Tuesday, September 04, 2007

climbing upwards

If you travel to a Mediteranean paradise, a beautiful village perched on the Adriatic, and spend your time sat content in restaurants and beach bars, tapping your foot into the pool, here is what you will discover, here is what you will come to know: some things, a little, not much.

For two days this is pretty much all I do, whenever I have free time. I grab a cold beer and drink it in the dead breeze, laughing along with my book. I feel a kind of welcome relaxation which is the peacefulness of doing and thinking nothing.

A bit later, I wander the streets of Cavtat looking, in vain, for a shop which will sell me a pencil (I neglected to pack one). On a whim I turn up a stone side street and start clambering away from the line of restaurants and bars along the harbour. I climb upwards slowly, examining the stone floor and walls, the wrought-iron gates and doorways, the terracotta tiles neatly stacked in their rows. I pass a turned over boat, with its cracked blue livery and encroaching moss, and a wasteground which is brick-strewn and uneven between two sets of goal posts which are limp and near collapsed.

And as I climb higher I experience a very real and satisfying sense of peace which is carried on the greater breeze bringing the scent of pine needles and the sound of insects and perhaps scampering lizards. Eventually I am climbed high enough to see the bay and observe that the harbour and the hotels, the beach bars and the shops selling souvenirs are no more than the outward facing frontpiece of the town, the skin stretched across the forehead or the smile. The churches reach upwards and find new elevated grandeur. An inaudible but nevertheless tangible hubbub seems to emenate from every house, whispering of real lives, school and roof repairs. The tree stumps and stones and broken bricks team up to knock me suddenly for six.

Up I climb until at last I reach a church, elevated way above the town, and an ornate and quiet cemetary. The plastic bouquets break the monotony of the colours; terracotta, green and grey. I stand watching the sea, truly happy, drawing air in. This is what you discover and what you come to know, I think, when you go a bit further.

I look down at my feet and see something which looks like a carved acorn, only bigger, and stoop to pick it up, turning it over in my hand. I look up at the trees and realise after a moment that it is a pine cone which has dropped too early, still green, still unfolded.

I hold it for a monent as if it were a prize, then pick my way back down the steep path, past cacti which are hot and splayed open like starfish. In a tree someone has hacked a gash into the trunk with a knife, exposing a fist of rough-hewn, papery strands of bark, which make me think of my notebook and writing some of this down. I press the premature fallen pinecone, stiff and cool, into the hole which the blade has cut, and leave it sitting there, perfectly, as I descend, reaching into my backpack for some water, my notebook, and my pen.

Turning a corner, the sight of a fat guy pissing against a tree only slightly impedes upon my reverie.

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