Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Life of Ortigosa

We have just returned from Ortigosa. A weekend only, but enough to remember what the memory lets slip into the penumbra. That includes most of what matters, most of what gives life to a place, and what made those memories worth having in the first place. Here it the life that is to be remembered. Listed is a better word, since that is all that can be done here. But I can at least give an idea of what is there, and why it is worth seeing and feeling. And trying to remember.

Looking up it is the trees that take the eye. Most are holm oaks (Quercus ilex), thousands of them, covering the hills, dotting the fields, too, making the ploughing and the harvesting a bit more difficult. Their leaves are a dry green, like olives. Among the holm oaks are English oaks (Quercus robur), rather shorter, less majestic and with reduced foliage- you couldn't build a legend of dominion on these trees- and Savin junipers (Juniperus sabina), which are a much fresher green and a pleasant aroma. The study is panelled in savin wood, and after all these years it is still perfumed. Among the scrub are many Quercus coccifera, bright green also, and Quercus faginea, dull green again, and at the level of the ground there is in many areas a lot of rosemary- harvested from time to time to be burnt for the making of essential oils, there are two distilleries near the town- and other low herbs, thyme, sage, wormwood and so on at a length I cannot possibly do justice to. only the rosemary gives real colour, and that only briefly in spring, but the many shades of green against the many shades of red and brown of the earth, and the sprkling pale blue of the sky, give a sense of variety, more than you think natural in that place. It should be duller, more uniform. But there are vinyards close by, and a well tended vine is a fresh green, too.

In the sown areas the colour is mostly the yellow of wheat and barley, but now there are only stalks, sparsely populating the ground like the newly cut hair of young boys or old men.

More tomorrow.

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