Notes while walking

I wave my partner off on the train.

Half my heart making its way across the peninsula; the uncertain hope your loved one will return home. If I had a hanky, I would wave it.

I am unsure in this city that may be home, or not.

Then a tug – a reminder to walk, breaking asphalt into country tracks; blocks replaced by blossoms, breeze and birds.

The cornfields glow in praise of early risers. I walk past huertos tilled and toiled with such care that I am sure they are growing love itself in those beds. Sunflowers turn their heads to watch me and the sun walk by.

Onto the little path down, down into the forest where I used to hold my breath as I passed through; wishing for a dog to keep me safe from the fears that skulk and skitter in my mind, lodged there by news and life.

A trickle of the river accompanies me, no longer the winter torrent, and I name it as I cross over and back, learning the seasons through water. An acequia quenches the fields and parches somewhere else.

Chirping, cricking, buzzing in the long grasses. A shuffle of movement or scurry of fear at my footsteps. A burble of water tumbling over old trunks or the hush of absence where man has dammed it.

Clouds. Hazy layers languish overhead until the heat melts away their indolence. Later they will storm in again tall as castles, hail, thunder and lighting raining down from fluffy ramparts.

Wildflowers alive like disco lights rebel against the dead grass. A dandelion leans into the wind waiting to be blown into purpose.

Looking up at the trenches on the hill I want to shout: boys, there are red butterflies where you shed your blood, and they know nothing of war.

Hay cut and stacked leans to the side like a farmer´s tired hip.

And light and water and birdcall.

Is there anything more alive than this?

And people tell me I should come home. But they do not understand that snails grow like flowers here, roots stretch under water and home is anywhere you listen to and love.

Images and text © Carys Shannon, 2021

Armchair Travel: Lecco, Italy #2

At the Lido

At the Lido

A swan circles in close patrolling the lido steps.

A white haired Italian lady arrives early shaking her towel and announcing her desire to ‘take the sun’ today.

There are couples who come only for a quick photo. One that turns into takes and re-takes smiling only when they push the button.

A paddle board glides across the water; silent as if appearing out of the last of the morning mist. Two teenage girls sit cross legged on top tossing their long hair and giggling. There is a third younger girl sat on the very end of the board her legs moving in the water. Her only job is to paddle the newly found sophistication of the others around the lake. Her face is upturned to the sky, eyes closed and smile wide.

Women wear bathers not bikinis here.

There is a loud cheer for the first person to jump from the lido into the promising green water of the lake. It is a woman and her euphoria disappears when she realises the great task of getting herself from the lapping water back onto the wooden jetty. Everyone looks away as she hoists herself up onto one of the vertical jetty poles, clambering and turning like a bad dancer.

Bombastic boys bask in the best days of their youth; they arrive noisily but no one minds as they shove and shout to each other their energy reminding us of what it was like in those golden days. They whip off t-shirts and shorts but there in their trunks the jostling stops as they wonder who will be bravest to jump in first.

The swan returns circling carefully and watching the action for food or danger.

The morning mist takes leave of the water and returns it to the turquoise of daytime.

Then a splash, the natural order of things meant the best looking of the boys dived in first feeling the pressure of his group and not wanting to lose his place. His entry is met with jubilant whoops and cries of delight from his gang. The other sunbathers smile indulgently. Four boys follow him like bullets and leave only their largest friend on the side still cheering loudly but unwilling to jump.

The colours roll green and grey from the mountains through terracota rooftops and down to the emerald green of the water.

The boys use their large friend to jump easily out of the water pulled up by his great height. His smile is wide this time. They settle in for sunbathing. All is peaceful.

The lake retains a stillness and only a large boat cruising in the distance makes the water lap hurriedly against the wood of the lido.

The paddle board enters from the other side this time. The silver haired lady chuckles as the boys’ heads bob up in a line. The younger sister this time steals the limelight by managing a standing dive into the water. The two sisters scrabble to follow her, trying desperately to keep their hair out of the water; false laughter covering their irritation.

The nonchalant gaze of the boys wills the girls to swim over to the lido. The circles between the girls and the lido as if warning them off. The older girls scrabble aboard pulling their younger sister up only to push her off again cruelly. But she is fearless, untouchable in her connection with the lake and simply glides alongside them; a smiling mermaid.

One by one the bathers leave the afternoon heat for a shady lunch somewhere.

When all is quiet the swan makes her final circle of the lido; a soloist waiting for her applause.

© Carys Shannon, September 2020. 

Armchair Travel: Lecco, Italy

By the Lakeside

This is the first post in a series called Armchair Travel. It’s not a travel guide or a list of ‘must do’ things; it is simply the photos I took interspersed with the notes that I wrote in my notebook.

By the Lakeside:

“I am at the lakeside watching the clouds rise and roll over the high peaks set over the greenish water. There is peace here. Quietude. The sense of being in the company of others much older than I – the cliffs; those sentinels; eternal observers; guardians of the lake perhaps? Last night the lake was celestial. Water like liquid silver with a heavy mist hanging over every upright shape; transforming them; softening everything into pastel colours. There must be legends here, there is too much magic for a human mind not to have been driven deep into its own imagination.

How many people have sat here, at this lakeside, over thousands of years? How many people have watched the clouds, felt the freshness of a breeze over the water, the steady presence of the rock? And before that? What has lived here, thrived, died and decayed? And why do we feel the need to set ourselves so much apart from that? Is it our collective fear of death? That which makes us cling to life, to our possessions, to what we think we can control… I wish we used the word ancestor more.”

© Carys Shannon, September 2020.