Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Beauty of Water

I mentioned in passing that the lakes are full and the animals fairly chipper. It occurs to me that I should now expand on those remarks, as they are things which mark very vividly the character of the area, and so greatly affect the ascetic enjoyment of those of us lucky enough to be idle in the midst of it.

The lakes come and go over an irregular cycle lasting some years, as they are fed by an underground aquifer that collects water mainly from the mountains well to the east. When it doesn’t rain there for some time, and it doesn’t rain much in this part of the world, the lakes begin to dry up. Some of them disappear completely, others shrink to a pool or a channel near the middle, and huge expanses of dried mud, which people use as beaches, and the many feet of karstic formations are completely revealed. This is interesting but not attractive, and it means the usual bathing areas become unusable, and the people whose livelihood depends on selling beer to the tourists begin to contemplate the sacrifice of their first born.

Then it rains, and it all begins to change. This spring it has rained a lot, on and on it went, week after week. We love rain here, because it’s an agricultural region (wheat, barley, olives, grapes mostly) and the ground can become barren very quickly without it, and even drinking water can get scarce at times, but there’s only so much rejoicing you can do when you’re beginning to wonder why you bothered leaving England.

Anyhow, it rained a lot this spring (we don’t usually have spring as such, it just shifts from winter to summer over the course of a few days), and when we arrived here, expecting to see some improvement on last year, we found flowing waterfalls, brimming lakes teeming with fish, crystalline currents rushing, turning into crashing white-foamed arcs digging out holes in other great swirling pools. All bathed in bright sunlight (until the evening when storms arrive) and full of people, of course. I ask again the eternal tourist's question, ‘Do other people have to enjoy this, too?’

The land is green. There is a short period of the year, that very short spring, when the land is green, not quite the bright green of northern Europe, or even northern Spain, the green of places that have a lot of rain, and vegetation that can make the most of that rain, but definitely green. Spotted, in places carpeted, with red poppies, blue rosemary, purple lavender, and yellow things of various kinds. It’s as varied and as colourful as it ever gets here, and you learn to enjoy it until it all goes dry and brown again in a few weeks.

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