Paranoid poem

We see faces everywhere, literally and figuratively – it can be fun but I recall as a very small child being shy of a stranger’s gaze. to the point of having to hide. Taken from the Wellcome exhibition I constructed this diptych and the following lines ensued, in alliterative form:

Pity the poor paranoid
packaged up with people
part mask, part humanoid
prying through the pineal

Seeing the personified
pareidolia emoticon
til psychosis predisposed
puberty’s phenomenon

Peering, peeking, open eyes
panic stricken after birth
persecution in the gaze
purgatory is hell on earth

see. pareidolia (par-i-DOH-lee-a)

The image summoned the existential catchphrase of Sartre’s ‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’ (Hell is other people). Not a pretty sight but still am joining in with Poetry Pantry on Sunday.

In the shadow of the Guadarrama

Walking with donkeys in the Sierra de Guadarrama (source)

I’m joining in with Jo’s Monday walk with a synopsis of a three-day trek in the Sierra de Guadarrama. Not so much dancing with wolves – though they are here – as walking with donkey.

This Spanish adventure was on my agenda a year ago, just before a back operation. Intended as a goal to healing and a certificate of recovery, it proved to be better than anticipated, although there were brief moments of a step too far.

I prepared for the trip by signing up for Spanish lessons – not only is it insulting to visit a country without bothering to learn anything of the language but also in the pueblos of Castile & Leon en route, very little English is understood. Besides I love the language and aim to be fluent before having to say my final adiós (I am trusting to longevity!) Just a month or so before, I also joined the local gym to do some leg strengthening exercises.

The travel company provided all the routes, detailed directions, hostelries and transfers and so all I needed for support were these three:

I’m not a natural-born traveller and the whirlwind of flying London to Madrid, train to Segovia and barely a glimpse of this fine city before being whisked by travel company car to Navafría is somewhat disorienting – but the contrast is well worth the loss of equilibrium. Gradually the calm and quiet tempo settle into the bones and swapping four-wheels for four furry legs is enchanting.

And so begins the journey of a thousand miles or rather 13-15 km per day unless you inadvertently stray, and approximately 5-6 hours, but only if you do not permit your donkey to dine on the wealth of verdage at each and every step.

The walks are indeed scintillating though necessarily impressionistic if one is to attend to every nuance of direction. I recall incessant bird song, rushing rivers, picturesque bridges, aromas of wildflowers and herb crushed underfoot, willow and oak, lone flocks with dogs barking at our approach, as vociferously as if we were a couple of wolves in sheeps clothing.

There are isolated churches with storks nesting in the towers, villages with every living soul seemingly engaged elsewhere, and cattle herds with menacing horns, free roaming or shielded behind stone walls. And all set in a tonal landscape of honey, lime and a brooding blue sierra.

Of course there are the ups and downs too – those that take your breath away with the view or just the sheer incline, descents into dry stream beds where only a donkey can tread daintily, and the plateaus of pastoral paths or dry, dusty roads.  There is rain that drenches your directions just when you are lost so that you cannot turn the page for the next prompt, wind that drives you to take a turn off too soon and whips your map from view as you try to make sense of the landscape, and sun that beats down with just enough heat to make the grassy rests a real treat.

Every stop-over is a small town, each very different from the one before, with up-to-the-minute modernity mixed with history and hospitality. Navafría, Requijada, Pedraza, and Gallegos – the names now drop into memory as dots in the vast country that is Spain. Hasta pronto!

I do not advertise but must acknowledge the splendid organisation which made this holiday possible: Away from the Crowds

New for Old in the Forest

The name is as recent as 1079 when King William requisitioned this most ancient common land as a royal hunting ground. And today the New Forest is a Natural Park of open sandy heathland interspersed with boggy wetland, as well as deciduous and coniferous woodland. Still living here are a number of geriatric oak trees, 300 to 400 years old.

Before ‘forestation’, this area was managed by locals who utilised the wood, and fenced off areas for their animals. Such common grazing rights are still in place today, although commoners’ claims to the land were lost to royal acquisition.

Coppicing, grazing, and felling of decaying trees both then and now keeps the woodland light and airy enough for diverse flora and fauna to flourish.

With seductive forest pathways pulling in all directions and the gems of the forest floor distracting attention, it is not difficult to lose one’s way amongst the hundreds of acres. And of course what many visitors come in search of is one of Britain’s wildlife gems – New Forest ponies – native to the British Isles with an ancestry of 2000 years.New Forest ponies There are several thousand of them here though locating them is not as obvious as their numbers suggest. Still, its worth the find.

1. ‘Forest’ was used to describe an area of land that had been ‘afforested’ (purchased under law) and designated as land to be used for royal privileges, ie hunting. The name, New Forest, is a direct translation from the Norman Nova Foresta. New Forest National Park

Am joining in with Michelle’s Nature Notes #309 – stop over @ramblingwoods to see  wildlife from around the globe