Walks are my escape when we’re visiting JJ’s family in Spain. In winter, I put on layers against the cold, pull on socks and sneakers, and wrap a scarf around my neck. “I’m going for a walk”, I tell JJ and his dad, “listen for Basil”. Then I walk downstairs, grab the remote to exit through the garage, and breathe deep. I walk up the hill, noticing the overripe pomegranates on the neighbor’s tree, hanging like jewels on the bare branches. I cross three short blocks, down a hill and up another, cross the street, and I’m in “Los Pinos”, the pines.
Today the air hangs heavy with mist, and my breath loops out in front of me like a filmy balloon. The pine trees rise majestically through the mist, the ground below them bare but for a carpet of bright green grass that reminds me of spring. Magpies swoop from branch to branch, and I can hear the low rumble of doves. Tufts of white rabbit fur dot the ground, though I can’t imagine where they’d be; the acidity of the pine needles inoculates the ground against the growth of underbrush.
I pass a couple walking their dog, but mostly I have the trails to myself. The quiet washes through me like the first fall rains, pouring over streets cluttered with fallen leaves. Walks have always been an escape, but nowhere is the quiet and drifting thoughts they bring more important than here. Maybe it’s because I’m American and the Spanish are more social, or maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, who needs quiet time. All I know is that each visit there reaches a point where the constant interaction with family, interruptions when I’m reading or writing, company for breakfast, lunch and dinner, stops feeling warm and dear and starts making me edgy. And so I take walks, often with JJ and Basil, and sometimes, deliciously, alone.
Today I do two loops around the pines, pausing to lean against the damp bark of a tree to spend five minutes writing. Then I walk home, swinging my arms and breathing deep, thinking, ‘I want to start my day with a walk like this every day’.