Sunday, 19 September 2010

El Bosque/The Forest - or Home

I have just discovered the forest in Alhaurín. I knew it was there, but it would appear that I have been flirting with it a little bit – or perhaps it has been flirting with me.

In truth I have been a little bit afraid of entering it. Although I was longing for the cool and still of the canopy I held back because I did not know how dark and mysterious it might be. I also did not want to rush it as I plan to be here for a very long time, so why try and find out everything at once? I want to savour each new experience before moving onto the next.

And so I danced around its edges. I began by walking up along the top road in Alhaurín – Calle Blas Infante – which is built up and has its share of shops, cafes and bars. I continued walking this road every day until I learned of a country road parallel to it, but just a bit higher up. This is in itself a much more satisfactory sort of road as it has more grass, wildflowers, trees and fields and no pavement and fewer houses so one has to walk on the road. Country.

But from certain points along this country road I could see the way some of the fincas stretched up as far as the first trees of the forest – their wire fences snaking their way up the incline and disappearing from view as the overgrowth becomes thicker or they meet a cliff face. For in a lot of that stretch, below the forest, on the south side of the pueblo, the slope of the mountain is broken at the base by a sheer drop. It is in this cliff face that you can see the caves. Some are quite large although they do not seem to extend deep within the earth – but the caves will have to be explored at some point in the future – for now it is the forest that holds me enthralled.

From the country road to forest was not a long transition – once I could see the close proximity to the lower level of the mountain I was like a moth fluttering closer and closer to the flame. So one day, not so very many weeks ago now, I walked up to it boldly and entered it.

As I had anticipated it is a place of awe and wonder. It is not a place for earphones, music or Spanish lessons, and I only take my phone in case of emergencies although there are always people walking dogs, jogging or cycling, so in fact you are quite safe, unless of course you leave the track and then you would be on your own – so I take it just to be on the safe side.

Although you do meet people there are not many, so the wonderful sense of isolation and contemplation is all around. The forest is mostly silent. Sounds are muffled but still at times you can hear the church bells from the village, very distant, and also sometimes cries and shouts of people (playing perhaps?) echo up, but it is only in parts. My favourite sound is the sudden cracking of a branch. Obviously there are some birds, still unidentified. Some of them caw like crows, although they are not – I saw one fleetingly yesterday and it had much more colour, some blue beneath and brownish on the back, and I have seen the eagles whirling overhead making their pip pip noise.

Of course if you stop and listen you can hear much more; the creeping of beetles and the rustle of branches in the wind and bees buzzing while they gather nectar.

But mainly as you walk you are overwhelmed by the silence around you, disturbed only by the crunch of your own feet on gravel or twigs

I have taken some photos, obviously, and am delighted at how some of them really capture the essense of the forest – the blackness of the shadow between the trees and the brightness and contrast of a shaft of light as it forces its way through some gap or other in the foliage. There is also a blue haze that permeates parts of the forest, like magic mist.

The trees are mainly pine – although in the later part of my walk – obviously depending which direction you take – these are replaced by olive, some fig, some oak and other species as yet unidentified.

I believe the pine trees to be pinus pinea or Stone or Umbrella Pine – the latter name really appealing to me now and opening all sorts of parallel avenues! If anyone knows different then please email me and correct me of course. The bark is very distinctive with very strong vertical platelets – the colour ranges from various greys to terracotta. Really beautiful. I love the strong texture and the earthy palette. I have also discovered – if my identification is correct – that these have large edible nuts in the cones, so I must watch out for these.

Of course I am keeping my eyes and other senses peeled for signs of mushrooms as the thought of being able to go a-mushrooming in the autumn is a thought which truly gladdens my heart. I don’t think you could ever go hungry if you lived in a forest and you know how I feel about mushrooms!

And so I explore – so far I have not strayed very far from the forestry pathway, which is large enough to take a car by the way, but bit by bit I know I will venture off road and further up the side of the mountain, but that is not usually recommended to do on your own – in any event it is still a bit too hot, but in another month who knows. For now I am content to continue my flirtation getting to know the curves and nuances and studying the light and magic places in the most traveled part of the forest.

I love the forest and now that I have found it I feel more content and more fulfilled in my choice to move here. I knew it was the right place for me to call ‘Home’

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