Thursday, 20 September 2007

Looking At Leon

It´s 73 kilometers from my house to Leon, and I´ve been driving it back and forth for three weeks now. It takes about 45 minutes to get there. But now it is almost done...tomorrow is exam day. It seems like I´ve been doing this for a very long time.

The season is changing, almost imperceptibly. The farmers are back at their plowing, and they´re burning stubble in some of the fields. It´s still good and hot and sunny and bright, and the leaves are all still green and the shadows are long on the ground. But there´s something extra shiny and yellow about the light in the mornings. The sun comes up just a moment later each time, blasting into my rear-view mirrors as I drive west.

The drive itself is dull, but for the sharp scrim of mountains along the right-hand horizon, and the pilgrim trail following alongside the road here and there. I think the reason I kinda like the commute is the quiet. I get to sit alone for a good while and think my thoughts without interruption or questions. Sure, it´s self-indulgent. But it´s healthy, too.

On the way back today I conjugated some irregular verbs in the Preterite Imperfect, and then thought about the people in my grammar class, and some of the statements made in the past three weeks of classroom intimacy. They almost all are very very young and good-looking and smart. They all want to have houses and children and good jobs with multinational companies. The Capitalist dream lives on in Europe, and with the Euro booming, they can probably afford it.

One thing that was made clear to me, over and over, is how much living I´ve done in the 20-some extra years I´ve spent here on the planet. As they stated their dreams and aspirations in a selection of future tenses, I thought: cool. I did that. The nice house, the cars, the travel all over the world, the good jobs, the creative outlets, the pets and animals and lovely children and friends. I´ve been really, really lucky, and I´ve been aggressive and enterprising too -- grabbing up opportunities as they sprang up.

(I think asthma is responsible. Not knowing how soon it´s going to end, you make sure you do your living NOW, not at some far-off retirement date, after everything is paid-for in advance. So if I DO live a long time, I may well end up under a bridge. But so might the hedge-fund manager. And I´ll be able to tell him I lived my life, thank you very much.)

I thought it would be harder, being among all those pretty young people. They´re from all over the world, and they´re all there together for a year abroad, far from mom and dad and home. They are partyting and bonding and having a blast. It was fun to be just on the periphery. I was invited to go to the movies once, and a tapas evening another time, but alas I had to be home for some reason or another. I didn´t feel jealous, or sad. I daresay I´d be rather bored after not too long, but the Spanish practice would´ve been good. And the tapas in Leon are wonderful, and free!

I´ve very much enjoyed the city. Leon isn´t a big place, but it is old and elegant and clean and quite European. If Moratinos doesn´t work out, maybe we can tuck in over there someplace. It´s a university town, a major stop on the Camino de Santiago, it´s got the best gothic cathedral in Spain as well as San Isidore, home of the "louvre of the Romanesque," those frescoed ceilings I wrote about when Dick was visiting. There´s an airport and train station and public transportation, stores galore, and a big, wide river with trails running up and down the sides. And mountains! And food from other lands!

And so, so many cafes. It was at a cafe along the river I noticed the seasons. Sometime within these last days, under cover of darkness, summer slipped away. When I got to the city, just before 9 a.m., the waiters were putting out the chairs and tables on the sidewalks outside the bars and cafes. The sun gleamed off the silverware and saucers and the river flowing by in the background. But it shined cold and sharp. The trees still clapped their hands, but it sounded more papery, and less like flowing water. And when I got out of class and headed back to the car the streets were full of children in school uniforms, themselves on their way home from class.

Summer is my favorite time of year, no doubt. But this is good too. Tomorrow it´s supposed to rain. Today we (hopefully) got the chicken house roof in useable shape and moved the Chicken Girls back in. Anselmo came for dinner again, and this time did the cooking... he is from Valencia, and promises to make us a paella next week!

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