Letter from Asturias

I am in Asturias, in Spain. Up in the hills above a town called Santa Marina on a little peak called Pico Los Rozos.  We are staying in a small farmhouse here, composed of three or four buildings of which we occupy a room.  From here the views are extremely pleasant, full of contours and angles and on top of some hills are wind power generators. I notice most of all the silence, so profound that each noise, when it does reach me, is magnified and travels long distances.  The sound of bees and flies and insects of all types, which I think I recall now only from childhood (so much urban living), almost numbs my ears if there are more than just a few buzzing past.  I hear the clanking bells around cows’ necks, but it is difficult to pinpoint the source of the noise, as the wind — a noise in itself — spreads the sonic waves, so that you feel at times surrounded.

This is a lonely place too, and I have told myself that it prepares you for the loneliness of the years ahead. For when one chooses to live apart and in a more solitary manner.  It is a good experience, because it reduces the glamor and idealism that can cloud a life of solitude — I know in many ways it would be extremely hard.  Many, if not all, of the homes here hold onto slopes; it is rare to see level ground.  Large valleys and gorges filled to bursting with trees and plants cut between the hills, drawing water to the coast from the mountains.  On some days clouds fill in these valleys and the sky seems to press the hills with a soft palm that darkens the tone of the trees and my mood. There are many places where land drops away and you feel as if you should soar out over the valleys, lifted by currents.  The landscape propels you to this.

One day we went to the coast, to a lighthouse where the cliffs drop away, and on all sides the boom of the ocean claiming and re-claiming rocks that fell a thousand years past.  The wind cut across the outcropping. I felt the call of the air and the siren of disorientation and it seemed as if the wind was lifting me from my feet, urging me to the sky among the gulls and the cormorants.  There is material for many mythologies among the fallen rocks and hidden caves, where one reckless gust can alter the landscape.

I am unsure still, as I lie and listen to the suggestion of a coming rain.  What is this solitude that I think of? Is it a formless impossibility of my imagination? Does it have substance and shape, like my two sons? Or is it something more akin to the love I hold for them, at times overpowering and at others like a teasing breeze across my skin?  Which is the more real — solitude or love? The two of them.

I hear and see a kite looping over the valley in front of me.  It rises in sweeping circles and cries until it glides along in one direction, overhead, closer to a hidden sun.


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