an american in andalucía
by Tavis Gray
I spent the New Year’s weekend in the quiet embrace of good wine, good conversation, and good, painterly views of Africa’s Northern coast. I can hardly comprehend that sentence, just as I can hardly comprehend my time spent in the Andalusian village of Gaucín. A last outpost of the Roman empire (and [slightly] more recently the Moorish), Gaucín is picturesque in ways a fairy tale could only blush at. The town is doused in white paint and tricky turns and eagles circling and strong winds blowing up from Gibraltar, a half hour’s crow-fly away. Walking, running, driving through Gaucín feels like unearthing a secret. This may be due to facts. The village was more or less unreachable by car well into the 70s. So unearthed is right, in a way. But time goes on, and so does more advanced transportation, better engines (vehicle and search), and so it becomes easier to manage your weight as you pass careening slopes and untamed vistas.
Not a place for doing, Gaucín is dreamy and simple, which allowed the perfect conditions for meditating on the year past. I let my thoughts sail out from our home and into the valley below. I watched as they fluttered down along the Genal river to the Mediterranean, coasted up into the Rif Mountains of Morocco and to the desert beyond. I tracked them still, from my perch to there, in full sight. I wished several times, out loud, to never leave that view, my glass of thick Málaga wine, my slice of toast, my airy head. But as there always is: Monday.
Gaucín is fragile in a way that isn't at first obvious. Its castle has withstood raids and time. Its people have weathered the turbulent summer heat. Storms have been unable to beat back its gallant post. And yet fragility is its appeal. In this village, and with an ear to the ground, you may hear the land sigh beneath your weight. It is important that you be fragile in these places, too. To know your place. To breathe lightly, to soak and not to stain. In fact, upon leaving, you may find yourself even more delicate than before. More aware. More, more. A Spanish osmosis, perhaps.
Or, more likely, a Spanish cure.