i travel back to madrid by train from santiago, and it all feels very strange. goodbyes……………i watch out the window and feel myself pulling away from a space where so much has happened, where there has been so much activity on so many levels, and reentering the limbo that i have become so familiar with. the question: “when will i come back here ?”, pops its’ head over the fence, predictably, as it always does when i am trying to transition from one place to the next. sebastian and his gift of the manta ray also pops into my mind. he really knew what he was doing. now i can see that this is the moment to draw on that energy to glide gracefully through emotional waters……………connected to this on another level, there is an idea forming in the back of my mind about coming back here sooner rather than later. santiago de compostela is such a lovely city, i have friends here, and it is the hub of the camino. i am leaving with the sensation that i want to dig some more into the theme of pilgrimages, walking, and transformation. in a more structured way perhaps ~with more structured objectives. this would be the perfect place to do that. i visualise myself wandering amongst the stone and the water, becoming intimate with the curves in the streets……….eating…………..making a life for a time……….having gerry a stone’s throw away instead of half a world away…………….i don’t need more than a few seconds of hindsight to realise that as i pull away, i am looking for an anchor, so that i don’t get lost out there. i am looking for a sweet heart anchor.

WAKE UP!!!!!

madrid. hot. hot. hot. heat rising up and up through dead asphalt. sound fog all around. dense smells. the low hum of the city that never transitions into silence……..this is the first time i have experienced madrid in this way. this is her dirty, feral side. in no way charming. she is dishevelled, elegantly savage. mascara dripping. a desert survivor.

the first day i go walking in madrid is intense. moving from peter’s house towards the centre, i can hear, smell and feel her chaos growing and growing until we hit gran via. i am feeling nauseous. of course, this is a simple reaction to the many days where i only listened to the soft sounds of nature as i walked. pushing now through the uncomfortable sensation in my stomach, i feel the heat all around me, but there is nowhere to go to get solace from the sun. one can only walk in straight lines here and there, pushed by hot winds along what seem like the concrete lined arteries and blood vessels of a heaving, fire-breathing dragon. yes, summer in madrid is vibrant and energetic, but it is also brutal.

during this time, i spend some time with cesar and i go out to the sierra to spend a few days with silvia, santi and zoe, where i lounge about by the pool listening to music and reading. after this, when i return to the centre of madrid i mostly hang out at my friend peter’s attic or i go to the park to read, rest my legs and my mind. i don’t do a lot of walking. the heat and the dense sensation in my mind have zapped all desire for movement out of me. so, i try to find solace under the trees, with my feet on the cool grass. but of course, even in the cool calm of the retiro, my mind is doing everything but rest. it is stuck in the past and in the future, an annoying little monkey jumping from branch to branch, while i try to coax it back down with shiny objects. it is hopeless to try to be centred right now because my experiences of transitions always come with some degree of confusion. what made me think that this time would be any different? there has to be some kind of lapse when changes happen, where you feel a little out of control, where you feel yourself sliding down an uncertain slope.

i have to go to barcelona to visit nicka and merce. i travel up using blablacar, which is a website where you can organise car pooling with people who are going to be doing the same trip. i end up driving up to barcelona in the back of an old van with a really nice, young couple who are moving to germany and another guy from madrid. air conditioning comes in the form of a spray bottle with water, which is to be used when needed. it is damned hot! i clearly did not think this thing through very well. take note: for godsakes, if you travel with blablacar in the summertime, check to see if the car has air conditioning! i sit in the back melting and spraying, but it doesn’t really help. when we arrive in barcelona, i am a hot soggy mass in the back seat. the heat has crept under my skin and is now laying eggs…..

it is wonderful to catch up with nicka. i end up staying at my friend montse’s house and spend a couple of lovely evenings with them hanging out. i am also able to catch up with nani, who i haven’t seen in about 5 years i think……..a really long time…….nicka and i go for a long walk through the centre of barcelona. activated by the slow heat rising from the street surface, the heat eggs from the day before begin to hatch under the surface. we walk and we talk, deeply. despite the heat, i love the aimless wandering, following the path of the conversation with our feet, winding around different urban spaces slowly until we reach the centre. we do this for three or four hours, until it comes time to meet with my aunt. after lunch, despite eating salad and fruit, i feel as slow and as sluggish as i would feel if i had eaten a whole pot of fabada asturiana. ufffffffffffffffffffffffffffff. it’s the heat, it’s the air, i can’t breathe. it is all sticking to me and i need to get somewhere cool. i am having a flashback to india, specifically kerala….. jane, are you reading this? remember the heat?  at this point, i unfortunately have to cut my visit with my aunt short and go home. if i could teletransport myself into a cool queensland winter’s day, i would…………….

after the trip to barcelona, comes a long weekend away with a group of friends at a farmhouse near toledo. it is absolutely fabulous because it is always an easy, free space. there is music. food. there is conversation. say what you want, do what you want. singing, quite a bit of laughter, sometimes tears. as it is a large group of friends, we decide to run an impromptu massage workshop ~ masaje sense-animico. i am not sure how to translate this into english, but it is a type of massage where, using very soft, circular strokes, you intuitively explore the other person’s body with a particular idea in the mind and the heart. in this case, we were to imagine that the person we were massaging was just waking up from having slept a really, really long time. as if we were coaxing them out of a sweet, deep sleep. for me, this is a space where i can explore communication without words, where i listen and talk with my hands and my heart. it is the sort of massage that is such a pleasure to give. after more than an hour massaging my friend maria jose, i did not want to stop, i could have kept going for another hour. beautiful……….and receiving the massage? pues, ya no te digo………………

so, now, i am back in madrid. waiting. for the plane to come and pick me up and take me to singapore in two days. i guess i am organised. i booked my hotel one hour ago. i am going to leave stuff at peter’s house- i don’t see the point in taking all these summer clothes back to brisbane and then bring them or post them back here next year. i need to buy something called “sobres de cuajada” for my mother and aunt in australia, as well as a spanish trash magazine or two and a book of brain teasers. what gifts should i buy the two monkeys back in brisbane? i know that my backpack will be reasonably light on the way back.

i know that i want to walk in singapore…….one shadow. eat yummy food. get a sense of the space through my feet.

in direct opposition to the tranquility i have felt during many moments on this trip, i am now a bundle of nervous emotion. there is an energy in my body that needs to move, needs to be transformed, but in madrid at the moment, it is so hot outside………..even in the evening, it takes hours for the heat to stop coming off the asphalt. so, i sit on a white sofa in a living room in chamberi, listening to the sounds of life outside. this is where i am right now. stationary. not here, not there. somewhere in between, trying to drop anchor from moment to moment…….

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