Mmmmm, this glass of sangria tastes delicious with my new perspective.
These desert dames have spent the last two days scampering around the mountains in Spain. Yesterday, we sat in the dirt at Park Güell, another Gaudí creation, reflecting and processing as we wrote in our respective journals in our private pieces of forest. Today, we traveled 50 km outside of the city to visit Montserrat, the multi-peaked mountain which is home to a Benedictine monastery (and also rumored to hold the Holy Grail. Yes, that Holy Grail).
The last thirty hours could easily be renamed, “Contemplative Hour with Rebecca and Katie.” If you are not into deep and profound today (did you read that with your best movie trailer voice? I hope so), then just enjoy the pictures. Otherwise, read on.
As Rebecca and I descended from our perch in Park Güell yesterday, weaving in and out of tourists, dancing past the Rastafarian-mariachi-ska band’s performance, we discussed the topic of the day. Soul Pancake asked her of what she was certain, and that provided plenty of fodder for our walk home.
Becs and I arrived in Cairo around the same time, and although our pasts differ significantly, our hearts do not. Unsurprisingly, we are both certain of two truths:
1. We are on the right path. It’s cliche, yes, but it is truly about the journey rather than the destination. And neither Rebecca nor I have ever felt as content on the journey as we do now. In part, it’s because we’ve both fulfilled our most recent dream.
2. In part, it’s because of our second certainty, which is we are both living in the present. I moved to Cairo with the intention of living more deliberately, of focusing on the current moment instead of constantly looking towards whatever milestone, goal, or desire is next.
Both of these certainties provide an earth-shattering sense of balance, but a shattering that puts back together rather than pulls apart. As we finish up 2012, take a moment to think about the things of which you are certain. It’s harder than it seems, but naming them can make a world of difference.
Monserrat sits atop mountains just outside of Barcelona. One must take el tren from Plaça Espanya, an hour long trip (unless you take the wrong train first, like a couple of novice travelers I know, in which case you will arrive three hours later…), and then you get to choose if you want an additional 15 minute rail ride up the mountain, or if you prefer the 5 minute cable car ride, which provides panoramic views and panicked thoughts as you careen toward the mountain walls, free of charge.
The ride down was much smoother, alhumdilillah.
A trip to Monserrat provides another certainty: the beauty is indescribable, the energy is calming and centering, and the air is clear and refreshing. (My lungs have appreciated the reprieve from Burn-Your-Garbage Saturdays in Cairo.)
Rebecca and I spent the day meandering through paths in the mountains. For about an hour, we did not see another soul. We heard the occasional bark of a dog from a village below and tires of a sleek sports car on the mountain roads winding below us, but we did not hear any voices other than our own.
A path meanders around the mountainside, with pictures of saints attached to the mountain wall every 10 feet or so. We walked the entire thing, distracted briefly by a random porch attached to nothing, where we reenacted senior portraits…
…by three stone steps that led to a cliff, where, naturally, we parked ourselves for better contemplation…
…and by the smell of trees and the taste of the woods, which we miss desperately in Cairo.
When we finally reached the end of the path, we were elated from fresh air and sore feet. We climbed as high as we could in our “European hiking boots,” and then we sat, quietly.
Quick background on my good friend B: her mother died of lung cancer a year ago in October. Her mom was the kind of parent whose death left a huge, gaping hole in her daughter’s life. Rebecca and I have spent a significant amount of time on this trip discussing our beliefs on coincidence, fate/destiny, and connections between people and events, as well as across time and dimensions.
So, there we are, at the end of the current path, Becs still leaning against the mountain wall, me sitting on large stone in the middle of the cul-de-sac, with a week’s worth (and more) of these thoughts a-churning. I muse about the juxtaposition we feel on mountains; they remind us how miniscule we are, yet we often leave the mountaintop feeling renewed strength. The strength of the mountain comes from so many things, including the fact that there are nearly 7 billion people in this world, yet at that moment, it felt like we were the only two.
“Or three,” Rebecca responded, petitioning the universe. “Now would be a really great time for you to drop in and make an appearance, Mom.”
Then she did. An acorn fell from someplace above B, passing in front of her face, and landing with a distinct clunk. Both of us froze, shared a questioning look, and nearly lost it. We waited and waited for more acorns to fall. None did. It was the only one that made itself known in the 20 minutes during which we were alone in the world.
Rebecca’s mom? Who knows. Coincidence? Doubt it.
A few days of contemplation and walking — my feet are tired, my head is spinning, and my soul is full. Lots of pictures to share to end this today. First, the remainder of the pictures from Monserrat.
Park Güell, Friday’s destination, also provided ample reflection and renewal. The Park is a massive combination of rocky mountainside, mosaic-ed art, and stone architecture. Every piece was significantly different.
One thing I marinated on for awhile yesterday is what we have termed The Monet Effect. From far away, each piece is extremely beautiful. Up close, the colors lose their cohesion, and each part does not appear as lovely as the whole.
Life is the same way. You get an impression of someone or something (hence Monet’s style Impressionism), and that impression often changes upon closer inspection. While journaling yesterday, I stared at this plant basking in the sunshine, loving the contrast of the colors, the curvature of its arms, the jumbled mess.
Upon closer inspection, I could see the flaws, the distortions, and the pain the plant has suffered.
It’s a different kind of beauty when you can see the damage.
We have two and half days left in Spain, including New Year’s Eve, which we will spend visiting France and Andorra. And then we will return home to Cairo, with just under half of our winter break still remaining.
We can slap a big fat “W” on this trip. Premature, maybe, but I’m fairly certain of it already.