SO I’ve started running again after my initial nervousness: The calf injury made me cautious eventually turning inertia into a habit. Then something happened, a change in the weather, a need to move: it’s hard to say what drove me out along the road, past the prattle at the Consultorio, the eager invalids exchanging symptoms and essential gossip, past the wasteland below the broken wall where the cats gather.
The cats miss old Paquita. She navigated the stretch between the square and her house next to the wasteland, a wraithlike figure tottering drunkenly, garbed always in black and fragile, oh so fragile inside her 92 year old body, as if a strong wind might break her or suddenly lift her as easily as a black refuse sack.
The cats eye me accusingly missing Paquita’s ministrations, the scraps and treats which fortified them for their relentless pregnancies: the kittens spill out from under bushes and plants over the wasteland. Their little lives know a hard history, hollow eyes yearning some scrap of meat, tumbling over each other in search of what might come from passers by. Such little longing in the cold morning light of an Andalucian dawn.
I leave them behind, clutching my water bottle and warming as I start uphill, glancing downwards towards the sea and the spreading scarlet of the morning sky. Young Rumanians stand or crouch by the Era, waiting for their Gang boss to drive them out into the campo. The plastic greenhouses spread out along the valley where the young men will labour, take on the glow from the carmine sky. They look like a contagion of angry sores infesting the landscape. But I soon escape the pity of them and head up up past the sleeping cemetery and through the burnt out almond grove towards the Mina. The water burbles and splashes defying traditional droughts “Que alegria de agua” say the locals and we know we’re blessed with the abundance of the source.
The climb continues relentless, the elite curves of the road snaking upwards past blossoming almonds and groaning orange groves towards the Pico Águila, the eagle’s peak.
Some dogs at Raymond’s house bother to bark desultorily as I stumble by. I curse them in English and then add some Spanish for luck. My legs ache, complaining at my such long neglect but I plod on slowly enjoying the smell of the almond blossom and the wild herbs flanking the roadside.
A car passes, the driver waves; I raise a hand half heartedly; it’s the best I can do at this stage. Must press on, must press on. I pant out the mantra, the air becoming increasingly hot and now I feel the sweat, the evidence of my exertions and I feel gratified with my effort.
I turn off the road towards the Pico. The land either side of the track has been rotivated, neat parallel lines score the earth and the almond trees stand out, dark silhouettes against the sea below and the light sky.
The top arrives, high spot of my run. I breathe deeply delirious with the freedom and my achievement. Head down, hands on knees catching my breath then slowly I survey the beauty of it all from my aerial vantage point. The surf spews up white foam along the fringe of the beach at Calahonda. I turn to the East and the distant layers of mountains through the haze give back their stage set appearance, a gamut of grey shades, the highest peaks topped with snow and below their steely slopes the sea shimmers along the bay all the way to Adra in the impossible distance.
Gualchos lies more immediately below, set against the Sierra Nevada more like a picture postcard than a real place. Pueblo blanco nestling far below, decked in white, pristine, silent and still.
The wind turbines catch the morning sun. The air is still and the turbines stand like huge children playing statues not daring to move but waiting, waiting. Their faces point in all directions as if sentinels surveying the land on all sides. Their gaze is unnerving: Head down and carefully negotiating the path’s stones and dips, I set off down down and back to the road. The hard surface makes the running easier. The tarmac gives me feed back resisting my pounding feet as the hill takes me ever onwards back to the village, past the barking dogs, now more vociferous in the morning sunshine, past the gushing Mina, faster ever faster cutting through the village to my own front door.
How good it feels to be alive.