flying over madrid, making the approach. it is grey, cold. the captain announces that it is 12 degrees in madrid ~i look down at what i am wearing: havaianas, a panama hat, a short sleeved t-shirt and light cotton pants. hmmmmmmmmmm. problem. i sit next to two swiss urologists, both of whom are going to madrid for a medical conference. the small-talk dies in the arse when i ask one of them what made them decide to be a urologist- was he uncomfortable with my probing? was it unnecessary? too much? the death of history’s most boring plane conversation is not an altogether undesirable outcome- all i really want to do is watch out the window and enjoy the landing.
this is the moment of return to a place that is very special to me, a place with a lot of personal history, yet at this moment i do not feel prepared to set foot in my beloved city. the excitement i felt a few days ago has left town, leaving a strange emptiness in the middle of my chest. i feel an unsettling breeze whistling as it passes through this void ~ changed place, changed people, changed me. once landed, i trudge to collect my backpack and my feet feel heavy, leaden. what is this weird energy? i find my way to the metro then onto a train to san lorenzo de el escorial, which is where i will be staying for the next couple of weeks. sitting on the train i watch a tired-looking ticket collector collect tickets and hole-punch them, apartment blocks whizzing past the window seem starkly decrepit against the backdrop of grey clouds, and i sit there, for the first time not sure about what i am doing here, feeling that coming back is going back, and i want to move forward, but to where?
that night i go to visit silvia who is very close to giving birth to her first child. this is a delicious evening spent chatting and catching up ~but spending time with her only highlights the fact that i’m not in kansas anymore- i’ve been away for two years and life has moved on without me, the feeling of disconnection continues to accompany me that night and all the next day. this is not the jubilant return that i had anticipated……………………..still at silvia’s the next night, we receive two friends, maria jose and yoli, for a women’s circle. the main theme of the evening is silvia’s impending labour, the objective being to talk, share, and dance the anxiety away. she is nervous, edgy. this can’t be good for the little creature. as i expected, it is a beautiful night, full of tears and conversation, hearts wide open. i inaugurate a new talking stick that i found by the river that runs close to herman’s place in ecuador, and with the assistance of the talking stick, we speak of gratitude, strength, and the blessing of new life…….two days later zoe arrives and when i meet her for the first time, i fall in love. she is a tiny thing, but with big big hands that never stop moving…..as i hold her and she falls asleep in my arms, i am hypnotised by the minute detail of her little body, and the expressiveness of those hands. it occurs to me, as i watch her sleep, that whilst in the womb, new life begins as spirit, transforming, shifting physically, taking up more and more space in the material world, until it is time to come out and join the party. somewhere in between the spiritual and the material, new life moves away from total connection and absence of ego into a cognitive world, driven by meaning making, categories, and judgement. in the face of this shift, the ego begins to develop, in some ways ultimately masking this pure essence, covering it up with the skin woven together from survival strategies, ways of being, identity, culture………….the irony is that we make the journey to adulthood only to turn around and try to get back to that pure essence! the thing that exists beyond the ego that we have constructed for ourselves. i look at zoe and for her, it is effortless, the connection. it is beautiful to witness her absolute surrender, her absolute openness………
this is just my first contact with madrid, very soon i will go to murcia to join in with some ayahuasca ceremonies that bea is running. then to alicante to visit my aunt, and then back here for a couple of weeks before going to the camino. in the first days, i see my friend jesus and i go on a few long walks with cesar, who is now back in town also. on these walks, i rediscover my love for this city. in and around the retiro, the new public spaces that have been created for walking alongside the river, around lavapies and sol and down the gran via. i walk and i ask myself just what it is that has enamoured me so much of this place. madrid feels like madrid the same way that paris feels like paris or rome feels like rome- what is the spirit that draws me to this place?
rough and tumble,
grandiose, old school aesthetics,
peppered with palaces, fountains, squares and parks.
art pouring from the pores.
beige beings with dark orange tans wearing pearls and driving suv’s,
siblings in matching designer outfits,
~offerings to the temple of image.
people searching for the sun and the green,
street life and night noises,
dodgy characters and dimly lit spaces,
hidden corners of anonymity,
where secrets pool, along with the moonlight,
overflowing into the midnight street.
music in the sounds of people’s conversations,
their footsteps and faces,
emerging from open windows in the summertime.
…………….but there is a secret ingredient, one that i haven’t quite put my finger on……………………………………………………….not yet………..