Taking a Break

We’ve had a lot of family stuff going on lately and it’s consumed most of my energy. I’ll be heading back to the US soon to be in the mix. But before that, we headed out to take a little break. It may seem strange since we live on the Med, but stepping back is important during times of stress, and since life varies at different points on the Mediterranean (even in Spain) – thinking north and east – we decided some time away was in order.

Luckily, we didn’t need to go far, since everything in Europe is so close. Mostly, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. But this trip included some of my favorite things.

  • A Place I LOVE!
  • Ancient history
  • Lots of ruins
  • A favorite beach
  • Introducing Jeff to a place he’s never been

Tarragona is just south of Barcelona, right on the Med. It’s easily accessible by train so no stressful flight delays. This time, catching the train, we did the very Spanish thing and arrived right as boarding began. This means 20 minutes before it leaves (that’s when they assign the track). Highly unusual for us, since we’re always early to everything. (As though a train or plane will come sooner than expected). I was in a ‘I just don’t care, even if we miss the train we’ll catch the next one’ mode.

The other wonderful part of it is that where we stayed had ZERO wifi and the city has terrible cell service. I’m not sure why getting a signal was so touch and go, but it meant we were out of communication for days.

If you’re thinking of visiting – I would recommend visiting the Amphitheater first. There you can purchase an all-inclusive ticket for the main sites in the city. These include the Amphitheater, Forum, Murallas, Circus, Tower (Necropolis) and the Archaeological museum (although it’s under renovation and closed now – luckily I have been before). There are palaces within the walled city and other sites not requiring a ticket. I would highly suggest walking the entire perimeter of the walls around the old city.

The history of ‘Tarroco’ goes back thousands of years. It was a key city in the Roman Empire. Rich, well positioned, easily defensible. The city was a classic Roman city, and since then changed hands many times. Visigoths, Moors, French – it was so important it became a military target where empires invested in expensive sieges, and the very costly occupation of unwilling populations. As we know today in most of our current military conflicts around the world – it will not end well. Winning a war is one thing. Winning the peace is quite another.

No matter how many times I visit a place I always learn something new. Perhaps we filter information differently at different times. Changing our focus. But as an enthusiastic student of history, I’m always looking for new insights. This time when visiting the remains of the Roman circus, there were new plaques. They explained how the chariot races were were staged. How rich Romans paid for the races – gave away tickets for free – and their social standing was based on how many of the poor peasants showed up. Basically, just like today with social media and harvesting ‘Likes’. We are all still the same people we were more than 2,000 years ago. Our reptilian brains haven’t evolved that much. The Kardashians immediately came to mind. No matter how rich, they still need to be loved by the masses.

Another thing we learned about is that the social system in The Roman Empire was all about continually leveling the playing field. Rise too high – become too rich, too influential – and eventually, the state would seize all your possessions. They feared any consolidation of power through money and influence. But social breakdowns started keeping this from happening and the fall of Rome was inevitable as the peasantry rose up.

Jeff has usually, very reluctantly, embraced my historical forays, but as we walked through this history, he was struck by the parallels to what’s going on in the US today. Much like the Romans, we seem to be imploding; hoisting ourselves on our own petard. And walking through Tarragona, you are literally walking ON history. You can’t miss the buildings built precariously on the past. I’m not sure what their building codes have historically been, but some of these more modern structures appear to be perched – ripe for an earthquake to take them out. But so far, so good.

Anyway, it was a relaxing time away. Much needed. Who knows what the future holds. But whenever things get too crazy today, a little visit to the past is what my heart needs.

Espacia Creativo

Ready. Set. Create! The movers came yesterday and we’ve been getting the new space all set up. We have desks for computers. Gotta write. A living room for resting from our creative pursuits. We’re having a refrigerator delivered – no one creates on an empty stomach. And more work tables and sundry other items will come later next week. Semana Santa is messing with my delivery schedules this week.

It’s getting there…slowly.

I’m not completely set up with my painting area. My canvas tarps haven’t arrived yet. Nor my really big canvases. But it’s good enough to put brush to linen. This one I call ‘Painting after a strong Gin and Tonic’. But I actually kind of like it.

Painting after a strong G & T

The space is in another section of Benimachlet. About 8 blocks from home. An area where we didn’t previously spend very much time. But I like it. There’s a charity shop around the corner – so I’m all over making donations to them. And there is a bar less than 100 feet from the front door. As luck would have it, Jeff likes the Spanish peanuts and olives they serve with beverages. And the beer. They’re overly generous with their G and T pours. So only one for me. I’m not Hemingway or Van Gogh, so I’ll need to keep my wits about me if I’m to be at my optimal creative self.

Now that I have a place of my own to spend a significant amount to time each day, it requires some of the essentials. And I have a new local El Chino that is making it easy. They’re lovely people. I’ve spent gobs of money in there stocking up on outfitting the space so I don’t feel like we have to go out to eat if we don’t want to. Or drink from a glass, or use paper towels efficiently. I left my wallet on the counter as I was juggling bags and my full trolley the other day. When I went back hyperventilating they handed it over with a smile, and all the money and cards were nestled where they should be. Whew! These people have my business for life!

Its no wonder I’m feeling inspired. A burst of creativity is here. I can feel it! 120 square meters will do that for you. Writing and painting and yoga-ing. I’ll be putting it all to good use. Can’t wait to see where it leads.

Too Much Junk in the Trunk

You can already tell the days are getting longer. The afternoon light has started to get that honey colored glow. The afternoons are in the 60’s and even 70’s this past weekend. Spring is arriving in January in Valencia.

Even my beleaguered pepper plant – that I failed to bring in all winter – has some new little baby peppers on it. And I’ve already bought a new basil plant. I’ve never attempted basil so early. Even in Arizona.

Another indication is that my laundry dries outside before the next load gets out of the washer. Even sheets and towels. Oh how my life has changed in one years time. My yardsticks for the season changes have completely changed.

I’ve already begun unpacking my spring and summer clothes. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but with a purpose. After watching Dr. Oz on the Today Show online, he advised that people who live in yoga or sweat pants are usually 5-10 lbs fatter than people who wear regular pants without any spandex or give in them. I didn’t like the sound of that so I went into the bathroom in front of the full length mirror (in my yoga pants) and turned in a circle. Hmm.

The only jeans I have that have no-give are white pants and they were packed away for the winter. I’ve been living in nothing but pants that are infused with give for the past 5 months. So I dug out the space bags and held up the dreaded white pants with no forgiving give-ness. I didn’t tell Jeff what I was doing and he didn’t ask. He’s used to my weird closet swaps and it wouldn’t have dawned on him that it was January – a little early for Spring and Summer.

But he became aware when I came out of the bathroom. Sure, they buttoned. Yes, I could sit down. But I was very worried I might be risking deep vein thrombosis if I wore them for any length of time. And, if I’m honest, there was a little ‘muffining’ around the top. Not Costco muffins – not that bad. More like mini muffins from the Nothing Bundt Cake shop back home. Again, he hardly noticed. Even when I asked ‘Do I look fatter than I did last summer?’

He looked at me over his glasses and iPad. Hesitating, like a man being questioned by the police and wondering what the right answer would be. Understanding clearly that his life might depend upon it.

‘No.’ And he went back to reading Reddit.

Well, he was lying. Dr. Oz would have told me the truth. I have spent way too much time in yoga pants. Ugh! Something needed to give – literally. So we went on a 20 mile bike ride down the coast. Glorious. the sun was out, the beach was uncrowded and the sailboats were on the water catching wind. Jeff got to use his bike flag that he designed and sewed himself. He was sure people were staring and pointing at his new flag. I was sure it was because he was on his recumbent trike but it doesn’t matter.

Then yesterday, I went to my first soccer practice under the towers at Torres de Seranno. It’s an international team of women from the US, UK, Germany, Brazil, Spain and Bulgaria. And they’re all half my age. But oh well. Its a workout – even though we went for beers afterwards, but I don’t drink beer so I got the full benefit. An hour and a half playing soccer will take it out of you. I slept like an 8 year old last night.

And apparently even our building thinks I could shed a couple of pounds. Our elevator was broken all day. So we had to carry a major grocery shop up 7 flights of stairs. Its fixed now that we’re home with it all put away. But holy moly, huffing and puffing lentils vertically should be part of a cross fit program.

And tonight I got invited to play on another soccer team in the town just north of where we live. Right on the Metro line. It’s just two nights a week but it will go a long way into getting me ready to fit back into those jeans comfortably – without taking blood thinners.

So, as I sit here with bruised shins and sore ankle, with the knowledge that just getting up takes a little more oomph than it did a few days ago, I’m ready to embrace Spring in Valencia. No matter how painful that’s clearly going to be.

Finding Room

Being back in Spain has proved busy. In an effort to make more room for our creative pursuits, Jeff and I have been out and about exploring. Jeff has repeatedly been frustrated with the availability of supplies related to the things he likes to do. Whether it’s sea kayaks or technical fabrics. Not to mention the space to spread out to sew and paint. We needed to have a rethink and get creative on the space.

Part of that was using our time in Ireland. Since we couldn’t get the technical fabrics here, when we were in Dublin we visited an amazing fabric store in an old Georgian house in walking distance from our original hotel. It’s kind of this secret door type of thing. Like Grimmald Place in Harry Potter, if you didn’t know it was there you’d never find it. Finally I range the bell after we’d walked around the block twice. They were wonderful and have floors and bolts of every kind of fabric you can imagine up to the ceiling. And now that they know us and we have a relationship, they’re happy to ship to us in Valencia when ever we need. I wasn’t the only reason we had to buy another suitcase. Check and check!

When we got home we found a Bauhaus store that right on our tram line and doesn’t require us to go out to Shopping City on the IKEA bus or via taxi. It’s at Heron City and they also have a movie theatre with movies in English on Tuesdays and all the restaurants we love. Win Win. So we’ve spent the last two days going back and forth, buying tables to reconfigure Jeff’s office so he has space to spread out. Now he’s got computers and plenty of room to cut and sew fabric.

And then there is me. I have been painting at our dining room table. The light isn’t the best. This morning I went into the third bedroom as the sun came up, and discovered the light in there is amazing for a couple of hours every morning. We never go in there and have been using it for storage. So after some reorganization and the purchase of a new table and some other supplies, I have a new space to paint every morning.

It’s funny, I find my painting is helping with my writing. No matter how amateurish my results have been. But painting, like writing and like life, is about trying and failing. Learning and growing. So without judgment, I’m adding four pictures to this post. The first one is my first painting in Valencia. It’s all about a bright sail on a stormy sea. Not sure, but I dreamed about and painted it.

The second are three blue vases I have on a table in the house. I didn’t do them justice but I love looking at them every day.

The third is looking up while laying on a blanket in the Turia. The sky is so blue here and on a cloudless day there is nothing bluer.

The forth one is some splatter painting. I created a box to try out the technique and this one I’d call ‘Tiffany’s’ because the blue of the background reminds me of Tiffany blue boxes – but I know I didn’t get the color quite right.

If you had asked me a few days ago if we had the room for these spaces I would have told you there was no way. But I think El Compartemiento flexed a bit for us. He feels a little bigger and more usable that he did before. I need to get down to the process of editing, amongst the other mundane day to day things on the near horizon. But we’ve both made space to step out of the administrivia and to let our creative flags fly. And that feels good.