peak. The daily casualty rate is still high but has been going down for a few consecutive days. In the mornings, I don’t at the numbers like when it was still new and shocking.
I support as little movement as possible. Just writing that feels strange, because my position on travel and movement has shifted so considerably. I am one of the global 20% of the world who has ever flown on an airplane. Comparably, I guess I used to fly regularly. Now, it’s been 17 months since coming to Europe.
My livelihood doesn’t depend on going out on the streets. I’m not an essential worker nor a healthcare professional on the frontlines. Aside from the massive casualties COVID-19 has inflicted upon this country, the economic aftershock will stay with us for quite some time and I really worry about the social and political consequences. This is true for the world.
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
The troika of crises we confront; coronavirus, capitalism, and climate have further pulled me into a web of poignant questions. It’s Phase II; a shedding of what was considered normal before this, accepting new paradigms, and being prepared for either the coming socialism (it’s visibly obvious capitalism is incompatible with low-carbon future survival) or the coming barbarism.
Today was windy and rainy and it was easy to stay inside. I’ve been reading Kropotkin, waiting for a few other books to arrive. I hate Amazon, more so hearing about Chris Smalls being fired and the lies they spun about him, and really work to not rely on them as much as possible. I ordered about 8 books, most of them well over a thousand pages each, I don’t see myself using them soon. I do not link to Amazon in any way on this blog.
I was also reading about degrowth. I first heard the word in Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. It’s a critique of our globalized overconsumption. Why is it that the economy crashes when people only buy the things they really need? Most of us understand, communicated by scientists, that the planet has a few years before we head into unforeseen climate tipping points. We acknowledge that we shouldn’t fly so much anymore and we should buy more locally.
If COVID-19 and other animal viruses were caused by the human-animal interface, pushed ever more closer by deforestation practices and rapid industrialization, then we should all be thinking very seriously about how to scale things back, and fast. The myth of “infinite growth on a finite planet” has been shattered. A tiny virus has brought the whole planet to our knees with humility (with some exceptions).
Efforts to slow the spread and contain this coronavirus highlight the fragility of urban living, massive socio-economic inequities, of production for trade, a fragmented and globalised supply chain and just in time supplies — all characteristics of advanced capitalism.
Neoliberalism has led to under-resourced and overburdened health systems relying heavily on global supply chains that have fractured and warped as borders and work places close — colliding with urgent and massive demand.
No crisis could so sharply throw into relief the fragility and precariousness of capitalist societies characterised by globalised production for trade and profits; weak states led by bureaucratic elites; and a citizens experiencing anomie, individualism and alienation. But this is not a wholly new crisis, rather just a variation on an old capitalist crisis theme.
The problem is that the ruling class will have very little incentive to change course. Businesses and governments will try to bring us back to normal. But what is normal and should we even try to go back to it? This is my issue with one democratic presidential candidate who thinks of Donald Trump as some aberration. Normal is untenable.
I live in the privileged rural. Actively choosing to de-urbanize from Los Angeles and Cologne in search of a closer relationship with the natural world, not enticed by centers of culture, maybe this line of thinking comes easier to me than others.
The article finishes with this:
Degrowth advocates using one’s legs, bicycles and, to a small extent, public transport. In contrast the current coronavirus pandemic has clearly been spread much more rapidly due to travellers using aeroplanes and cruise ships. In short, another world is not only possible but also preferable.
With all this, I think of A Ribeira Sacra, the sacred riverbank in the heart of Galicia. The Ribeira Sacra is a canyon carved out by the the Sil River that straddles the provinces of Ourense and Lugo. It’s called the Sacred Riverbank in Galician because the once isolated region is home to many Romanesque monasteries from the early Middle Ages, whose monks and hermits continued cultivating vineyards and producing wine, like the Romans before them, on terraced edges of the canyon walls. It is also shortlisted for a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021.
I’ve had the pleasure to a twice; once the first time I came to Spain and the second in January; camped near Parada de Sil under a meteor-showered night sky, hiked to the hidden Mosteiro de Santa Cristina de Ribas de Sil, entered the castle of Castro Caldelas, passed through Monforte de Lemos, the unofficial capital of the region on a very cold day.
My partner and I rent a house now. It’s difficult to find rentals in Galicia outside the major cities; everyone is selling. We’ve looked at a few places to buy. While both of us have that nostalgia of traveling, living in West Africa, being free and untethered, it runs against our longing for land of our own to care for and the acknowledgement that the earth cannot sustain that lifestyle on a grand scale.
Since moving here, we’ve vacillated on the question of proximity if we were to ever purchase something; how close to a town (and ease of socializing) or how far? We have friends in Allariz now and we were looking forward to the weather turning better so we could gather outside. But we also want space to garden, and the available options with an adjacent plot of land and within walking distance are slim or unaffordable.
But now, we don’t go to town anymore, save for a weekly trip to the market. And this will ease up. Of course at some point the current situation will end, but with what consequences? What will be new forms of normal? Will I so carelessly dar dos besos to friends of friends when I meet them? Can we anticipate another autumnal virus outbreak?
Which is why I think of the Sacred Riverbank. A refuge, still populated, but less so. And perhaps this future was written for us over there; quietly cultivating a small garden, telecommuting, with an occasional bike trip to town for groceries. It’s good enough for me.
Walking up the road, climbing up to where the power lines bisect the monte, I was able to get a photo of the village. We’re down there somewhere, trying to stay warm. Not shown is the town of Allariz, where there’s more liveliness. Ourense province is wiggling its way into my heart in a profound way.
I haven’t felt ‘in the spirit’ during the holidays for a long time. Between Thanksgiving and New Years is usually the time for coming home to visit and get together with family. I’ve been away or unable to come back to California. I spent my winter vacations in Muslim-majority countries like Guinea, Morocco, and Turkey, or on the road in hostels in Sierra Leone or Colombia. Combined with my more recent uneasiness of the excessive consumption habits and waste between Black Friday and New Years and no real commitment to the Christian component of the holiday, you probably don’t want me anywhere near your holiday party.
We do our own thing wherever we are. And recently that has turned into hiking on the holidays.
When Patricia and I were in the States for the summer, I used a hiking app called AllTrails to find great loop routes that were suitable for dogs and a manageable length. But In Europe, there were fewer routes in AllTrails’ database. So I was happy to find Wikiloc, a similar community-added route database and phone app. It’s also made in Girona, Spain! Apps like this allow you to search for and record your movement to upload them for others, adding waypoints, photos, descriptions, and data (elevation change, distance, etc.).
Patricia has been taking a basketweaving course from the Escola de Cestería in Santa Mariña de Augas Santas, a village of around 50 people to the north of Allariz with an immense church. She told me how beautiful the village was, so we looked up a hike that started there on Wikiloc and took off.
So many things about Galicia impress me. But the opportunity to easily encounter so much history in nature always leaves me dumbfounded. Spain is a living museum. And the national, regional, and municipal governments of the country, as well as private foundations and local initiatives, preserve their historical and cultural heritages. In the short hike, we encountered the unfinished Basilica da Asunción built above a crypt named Os Fornos.
It is here that the cult of Santa Mariña de Augas Santas started, a Roman teenager martyred for her belief in Christianity. From what I can understand, Santa Mariña caught the attention of the Roman prefect Olibrio, who fell in love with her, and punished her severely for his unrequited affections. She was miraculously healed from her injuries during her torture. Then, they tried to burn her alive down in the crypt of Os Fornos before San Pedro rescued her.
A short distance away from the Basilica and Os Fornos, we found a tree surrounded by a small stone wall and a pool of water. This is the tree under which Santa Mariña was beheaded and martyred for her Christian faith. Supposedly a spring of water welled up from the earth where her head hit the ground.
We continued the trail and looped around a bit to the small hamlet of Armeá, where a local man discovered an “enigmatic” archaeological site. Specialists hypothesize it would’ve been a big lodging for people in the first century arriving from the south of Roman Gallaecia.
Christmas Day: O San Salvador and Roimelo
On Christmas Day, we didn’t plan any hike. But a short walk up the monte to stretch our legs turned into a trip to O San Salvador, a small village up the road. The village is nestled in a small, rocky valley. Like many depopulated places, it has a church that seems enormous relative to its current population. We didn’t meet anyone who lived there, and being Christmas Day, we didn’t want to bother anyone either. I checked the census data when we returned home and in 2017, there were three inhabitants.
A few meters from the village is a path heading to a castelo. Arriving at the top of the hill, we saw some ruins but left quickly as we heard the holiday-enjoying hunters and dogs close, which usually makes us nervous with the dog.
After we arrived back home, we bought a YogurtNest, a yogurt maker and slow cooker that doesn’t require any electricity, as our gift to each other and the house.