Monthly Archives: August 2012

Boys of This Summer

Standard

Hope you are enjoying Spanish Holiday.  I am taking a short break from it to fill you in on my current personal life.

School started for my daughter today.  It is a marker not only of her growing up, a new chapter in her life but also the end of summer for both of us and consequently, the end of a time when I tend to date more.

The score for  this summer:  7 married men thwarted, spent some brief time with a divorced guy that just didn’t work out,  2 former lovers rejected, and met 3 “never-been-marrieds”.  One of the latter three men lives in another part of the country so we email and chat on the phone but really there is little opportunity for it to go anywhere though he is wonderful.  One, I just met and we are having a first date soon.  The other one, (I will refer to him as CC), seemed like the most interesting prospect I have come across since my separation from H2 in 2009.  We “dated” (a word used for simplicity) for a month (almost to the day), starting out luke warm, moving on to “we don’t want to date”, advancing to definite interest and official dating -which was lovely, though short-lived – and ending up with him wanting to downgrade back to friends.

(Mary’s rule:  You do not French kiss your friends.)

Though I respect his feelings and am fine with the pursuit of a friendship with this man as I think he is a rare find in so many of the best ways, I am admittedly disappointed. It just seems so hard to find someone with the qualities I now seek.* Plus it felt really good to have someone special in my life.  Nice to get a daily “How is it going?” and “Sleep tight, xo” texts.  Nice to have someone be excited about going places with me and exploring my new home town. And really nice to be genuinely interested in getting to  know someone with the idea of a long term romantic relationship in mind.

I am grateful to have taken it slowly, following Steve Harvey’s advice regarding the 90 day rule,  setting and adhering to standards- saving me a lot of potential emotional turmoil.

So in my post quick- downgrade- blahs I decided to go on match.com just to look and see what was out there.  My original intention was to check out CC’s profile to see how he represented himself in the dating world at large but then since he decided he was uninterested in me romantically, I thought I would just go on to look at what is out there in the area.

Wouldn’t you know it.  Match.com’s number one pick for me is,…. drum roll, …..CC.

Fabulous! The irony nearly drives me to despair.

Oh well, back to the drawing board.  Will be removing my “just looking” profile from match directly.

Chat later,

Mary

* Qualities I am now seeking in a man:

  1. A good sense of humor
  2. An even temper and positive attitude
  3. A willingness to overlook my flaws
  4. A sensitivity to me and what I care about
  5. An ability to express caring in a way I understand
  6. Addiction free (this includes but is not limited to cigarettes, alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, work, sports, sex)

Spanish Holiday Part Trence: Part of the Boys of Summer Series and Feed Your Spirit

Standard

This is a story about a trip I made to Spain three years ago to fill my spirit.  I love how traveling somewhere new puts one is a perpetual Zen like state.  In this segment I learned that post divorce (or almost post divorce) I still had it as I dabble in the pleasures of a pursuant younger man…

Ricardo falls on the bed, exhausted from his day on the beach combined with a good deal of Cava and red wine.  I opt for a bath in the jacuzzi tub first to wash the sand and residual sea salt from my skin.  How is it that European bathrooms are so elegant?  A sky light, beamed ceiling, cream colored marble surrounding the large tub- it was so beautiful.  I pour some shampoo under the running tap as a substitute for bubble bath, creating thick creamy foam once the jets are turned on.

When I am done soaking, I wrap myself in a thick terri-cloth robe which thoughtfully lay waiting on a shelf next to the tub and go into the bedroom to find a very tanned, angelic Ricardo fast asleep.  He is glowing with youth, his brown limbs entwined in snow white sheets.  I am aching to devour him, inwardly drooling like a fox in a hen house. In my mind I rationalize that he is a gift to me from the gods, a reward for some good deed I performed or perhaps a salve for the suffering I experienced from my divorce. I think, “Who am I to refuse such a gift?” I wake him and begin to relish in his sinfully sensual kisses.  He is a Casanova.  A lover of many types of women.  Age is not an issue for him.  He enjoys the beauty in the act of pleasing a woman, the mutual sharing of physical pleasure.  He offers the most intoxicating kisses I had yet experienced from at test sample of at least a hundred men. He is an artist. Clear in directing me and eager to follow my direction. It was a night of delectable physical indulgence for both of us working within previously agreed upon parameters (refer to Bill Clinton definition of sexual engagement)- which we respected despite intense temptation.

Though sleep comes to Ricardo easily, I am fitful.  There is a lot of noise outside from late night revelers and Ricardo’s snores keep me awake. At 7:30 or so I give up and go into the living room of the suite and start to write. Every now and again I gaze out the window at the lapis blue sea.  This is La Doce Vida. I am in the groove.  I am so blessed to have a memory of a perfect evening.  No complications, no confusion, no neuroticism.  Just truth and simplicity which comes from speaking from the heart.

I get a giggle as I watch a lifeguard starting to set up for the day on Port Beach and discovering my black lace panties on top of the stack of chairs where I forgot them following my little moonlit swim.  When Ricardo awakes we decide to go down to the beach to sunbath.  Lucky for my he has forgotten his glasses and is practically blind.  He cannot see the stretch marks on my stomach glaring in the bright sun – a situation my vanity appreciates.

I know that if I stay in the sun longer than 20 minutes I will burn as I have barely had any exposure to the sun yet this summer. But I stay out anyway because it is so nice to be on the beach where people are so comfortable with their bodies.  I remove my bikini top a la typical Spanish beach style and Ricardo comments that I am the first American “girl” he has seen topless on the beach.  I am amused by the use of the word “girl”.

We enjoy a breakfast of fresh cherries, a chocolate croissant, a nectarine and some water.  The cherries, heated by the sun are warm and juicy like the day.

Kirana agrees to fetch us at 2:30pm.  At 1:30 or so when I know my skin is fried, we go up to the marina to get ham bocadillos and drinks.  Kireana is just waiting when we get back to the hotel.  I get my bags and we drop Ricardo of at the station.  He gives me a big hug and a kiss on teh cheek.  I kiss the other side of his cheek as well saying, “In Spain, Spanish Kisses.” He promises to call when he gets back to the States and he goes with his hot kisses and cute glasses into the station.  I am not at all sad but ready for the next adventure which is a concert in the courtyard at the yoga center.  I know I will see Ricardo again and it doesn’t matter what happened (or didn’t happen) in Spain, we will still be friends.

It is all good.

Spanish Holiday Part Doce: Mediterranean Magic- part of the Boys of Summer Series and finding your spirit

Standard

Three years ago, as a middle-aged almost divorced woman, I took a trip to Spain to feed my appetite for life and love.  It was a spiritual awakening and hopefully inspiration to others to just close your eyes and jump, having faith that the net will appear.  You can read the entire story starting with the first post by clicking here.  Bon Apetit…

We stroll and talk about how much we love Spain and Europe and Europeans in general.  The attitudes that put family above work and of using only what one needs rather than wasting.  We both love the efficiency in design and energy use.  It just seems to be a smarter, better way to live than the work yourself to the verge of mental breakdown attitude Americans seem to have.

The faint sounds of a band playing on the Passeo become louder as we come closer to our destination.  There are about twenty restaurants boasting various types of cuisine lined up on the land side of the wide walkway.  Each restaurant is handing out samples of their wares as part of the opening festivities.  Some are passing out samples of traditional foods while others are giving away tastes of wine or crazy signature cocktails.  There is so much going on a less focused team might be thrown off their game but Ricardo and I are Spain centered so I hold a place in line for some traditional black risotto while Ricardo fetches small glasses of sample Cava from a neighboring restaurant’s sample table.  While in line I play a game that I learned from a book I used to help teach college Marketing students how to network.  The man that wrote the book used to chat with the people standing next to him waiting for things.  His thing was to engage the people in line next to him and ask them each three questions.  For example: he might ask the person in front of him getting on an airplane, “What is your final destination today?” , then allow them to answer and let the answer lead to the next question like: “Oh, Paris! How lovely!  Do you live in Paris?”  Wait for answer…as in “yes”.  Then last question such as:  “What do you do for fun in the city?” Wait for answer to this question then decide if there is something in common and if yes, get contact information.  Once that is accomplished start again with the person in line behind you and so on everywhere you go- the people sitting next to you on the plane, in line at the bank, grocery store, movies, etc.  This guy actually keeps in touch with all these people and then he has a cadre of contacts.

This game can be even more interesting in a foreign country when you don’t really speak the language but really almost everyone in this part of Spain speaks English which is the international language of travel apparently.  But fortunately for me,  the women in line in front of me are speaking English, one with a British lilt.  I start a conversation.  Martine is from Quebec.  Her friend Maria is a native of the Sitges area.  We chat about how they met and Ricardo jumps right into the conversation when he appears bearing a plastic flute of  free Cava for me.  The story of Maria and Martine is a technological one.  They were friends 40 years ago when they met while studying English in Spain.  They rediscovered each other recently on Facebook and re-united earlier that day and it was as though they had been separated only 40 hours rather than 40 years.

The reward for waiting in the long line was a small but reasonable sized portion of Riz Negro or Black Rice which is rice served with seafood, usually muscles or clams, that is colored black with squid ink.  The four of us enjoy this dish standing together next to the rail of the  boardwalk overlooking a small beach.  It is divine.  The rice used is a small grain like Arborio, the rice used for risotto, cooked to a state of slight hardness to lend a  crunchy texture to the dish.  The squid gives it a sea salty taste that is ecstasy on a fork.

We leave the ladies at seaside as many of the stands are closing up.  Thus the task of choosing among the restaurants for our dinner began.  We walk the entire length of the strip of restaurants 1and a half times checking menus, examining the perceived patron satisfaction levels and scoping atmospheric vibes, discussing each possibility adnausium before agreeing on an Argentinian steak house.

The host explains in Spanish to Ricardo that we must wait by the bar for a few minutes for a table and cheerfully leads us through the al fresco dining area into the front of the restaurant where the bar is located to the right of  and facing the front door.  No one bats an eye at the what I think is obvious age difference between us.  Perhaps they think Ricardo is my son or maybe a gigallo. But most likely no one cares enough to think anything at all.  It is Europe.  It is a beach town.  It is all about being with a person that makes you happy in the moment regardless of age, gender or marital status.  No  matter.  We stand at the bar- no stools anyway- and the bartender recommends a most flavorful Rioja.  We are both quite pleased with the wine as determined by our mutual big smiles and sparkling eyes following the first taste.  In that moment was born the promise that the perfect beginning to the evening would extend at least through the wine.  Shortly we are seated and the dinner chapter of the evening begins.

There are rare moments in one’s life in which all the elements are ideal- a period of time dwelling in unequalled bliss.  This was one of those evenings when the biorythems of air temperature, the sounds of the waves lapping the shore and the conversations surrounding us, tastes of good wine, smells of excellent food and the sea floating on the warm breeze to caress the senses heightened by good company spiced by a hint of romance and a dash sexual tension.  Nowhere to have to be.  Time to just drink in the joy of being alive and in the moment. To gaze across the table at this suave international looking young man, glasses on, making him look smarter than he is, bulbous wine glass in his hand thinking “Yeah, it doesn’t get much better than this”.  Knowing that what ever happens I will greet the morning sun grateful for this night just to be a grown up and to have mutually appreciated an evening in Spain.

We laugh and talk and there is no pressure to be anything other than just ourselves because there is no romantic future or possibility to be anything other than good friends and we are each satisfied with that.  We order a salad of shrimp, avacado and lettuce lying in a puddle of something like a very light thousand island dressing. It is fresh and tasty.  This is followed by a filet mignon cooked to juicy medium rare perfection, seared on the outside to almost crispiness but wet and pink on the inside, served with an olive oil based sauce with hot peppers. We shared one entree so that it was the perfect amount of food. The meal was superb in it’s simplicity and quality- we are delighted.  Ricardo eats the accompanying fries and we opt for a mousse chocolat for dessert (my favorite).

After our plate licking meal we decide to order a bottle of Cava to go to lubricate our walk back to the hotel. Before we depart, I make a quick trip to the loo and decide, since the dinner hour is pretty much over, to stop into the kitchen to thank the chef.  I attempt my praise in broken Spanish and then kiss his cheeks to offer up a clearer means of my appreciation.  His sun-tanned face brightened red as his mouth formed a huge smile. He then took my hand and kissed it, returning the gratitude.

Ricardo laughed at the chef kissing incident as we began to saunter up the hill chewein rum soaked lemon peels and a cinnamon stick provided by one of the boardwalk restaurants that had featured a flaming rum punch as a sample drink to passers by. There is an abstract sculpture of a woman on the way, stray cats and the enchanting Spanish air, thick and perfumed by the sea. Our passeo extends passed the hotel down to the Port beach.  I am called by the Mediterranean to swim in its salty waves.  Ricardo decides to stay ashore.  I strp down to underwear and wade in up to my waste.  I would go further but the tide is hight and I am already quite far from the beach.  I don’t want to get my bra wet wither for fear of it not drying before time to pack the next day.  After a few minutes I emerge form the waves strip off my wet undergarments and strugle into my jeans trying to avoid getting too much sand in them.  We lean on a stack of lounge chairs and finish the Cava- such a sad moment flagging the end of the evening.  It must have been 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning when the door to suite 402 was opened by our key.

Spanish Holiday Part Once: Friday at Last

Standard

Introduction:  This story is about being a single middle-aged woman and finding your spirit through travel and yoga spiced with the kisses of a younger man.  I made this trip three years ago and wrote most of the story with the intention of finding an editor interested in all or part of it for publication but failed to finish it.  If you are just signing on for the first time you can access the first story in the Spanish Holiday Series by clicking here then scrolling through the blog for the other installments.  Happy reading- Mary.

FRIDAY:

This morning I get up early and go for a walk around the town to get in a little cardio vascular exercise.  San Pere is a charming little town with buildings from various eras of the past couple of thousand years all mixed in together.  I walk across a bridge on a road towards the hospital which winds through fields of grape vines bearing the fruit that will one day be the delicious cava that I have come to adore.  The sun is shining and warming up the landscape.  I turn back and venture towards Kirana’s house via a jogging path of sorts dodging dog poop (no requirements of the dog owners to clean it up) and taking in the dusty terrain.  This part of Spain is dry.  Hot in the day and cool at night- good for grapes I guess.  I get a bit lost but without too much trouble find my way back to the little stucco house and prepare for the yoga intensive day.

I have an hour and a half yoga class with Kirana in the morning again mostly in Spanish with some translation for me.  We are inside on a beautiful day with the sliding doors opened.  Kirana corrects my triangle pose and I laugh because Nora, who was trained with Kirana at Yogaville, did the same thing at home before she told me to practice the pose against the studio wall to achieve the most beneficial body posture.   I make a little knowing chuckle as Kirana performs the correction.

After the class, I have a chance to check emails and make some phone calls while Kirana picks up Noah.  The plan is to drop Noah off for the rest of the day and night with his Dad, check me into the Hotel Estela in Sitges then have an interview over lunch for the story I am writing about her. During her absence I chat with Marianne about a time to meet before I go back stateside.  I ask Marianne to join us for lunch because there will not be another time during my stay to talk further with her about the PhD program or the Creative Writing program possibilities.  When I mention this to Kirana in the car on the way to Sitges she gets very upset.  She points out that adding Marianne will skew the balance of the conversation and we will not really have time to talk deeply about her philosophy and the center.  She is right and I sputter out an apology and explanation.  Then coolly remind her that all things are happening the way they should and an answer to the situation of not getting the interview now will come- we just have to trust it. “Chill out yoga guru,” I tell her,” the Universe is running perfectly and there will be a better time.”  She calms but does not appear to be totally placated.  It was inconsiderate of me to invite Marianne even though I did try to call Kirana to ask her permission for Marianne to join us but she did not answer her phone.  I then decided to do what would be best for me, having no other guidance on the matter at the time. I of all people know how frustrating it is to make time for things as a single parent and then things don’t work out as I planned them. But now my psyche was evolving to let me take things a step further and look for the benefit is how circumstances turn out.  Yesterday I ordered a meal I did not really want but the Universe created an opportunity for me to have the dish I truly desired easily and without a row or a fuss. I trusted the Universe to do the same today and provide a window of time for Kirana and I to talk privately.  I knew it would happen if I: A) had faith that it would and B) let it go.

THE HOTEL ESTELA

This place has 1980’s class.  Situated at the  harbor at Sitges it overlooks a small but nice beach much less crowded than the beach at the other side of the church.  The turquase Mediterranean lapping the cresent beach. The hotel is a nice design and packed with art to sell.  In the lobby is a giant painting of Linda Evans’ face aka her “Dynasty” years.  Her visage divided in half vertically with a fantastical version on the left side and a realistic depiction on the right.  It is fairly tacky in its datedness.  The front desk guy is polite and friendly but neglects to notice I have booked a suite.  He is very nice aabout it and puts me on the top floor (the 4th)  in a n artsy suite style toom with a beautiful view of the small beach and the sea.  The furnature is 90’s European chic but at the same time a bit nouveaux riche sleeze.

 

I leave my bags and Kirana, after depositing Noah with his dad, picks me up and we head to the village to park and meet Marianne in front of the church.  We chat and walk through the charming winding skinny streets of Sitges to a charming place called Café Alfresco.  Fabio the personable, gay waiter is attentive and knowledgable.  We giggle like school girls and have fun perusing the menu.  Lunch is on me as we are preparing to talk business:  writing and teaching opportunities in Spain.  I order from the menu de dias; watermelon soup, a salad with fresh herbs and melon for dessert- a perfect Mediterranean lunch.  The soup is cool and refreshing with a little kick to it of some peppery spice. Everything is excellent including the bite of Kirana’s coconut cake she shares for dessert.    We have a wonderful girls lunch which seemed much needed by both Marianne and Kirana.  It was delightful.

Following our estrogen fest luncheon, Kirana and I head back to San Pere de Ribes to prepare for another yoga class.  We talk on the way back about material wants and needs.  She is already like a close friend and it feels great to talk about things I contemplate often but do not often have someone to discuss with.

We decide to have the class outside on the patio of the courtyard.  It is a lovely warm day, the sky is bright blue with a scattered white cloud or two and the colors are vibrant from the purple, orange and golden flowers that festoon the courtyard.  One other student joins us and it is a wonderful practice.  Bees are buzzing around the golden blossoms of the tree that shades the patio generating a natural “Om” soundtrack for us.  At one point during warrior poses, a whisper of a breeze causes a little shower of soft golden petals, decorating our heads with golden confetti.  The session was magical.  I feel great.  My body has lengthened out again and I look great.  Inner peace is starting to find its way into my heart when I am not thinking about Ricardo and his kisses.  He should be arriving soon and it is difficult to concentrate fully on my practice knowing I will be near him soon and not knowing what to expect from the evening.

As predicted, the Universe offered the perfect opportunity to interview Kirana in the perfect place, her studio.  Between the class and the time to meet the evenings performers, we have a quiet time alone to talk.  I point out to her that this is a much better time (right after a yoga session when our minds are peaceful and clear) and place (the studio with its good guru karma and inspirational aura) to conduct this talk.  She agrees and is at peace with it.

Kirana is originally from my home town, Richmond, Virginia, U.S. of A.  We are only a year apart but grew up in different worlds.  While I spent my childhood in Bon Air, on the Southside of Richmond near the River and in the West End, Kirana, who was then Karen Stovers, grew up in Northside.  I attended an exclusive private school while Kirana enjoyed a Montessori education ending up in the coolest High School in Richmond, Open High, an alternative school for smart kids.  It was at Open High that she began to practice yoga and was encouraged by her teacher to attend a talk by Swami Satchidananda at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in 1982.  Swami Satchidandanda is the man who opened the famed Woodstock concert in 1969 and in collaboration with artist Peter Max, opened 40 or so yoga centers across the US thus jump-starting the yoga movement in this country.  Kirana continued to practice yoga through college and beyond.  In 1992 she returned to Richmond to get on with her “real life” and found herself at a crossroads; graduate school or get certified to teach yoga?  The Universe provided an easy answer.  A local group, interested in expanding yoga opportunities in Richmond, was offering free yoga teacher training in exchange for  two months of teaching at a selected site.  Kirana took the offer then traveled to Spain to become a Body Logic practitioner with Yamuna Zake (www.YamunaBodyrollin.com).  The following year she went to Yogaville, an ashram in Charlottesville, Virginia founded by Swami Satchidananda, for more in depth yoga training then went back to Spain to work and continue her studies with Zake.  After three years, Zake made the decision to move to New York in order to broaden her reach for her Body Logic methods and Kirana took over her practice in Barcelona as she taught yoga in San Per de Ribes, the commuter town where she lived.  In 2001 the opportunity arose to open a yoga center in the little town and the Integral Yoga Center of Barcelona was born.  The coolest thing about the center is the “Guru energy” that radiates through it and from it.  It has an interesting kind of mystic tractor beam that attracts musicians to the cement stage in the court yard.  In 2005 Krishna Das, the world famous spiritual musician, played at the center.  He met Kirana while in Barcelona city where he performed one night and told her he wanted to perform at her yoga center the next night. Since then, without Kirana’s pursuit, many musicians have contacted her and asked to play there.  Tina Malia, Shubendra Rao, and Luis Paniagua have all jammed in IYB’s charming courtyard.   Tomorrow night, Satyar and his friends will lead a chanting session with guitar and drums.

As we finish up people begin to arrive at the studio to set up for the evenings Kirtan.  Someone knocks on the glass door at the front of the outer studio.  Ricardo has arrived tanned from hours spent on the beach this afternoon.  His eyes are sleepy, his smile lazy and I just want to stroke his beautiful chestnut skin.  I am glad to see him and he seems equally pleased.  After a tour of the studio, he joins in thirty minutes of seated preparatory meditation in the back studio.

We come out of the back studio to discover the musicians are already set up. The four of us find seats and begin chanting with the eight people who have come for the Kirtan.  The philosophy of Swami Satchidananda is that all spiritual teachings that are proponents of love, peace and respect are valuable to everyone on a spiritual path therefore, this Kirtan consists of chants from all over the world and from many spiritual disciplines.

Ricardo seems uncomfortable at first.  Naturally he would be as he is by far the youngest person in the room at 24 years of age. He eventually relaxes enough to enjoy himself.  I, on the other hand, am mystified.  The singing lulls me into a mini trance like state. It is magical.  The leader, a middle aged American woman, starts each song and chant off at a very soft low volume.  The musicians follow her lead and build slowly to a ceshendo hold for a few stanzas then slowly return to the original softness.  Like climbing a mountain.  At points it seems monotonous but this is a good thing.  .   Often the mind must arrive at a place of agitation before it will let go of control which makes room for a spiritual awakening.   I became involved enough to get a tingling sensation in m hands.

 

The Kirtan ends with a few moments of silence to seal the practice.  The experience of an hour of this type of chanting left me relaxed and feeling cleansed.

Once the studio is returned to its normal state, we walk to two blocks to Kirana’s house where her Czeck dinner guests have already arrived.  It worked out perfectly that Ricardo wanted to see Sitges because Kirana had these overnight visitors this night. Being the wonderful hostess that she is, Kirana gives us a ride to the Estrala leaving her guests at home for a few minutes.  Ricardo loves the room.  “How many stars does this hotel rate?” he askes.  I have no idea but I guess between three and four out of the Michelen 5.  We change our clothes and begin the walk over to the inauguration celebration for the piece of Passeo de Mare on the south end of the beach that Marianne had suggested for evening entertainment.

The air at dusk is warm.  A soft sea breeze caresses our walking frames. The moon is a polished silver crescent hanging lazily in the summer sky.   I long for another one of those body melting Ricardo kisses but I promised myself not to touch him unless he made the first move.  I am sixteen years old with no idea what this man is thinking or expecting from the evening.  He had been so kurt the last time I saw him and all of those middle aged insecurities are nagging at the back of my head: “Was he disgusted by my stretch marks?  Did he regret adding a physical dimension to our friendship?  Is he confused?  Does he fell preyed upon?  Does he feel bold and empowered?  Does he like me at all?  Would he rather be somewhere else?  It didn’t really seem like he was so eager to be with me today as he was in Sitges all day and didn’t bother to tell me. etc.”  I decide that if he makes the first move then at least I am not such a predator.  I tell him that I won’t put my hands on him until invited otherwise in an effort to relieve any pressure from the evening I imagine he may have. Ricardo laughs and finds this an amusing game.  He decides rather than give in to my insecurities by holding my hand or by kissing me (what I am really hoping for) he will playfully torture me by not making any moves though the night is already so thick with Mediterranean romance it is unavoidable.

 

Spanish Holiday Part Dies: Part of a Series

Standard

Three years ago I went on an international adventure as a middle-aged woman …ALONE.  This is the tale, told in a series of blog posts, of how that magical trip filled my spirit in unexpected ways…

THURSDAY:

Kirana has some clients for her body rolling clients in Barcelona today so she suggests I come to town and take the tour for which I have already paid a part.  My plan is to tour the three tour ways to get a better idea of the city.  Kirana and I part as she gets off at the first train station on the line and I continue on to the dreaded station at Passeig De Gracia with instructions to meet her at 5:45 at the Cassa Batllo.   I take the first exit I come to out of the smelly catacombs of the Passeig de Gracia Station onto the street to navigate my way to the Placa de Catalunya to catch the bus.  I wonder if I will run into Ricardo today- rather silly thought considering there are several million people in this city- but still I have this nagging feeling.  I remember our last encounter, tired and cranky and his words when he refused to come up to my room, “I’ll see you on Friday,” all at once a blow-off and a reassurance.

There are several tour companies that run buses from the Placa de Catalunya.  So many double decker buses that at first I try to get on a bus owned by a different company than the one for which I have a pre-paid ticket.  The Barcelona Bus Touristic is marked with a giant eye on the side.  Each bus is painted one of three colors, blue, green or red to denote which section of the three basic tour routes it takes.  I begin on the Blue Line with every intention of taking all three during the day in order to get a connected visual picture of the city.  It is not yet hot so I sit on the top level of the bus near the front in order to get the best view.  We begin the trek up the Placa de Gracia.  The tour company provides headphones upon payment for one’s ticket that can be plugged a small sound box located on the back of the seat in front of each seat.  Recordings that describe passing points of interest in several different languages may be accessed like stations on a car radio.

The morning is pleasant but I can tell that the day is going to be hot and I forgot a hat.  I feel my hair color fading with every minute my head is exposed to the sun but the view is too good to move inside the bus just yet.  The bus rambles past the fancy stores and several examples of Gaudi’s architecture as it goes into the area called Dreta de L’Eixample.  We turn left onto Avinguda Diagonal and go around a bit before passing Estacio de Sans the on to Montjuic (literally translated Jewish Mountain).  Montjuic is the site of the 1992 summer Olympics.  There are spectacular views of the city and I am especially intrigued by the equestrian are where there are obviously some riding lessons taking place.  There is a fair amount of green space in the Olympic Village which is atypical of Barcelona as a city.  In fact there are so few parks and green areas that there is an old Barcelona joke that my friend Jerry told me later in my trip that illustrates this point rather nicely.  It goes like this: “Two boys are meeting up to play one morning and one boy says to the other, ‘I was playing in the park yesterday and found a condom.’ And the second boy says, ‘Oh really! That’s cool but what’s a park?’.

The Olympic Village is now used as a park and a place to have events.  There is even a “Poble Espanyol”, Spanish Village.  On the way down the Montjuic from the Olympic Center is my first stop of the day, The Fundacio Joan Miro on the Avinguda de Maramar.  I am a fan of Miro and thanks to my soon-to-be-ex –husband, house two signed lithographs from the artist.  It is about 10:30am and I have not eaten yet this morning due to the rock still sitting in my stomach from the previous nights awful Basque dinner. But I am beginning to feel a bit wobbly and after paying the eight Euro entrance fee, I shuffle directly to the café for a croissant and a juice and green tea.  I am beginning to fall further from my gluten free diet but have not yet delved into the sin of coffee.   The café is nice though my guidebook suggests not eating there but opting for something else further down the hill.  Modernist architecture as one might imagine at the Fundacio Joan Miro – plenty of cement, rectangular shapes and walls of glass.  A charming courtyard adjoins where one can enjoy a snack from the café and watch little sparrows flit about begging for crumbs.  The menu consists of bocadillos, muffins, croissants and such light fare.

Somewhat refreshed, I begin my artistic adventure.  The collection is quite impressive   reflecting styles I had not seen from Miro including some early impressionistic paintings.  I walk past and around paintings, sculptures, and textiles featuring the wacky combinations of eyes, hands, spikes, lines and circular shapes that earmark the artists style.  My favorite painting in the collection (and now perhaps my favorite Miro altogether) is a large work called “Birds in the Morning” or something to that effect.

The hour-and-a half of fabulous art is just what I needed and I hop back on a blue seeing eye bus to discover more about the city.  The gods of fortune allow one vacant seat on the entire bus- up top and next to a nice looking middle aged woman.  After about ten minutes she begins speaking in a perfect American accent to her friend in the two seats directly behind us.  I ask where she is from and they respond California.  Her name is Nancy and she is traveling with her four friends from San Diego; Gayle, Susan, Maria and Connie. They range in age from 46 to 55 in varying degrees of marriage, separation and divorced.  They get together once a year and travel together.  This year they are touring in Northern Spain and a bit of France.  In a few short minutes it is learned that Connie’s daughter is moving to Richmond in a few weeks.  She is seated two rows back and we cannot chat about that at this time but she is clearly thrilled to meet someone with a connection to her daughter’s future home.  We all chat and enjoy the sights as we move down to the Passeig de Colom, a monument to Christopher Columbus who ironically with arm fully extended, points supposedly to the new world but actually to the Mediteranean Sea.  From our perch we pass places of interest as we chat.  I explain my inspirations for coming to Spain- Kirana and the yoga connection, Ricardo, a need to fill my spirit- and that I hope to sell my stories of this trip to national publications and reach the next level of my writing career.  Connie recommends a book, THE SHADOW OF THE WIND which luckily I jot down in my little notebook.  Nancy and I are having such a great time chatting away that she invites me to lunch with them at the Quatro Gatas, The Four Cats restaurant where Picasso liked to hang out when in town.  I accept and as the bus pulls up at the end of the tour at the Place de Catalunya I see the dark soft hair that tops Ricardo’s head walk past the stopped bus.  I call out but he does not know to look up.  He hesitates ever so slightly but then keeps walking. He is with a young woman and man dragging luggage and I remember that his cousin is due to arrive from Portugal today.  I explain to my new friends that this is the 24 year old muse who just walked by and they wonder if he will stop.  As I descend the bus steps to step out to the street my phone rings.  It is Ricardo.  “Are you in the Place de Catalunya?” he asks, “I thought I heard you.” He says as our eyes meet.  He has stopped just a few feet away from the bus.  His cousin and her husband looking a bit confused.  We do the double cheek Spanish kiss and make introductions.  I explain that I have just met these traveling ladies and we are headed for lunch.  The women are all smiling knowing that I have kissed him and am agonizing over our night to come in Sitges.  I have an inner giggle.

The ladies and I leave Ricardo and relatives to their hotel check- in activities and walk around the Placa to the Avinguda Portal de l’Angel and head south.  4Gats is on a side street just off this thoroughfare of shops, restaurants and bars.  We walk a block or two and turn left onto Montsio to the restaurant.  Connie negotiates a table for us in the back room.  The décor is charming old European bistro.  There are high embossed tin covered ceilings with chandeliers, dark wood accents, yellow walls and a big round table in the middle of the room supporting a giant floral bouquet.  We are seated to one side of the center table between it and the small platform stage that features a grand piano.  It is just fabulous.  Connie and I interpret the menu until the waiter brings one in English.  We all order from the menu del dia (menu of the day).  Menu del dia is three courses served at lunch time with a drink.  It features the chef’s choices for the day and is priced to sell. It makes choosing for the main meal easier and much more economical. The menu del dia at the 4 Gats features a first course of salads, soups, paella or carpaccio, a second of entrees like pork, roasted chicken or fish then a third course of desert. Wine also comes with the meal.  I desperately want paella but it is in the same category as the salad I feel I should eat after my heavy meal of the previous night so I feel I must order a dish from the entrees list.  My final order is dictated to the waiter as salad with a second course of roasted chicken.  Nancy joins me in an opening glass of cava which she has never before tasted.  She loves it and the conversation begins to flow about the table as wine softens our tongues.  They explain how they take turns choosing the destinations and making the travel arrangements.  One of them takes care of all the budgeting and money and they get a wonderful worry free vacation.  They are filling their spirits.  They glow with the excitement of their adventure and the bonding that happens along the way.

My salad is refreshing and delicious.  When the second course comes out, Maria gets a second plate of paella and is disappointed by a miscommunication that resulted in this duplicate serving.  I am more than happy to trade with her my roasted chicken and we are all happy with our lunch.  A light sorbet for me for desert tops off the lovely and economical meal.  Following photos we part, the ladies off to the rest of their day and me to search for sandals and return to the bus line for further touring.  This time I decide to take Nancy’s advice and take the blue tour bus line to the suburb created by a collaboration between Antoni Gaudi and Eudebi Guell, the Park Guell.  Gaudi designed the landscape of the area but was not intended to design the homes.  Sixty plots were supposed to divide the garden neighborhood but only two homes were ever built one ultimately inhabited by Gaudi (followed by Guell) and the other by Martin Trias, a lawyer whose family still inhabit the property as the only residents of the park.

There is a nice walk up hill to the Park Guell from the bus stop at Travessera de Dalt to the crazy mosaic coated wall surrounding the Park.  Enter a gingerbread world gone wild at the main gate where two Gaudi structures stand.  Just past them is a double staircase that ascends to a columned pavilion designed to house concerts and other activities for the residents that never came.  I recall the staircase from a scene in “Vicki Christina Barcelona” where Joan Antonio makes a chance meeting with the emotionally baffled Vicki.  It is crowded this afternoon and it is almost impossible to get pictures due to the volume of people climbing and descending the steps stopping to pose at key sites for their own photos.  I desperately want to snap the giant lizard fountain but each time I have a moment to get the picture someone else sticks their face, hand or head in mugging  for their own photographer.  I mill around enjoying the people watching and the tremendous views of the city.  There are vendors selling scarves and jewelry, musicians drumming and playing guitar and plenty of twenty-somethings lounging around the curved benches following the sensuous contours of the walls surrounding the plateau.

During a nice stroll around the grounds I realize the time is getting close to meet Kirana. I walk with purpose around the trellised pathway passing young lovers so intertwined they look like a two headed four armed science fiction creature.  I skip down the flowing double staircase and scoot down the hill to a waiting bus.  After a few stops I realize that I will never make it around the rest of the tour and back to the Casa Batilio in time.  I hop off the bus and hail a cab which is slow in the early evening traffic but gets me there in the nick of the designated meeting time.  I rest on a bench in front of the famous example of Modern architecture musing at its beauty and the people around me.  Kirana and Noah appear and we go catch the train back to Sitges.

When I get back to San Pere de Ribes I have a yoga class with Guiya, my first in Spanish and my first in Spain doing the physical practice.  The Integral yoga philosophy is the same in Spain as it is in America and I can understand much more than I might have simply because the pattern of the practice is so similar to my Nora’s (my Integral Yoga teacher at home in Richmond).  It feels so good to stretch and breath and practice yoga with other people after what seems like a long vacation but is really  only a little more than a week.  But what makes the experience even more meaningful is how my brain is stretched by participating in this routine activity in a different language.  I must concentrate more on what I am doing using more of my sense of peripheral vision and hearing to follow the flow of the class.  Thoughts of the day or the upcoming visit from Ricardo are barely allowed to pass through my brain.  The experience is heightened.  I am also pleased with myself at the end for having been able to follow and understand as much as I did considering my limited Spanish.  The mind body connection explored in a new way for me, I feel more confident about the coming couple of days which will be more yoga intensive.

Feeling refreshed I eat a light supper of melon, black gluten free bread and cheese then hardly sleep- again.

Spanish Holiday Part Nueve: Boys of Summer and Feeding Your Spirit

Standard

If you want to catch up on this story you will just have to go to the blog and scroll through at this point.  I am in Spain, it is three years ago and I am contemplating having a sexual encounter with a man nearly half my age while delving into the Zen-like state of living like a Spaniard….

 

WEDNESDAY

As I sit on the afternoon beach at Sitges, I enjoy the sounds of small naked children gleefully running about playing in the sand.  Hw sad it must be for Spanish children to reach the age where they must wear a bathing suit and give up the free feeling of the sun and breeze on their whole bodies.  I myself am enjoying sun bathing topless which is socially acceptable on all Spanish beaches.  The absence of Puritanical prudence (and neurosis) in terms of one’s body is one of the many things I adore about the culture.  On this shore covered in families and couples of every combination there is a happy relaxed feeling about human bodies.  It is not that the Spanish are careless about how they look- quite the contrary is true.  They are a clean, mostly lean, well- groomed bunch. They are simply accepting and comfortable in their skins unlike their perfection obsessed American cousins.   Their self -confidence is inspiring.  As I observe the people within my immediate radius I determine that there are women of every age, size and degree of fitness wearing bikinis. In fact I see only four women in one piece bathing suits during the entire day.  These are not the high wasted, skirted or tankini styles that are popular for women past thirty-five in the States, no sir, these are real, small top and small bottom versions of the classic. These women are not hiding their post child bearing middles with wrapped towels or cover-ups, they have confidence in the way they look.  They are carefree but not careless.  They are inspirational.  I love that their body comfort level gives me permission to expose my stretch-marked midriff and feel like I am not offending anyone.  In fact I feel pretty damn good about it. At forty-six I am in pretty good shape but in my own body- conscious culture, often I feel the need to cover up with a one piece in order to conform to an unspoken rule of propriety.  It annoys me that I feel I will be judged harshly by other people regarding the choice of swim suit and what body “flaws” are exposed.  Just this spring I was reading an online fashion advise article that stated that women over forty should not wear a bikini unless she was in exceptional shape and maybe not even then.  What sort of ridiculous statement is that?  It shows how judge-mental our society is.  Why should anyone care what one wears on the beach?  Why should I cover up so much of my body just because it does not meet airbrushed- fashion- model- magazine -photo standards (or for that matter the standards of some twenty-something gay male fashion writer)?  For the most part I act within the boundaries of acceptable hygienic behavior.  I am free of hair where I am supposed to be, recently showered and wear deodorant –all things over which I have control.  I am in good physical shape- which is also within the realm of my control.  But the stretch marks are out of my control – so why not just accept them and go for it?

I want my daughter to be more exposed to this attitude of physical acceptance which is just more motivation to find a way to spend some real time in Spain.

I call David from my mighty iphone to brag about being on the beach and to tell him about Marianne’s idea to start a creative writing program at the University of Barcelona.

He should be a part of that.  I tell him I am planning his life in Spain for him and he laughs.  It would be heaven to live here for a year or two.  It is the perfect time for Elinor to do it.  She is still at a versatile age and forming her opinions about her body image and how society functions.  A European slant on those things would be fantastic for her.  It would be fun to have a cadre of Spanish and ex-pat friends (Marianne, David, Ricardo, Kirana, Gloria with yet unmet additions) to have a salon and discuss women in literature and write our asses off and live like Spaniards.  I imagine dinner parties of tapas and red wine in a garden courtyard somewhere in Barcelona or Sitges, little white Christmas lights festooning trees surrounding a large wooden table.  Cigars smoke and conversation about some interesting point about women in literature filling the air.  There is laughter and friendship.  Oh, just sign me up, already!

To live like a Spaniard is my dream life.  Up early in the morning to get your work done before it gets too hot.  Eat a big meal in the middle of the day.  Siesta whether that means a nap, making love or both.  Maybe back to work, maybe not, until 7:00 or so.  Tapas with your whole family or your immediate family and friends at 10:00pm.  Bed at midnight and repeat.  Heavan.  Somehow this schedule fits the natural rythems of my body better than my American schedule which involves getting up really early, making a substantial breakfast, going to work having a small lunch around noon, staying at work until the early evening, making a big dinner and hitting the sack around 10:00pm.  On my American schedule I become exhausted every ten days or so and can barely function for a couple of days.  It is the absence of enough rest.  A nap in the middle of the day is so key to my happiness and somehow just works better for my body.  My uncle Frank used to take a nap around 3:00 pm everyday and he lived to be 97.  I could stay up much later and be refreshed the next early morning when I was teaching school and took naps in the afternoon.

The days seem so long here with this Spanish schedule and not sleeping does not help. But somehow I am managing to be somewhat coherent and not grumpy.

The beach is lovely but crowded.  It is a holiday week in the summer and there are locals, Barcelonains and tourists here.  After a bit of sun, I head over to a cool store located on the road that runs along the beach.  GET THE NAME OF THE STORE FROM KIRANA.  I try on a few outfits including a totally fabulous dress that was about 300 dollars.  Everything is more expensive in Europe.  Food, housing, clothing, gas, electricity, water are crazy expensive.  Yet most Europeans still manage just fine without all the stuff we Americans think we need.  Our European cousins also take vacations every year despite the expense of everything else in their daily cost of living.  Americans can learn a great deal about setting smart priorities from Europeans who as a whole tend to take only what they need and spend money on the things that are more satisfying in life.  Their houses are also set up to conserve water and electricity, cars are smaller and more fuel efficient and they walk or use bicycles much more than we do.  It is just smarter.  Walking along the streets of Barcelona, I also noticed that many women were wearing styles that were not exactly current but they still looked great.  There is an attitude of using what you have longer and adapting things to work.  How one dresses is less about trend and more about style which is ultimately more cost effective.  When one dresses in one’s personal style they buy less.  The closet is full of pieces that look great on one’s own figure and is suitable for one’s own coloring.  Then a few key items can be added in a season to update the current wardrobe rather than replacing it with a bunch of new things.

There is one fabulous dress that I try on that would be wonderful for Spain but not really have a place in my life in Richmond.  It is by a Spanish designer and resembles an outfit that Penelpe Cruz wears in “Vicky Christina Barcelona” while she is painting.  It is a lapis blue and long.  It is made of a delicious thin sort of crinkly cotton with a wispy silk overlay skirt that attaches to the strait cotton base dress at the hem to create a very long soft bubble skirt effect.  It is truly sleeveless with two inch wide straps draping over the shoulders to a mild scoop neck.  A died to match crocheted piece is sewn on top of the fabric at the bust coming down about six inches from the neckline.  The straps meet between the shoulder blades to make a long racer back that meets the skirt part at the base of the spine.  There are no sides to the top of this dress.  I first try it with a tiny white tank top and it is very cute.  Then I go for broke and try it with nothing underneath making a dramatic evening look.  The soft fabric gently caresses my tanned skin and though the dress is sort of biggish and drapey it is very sexy in the way it reveals the skin.  I want it but it is two hundred and seventy-five Euros- way out of my budget and since I can wear it maybe once in Richmond or around my house it is not worth it.  Reluctantly I hand it back to the shop keep and head up the hill to find Pui a cute much more affordable store manned by a French girl.  I purchase a corn flower blue top, a pair of earrings for Danielle, some bracelets for gifts and one for myself. I now have a momento of Sitges that I can wear anytime to bring me back to the palm trees and warm Mediterranean beach.

I meet Kirana at the church on the hill and Gloria comes a couple of minutes later.  Gloria is an ex-pat of 30 years who is originally from Austin, Texas.  She now lives in Sitges and has just returned this day from a trip to Turkey.  She is older than Kirana and me – in her 60’s.  She has blunt cut chin length grey straight hair. She is roundish and has twinkling blue eyes.  I instantly want to be like Gloria when I grow up- a world traveler and someone who had the guts to get out and go to a foreign country to live.  A person with a very intact sense of adventure.

Gloria chooses a Basque restaurant on the Calle Mayor called Taberna Vasca Izarra and we begin to walk through the skinny cobble stoned Sitges streets to get there.  The restaurant was not fabulous for me. Small with uneventful décor with plenty of cigarette smoking taking place. Basque cuisine is very similar to the cuisine of Southern France which is lovely in France but seems affected in Spain.  Why eat a watered down version of French food when there is so much wonderful food in Spain?  I ordered a salad and something made from duck and a cider that is typical of the Basque region.  The salad was good but the duck was bland.  The cider was almost un drinkable – bitter and harsh.  I felt as though I had eaten a bowling ball following the meal and remained so until the afternoon of the next day.

The heavy feeling in my stomach combined with the chatter of people and the chiming of the church bells keeps me from a good night sleep once again.

 

Spanish Holiday Part Ocho: Part of the Boys of Summer Series and Feeding Your Spirit

Standard

So far I have had one fabulous night and one horrible night with Ricardo and will not see him for four days.  I am on my own in Barcelona and it seems like my real Zen journey is about to begin….

TUESDAY

Trouble sleeping but feeling better after a few hours of shut eye, I awake with no real plan except that I need to get checked out at some point and get to Sant Pere de Ribes.  I have the luxury of pulling an Elizabeth Gilbert during her Italian part of her “Eat, Pray, Love” adventure and asking myself, “What would you like to do today, Mary?”  One thing I want to do is get a better geographic handle on the city.  I have been to a couple of places but taking the metro is disorienting because there is no visual connection between where one starts and where one ends.  It is difficult to get a real handle on a place that way.  I decide to take a bus tour of the city so I can truly see it.  The hotel has discounted tickets so I buy from them thinking I have all morning to tour the city (as if that would be enough time).  I purchase a package from the hotel that allows me to take a bus tour around the city from Placa de Catalunya.  The tour is great because one can hop off the bus at any stopping point, go see something then get on another bus and go to your next place of interest.  One has access to the busses all day or for as many days as one purchases.   Then Kirana calls and says that I need to get on the train to Sitges (the station closest to Sant Pere) by 12:30.  I am a little disappointed but have faith that it will all work out- I just need to trust the Universe and go with it.  Somehow it is already 10:00am so I eat again in the hotel and ask for directions to the train station.  The young woman at the front desk directs me to take the metro to Placa de Gracia and catch the commuter train out to Sitges.  I get to Placa de Gracia easy enough with my heavy roller bag but then it is a labyrinth of hot humid stinky tunnels to the commuter train.  I have no idea where I am going and again do not have the words to ask anyone.  I see some Brittish tourists who seem to be looking for the same thing and follow them.  Somehow through luck and listening to English speaking tourists a ticket is purchased and I miss the train by seconds earning myself the priviledge of 30 more minutes in the hot tunnel that smells like a combination of urine, body odor and stale cigar smoke.  The train is nice though.  Airconditioned and passably clean.  The thirty minute ride to Sitges goes by fast as I try to drink in every inch of scenery on the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitges

I get off the train and text Kirana.  “10 minutes” she texts back.  Somehow I am neither nervous nor completely settled.  I have never met Kirana outside of a few emails and text messages and a couple of phone conversations.  I have only a vague notion of what she looks like based on a photo her mom showed me when she came to visit my office to drop off a few gifts to carry over for her.  A different person might be frantic about now.  But I knew she would be wonderful.  I knew I would know her when she drove up.  She drove right passed at first but I saw the Yogaville sticker on the back of her car and called her  “movile” immediately as I watched her drive around the corner and away from where I was standing.  (Yogaville is a yoga center in Charlottesville, Va.- not a likely choice for a native to have made in terms of a car sticker).  She finds me on her next round passed the taxi stand adjacent to the charming train station.  She tells me we must run some errands before going to her house for lunch.  We are like sisters already.  She asks my opinion about the small plastic watering can she is buying from what looks like a tiny Spanish version of a five-and-dime.  We gently deliberate over items to purchase at the store.

We are instantly comfortable with each other.  Kirana is kind, caring, gentle and generous despite her small income and the prices of things in Europe.  She is also a bit scattered and goofy but these characteristics make her unique.  We arrive at her little white washed stucco walled house to settle in and have some lunch before going to pick up Noah, her son from a visit with his dad at the beach.

Kirana’s house is small but bursting with Spanish charm.  A heavy wooden door with center knob serves the front entrance.  Spanish clay tiles make up the floors of the four nice sized rooms and galley type kitchen.  French doors open up to a small patio and raised courtyard surrounded by high walls.  The courtyard is filled with sun and grapevine and flowering trees.  There is no air conditioning only open second floor windows.  Like most European kitchens everything is small.  Small stove, small fridge little storage space, small washer and dryer in the small pantry closet at the back of the kitchen – one of only two closet type areas in the house.  I love it.

Kirana gives me her room and we begin to prepare a lunch of pasta and vegatables. I love to cook and a favorite game for myself is to walk into a strange kitchen and create something delicious to eat.  This game allows me to be very zen – as in “in the moment” and is almost like an active meditation.  I bring my knowledge of cooking which is almost intuitive after years of practice and utilize it in an unfamiliar environment which causes me to be strictly in the moment.  The situation produces creative magic.  I look to see what ingredients and tools are available then let my brain go.  I have to concentrate very hard on the task of cooking because the stove is different, the pots, pans and utensils are different.  The processes for achieving the dish may have to be adapted due to lack of a tool for example:  I may have a garlic press at home that I regularly use for mashing garlic but perhaps the kitchen at which I am cooking lacks that tool.  I then must figure out a different method for mashing the garlic like covering the garlic clove with the flat side of a large kitchen knife and giving it a couple of good pounds with the butt of my hand. The result is usually a fabulous dish and a great sense of accomplishment as others enjoy the impromptu meal. The cooking zen yields a pasta with fresh tomato, basil, olive oil, and manchego with a side of pan seared asparagus seasoned with lemon juice salt and pepper.

Kirana tells me that tonight is a fiesta celebrating the summer solstice, the Fiesta de San Juan.  There will be parties and firecrackers all night.  She invites me to attend a party on the beach at Sitges with several families whom she is connected with through her son’s best school chum.  We will pack a picnic and hang out.  I am glad to be participating in this event with locals to immerse myself in the language and culture.  Because it is a holiday there are no Hatha yoga classes to day but the Raja Yoga class is still scheduled at 15:30pm.  Right after lunch Kirana leads me to the yoga center which is only a two and a half block walk from her house up the narrow stone streets of this charming centuries old village.

The center is gorgeous and radiates a strikingly peaceful energy.  There are two “studio” rooms and a beautiful courtyard with a wooden patio for yoga practice.  The front room of the studio has frosted glass floor to ceiling windows to allow soft light to come into the room.  The white walls are decorated with a series of large framed photographs of various yogis and swamis smiling blissfully down on the activities below. The floor is a golden wood.  Two yellow rugs placed next to each other are surrounded by blue yoga mats serving as a sitting area for meditation and discussion.  There is also a small table with a picture of Swami Satchidandanda, Kiran’s teacher at Yogaville.  Between the larger front room and the smaller back room is an area for Kirana’s desk, two dressing rooms and a small bathroom.  The back room is much like the front room with out the smiling swami pictures.  It features natural light that graces the room through two sets of sliding glass doors opening to the stunning back court yard.  These doors are often opened for yoga practice in the room to allow the fresh breeze and sounds of the courtyard to come into the room.  The beauty and peacefulness of the studios are bested only by the courtyard.  High walls make a rectangular garden with a wooden patio at the front end by the glass doors for yoga practice.  Along the right wall is a large cement rectangular block that is used for a stage.  The story behind it is that at one time in the history of this courtyard, some workers had some scrap stuff from a project and were too lazy to move it out so instead they just made a big concrete box around it not knowing that they were creating a stage for concerts.  The Universe was setting this up.  Vines of purple flowers and other green plants festoon the left wall at the base of which is a three foot high stone planting box for trees and bushes.  Near the wooden patio area next to the studio, there is a tree that bears beautiful tiny golden blossoms that carpet the white graveled ground and wooden planks when the breeze blows them down from the palm like branches.  In the right back corner there is a small fountain serving as home to three goldfish. There are sculptures of Hindu gods and Buddha nestled in nooks in the walls and one painted tile image of Swami Satchidandanda embedded in the wall to the left of the left side sliding doors.  A heady mix of floral fragrances floats in the courtyard making it a delightful place to practice yogic breathing techniques.  It is filled with natural peaceful energy though sounds from the neighbors keep it from being silent.  Somehow the noises from the television sets, radios, meal preparation, arguments and children chatting that echo off the courtyard walls serves as a reminder of the world we must leave behind as we practice and meditate.

 

One student comes for the Raja Yoga class, Sandra.  She speaks some English and is able to communicate that she has injured her foot and that the Raja Yoga class is helping her reap the benefits of yoga without practicing poses.  This is a new concept for me.  The Raja Yoga class is a combination of group discussion and meditation.  It provides students with the opportunity to explore yoga theory and teaching.  There is a little time before the class starts so Kirana gives me the book they are using opened at the today’s topic so I can better understand the topic of the discussion.  Satchidandanda teaches that there are four locks to maintaining inner peace: Sukha or happy people, Duhkha or unhappy people, Punya or virtuous people, and Apunya meaning wicked people.  Coming across any of those four types of people can disturb ones inner peace unless they hold the four matching keys.  Friendliness is the key to maintaining peacefulness with happy people.  Compassion is the key for dealing with unhappy people.  Delight for virtuous people and indifference for wicked people.  Satchidandanda says in his book, “There are only four kinds of locks in the world.  Keep these four keys always with you and when you come across any one of these four locks you will have the proper key to open it.” Today’s discussion is about wicked people and difficulties one might have in becoming indifferent to them.  We begin by lighting a candle or reverence in front of Satchidandanda’s photo which rests on a low table in the small studio room.  A ten minute seated meditation follows.  We discuss the topic then begin a walking meditation that takes us into the adjoining studio and into the golden petal covered garden and back to our original spots.  When we sit down from our walk, Sandra discovers that she has picked up a rather long thorn in her foot from the turn in the garden.  She removes it an a blossom that has also shared the journey with her into the studio via her foot.  “I did not even notice it when it happened” she explains to Kirana in Spanish.  “The bitter with the sweet,” she says holding the hurtful thorn in one had and the soft blossom in the other, “like life.”

After the class Kirana and I hop in her car to go to Sitges to pick up Noah, Kirana’s five-and-a-half year old son who is visiting his father.  He is a curly golden haired  little prince who rules his parents with petulance, whining and the occaisional smack and sweet smile.  He is waited on hand and foot and at his age cannot yet even tie his shoes because of his parents doting.  I recognize this type of parenting as my own with my first child, also a son who suffered from a divorce at an early age and feel a stab of pain in my heart as I think of his trouble fending for himself in the world at nineteen, having never learned how to do for himself.  I decide that the Universe is operating perfectly and that I need to stay out of it and just breath instead of butting in with unsolicited advise.

Back at Kirana’s home, I am able to take a cat nap before helping to assemble the picnic and head back to Sitges to the beach around 8:00pm.  It is cloudy and getting much cooler.  I am grateful to have my sweat shirt with me.   Spanish people are so much better with their children than American parents in terms of giving their children room to grow, learn and build self-confidence.  As the families gather and set up their blankets for picnics the children form little mobs and start doing things together.  There is no hovering.  In fact the parents are barely watching while enjoying chats and glasses of wine.  All the parents are responsible for all of the children in an unwritten rule.  They are all watching and not watching at the same time.  The children seem to instinctively understand the geographic boundaries of their freedom and there is no discussion of “stay where I can see you” or other limits.  The fathers in the group naturally get involved with the setting off of firecrackers and lighting of sparklers.  It is windy so one ingenius  father  cuts up some small pieces of rope and lights them first then uses them to light the various smoke bombes, bottle rockets and firecrackers.

I eat my sandwich of black gluten free bread tomato and cheese and listen to the symphony of soft Mediteranian waves, children’s laughing and squeeling, the explosions of fireworks mixed with Spanish.  I am so honored to be present for this family event.  Several of he adults in the party try to make conversation but our language barrier gets the best of us.  One woman is happy to practice her English, however, and delights in a conversation about her upcoming trip to England.  She and Kirana have a mutual friend, Marianne, an aspiring writer from Iowa.  The Spanish woman calls Marianne on her “movile” to direct her to the party.  They want us to meet.

When Marianne and her French husband and son arrive, I feel I know her instantly.  A striking tall strawberry blond who somehow is at once European elegant and naturally American.  We hit it off immediately as we exchange stories of our love for Europe and what we are writing.   I ask her to send me information on the University of Barcelona’s Doctoral degree in English, of which she is a student.  I am already trying to figure out a way to live in Spain even for a short time.  We agree to get together again while I am in San Pere De Ribes and talk more about the Creative writing program that the University may wish to start and a seminar for businesses Marianne is talking about developing.

As the night passes, more teenagers come out to the beach to have their turn being boss of the celebration.  When a group of teenage boys start to set off firecrackers in the portable public potties our family style party begins to break up.  Kirana, Noah and I get home at about 11:00pm.  I take two homeopathic sleeping pills and place earplugs in my ears as I am exhausted and the fireworks will continue all night.  Although I am a painfully light sleeper, I manage to get in a few hours until I am awakened at 7:00am by one last explosion.