Now comes news of a treasure trove of prehistoric cave paintings, more than anywhere in Catalonia, all, as it happens, within walking distance of my family's farm
One Catalan jewel among the many, my home comarca of the Priorat, is a prism of rainbow light right now that arches through time and across the globe.
I have spent a quarter of my reasonably long life within this small, peaceful, wondrous mountain region and have witnessed the gentle but steady rising of its star, happy in part but anxious too that the attention that will certainly follow does not tarnish the joys, shatter the rhythms or unbalance the inherent goodness of spirit and community.
For a long time now the local council and residents have been actively working on a European Union plan for sustainability, thinking about the future and the pressures ahead as eyes turn in this direction and appreciation is refracted in various ways. We are far down the road now too with the application for UNESCO World Heritage status for the Priorat, which is a double-edged sword, I suppose, bringing protections but also shedding a beam upon the region as its natural and cultural significance dawns on the wider world.
Pockets of fame exist already of course. Think Priorat and you may well think vines and world-class wine. That fame is long established among connoisseurs. And then there is the extraordinary topography along which the terraces snake, linked by a weave of old ways intersecting the peaceful villages, a rich pattern for walkers and cyclists.
Now comes news of a treasure trove of prehistoric cave paintings, more than anywhere in Catalonia, all, as it happens, within walking distance of my family's farm. How much more ancient art is out there? I have gone seeking, retracing old steps through the forest but with fresh eyes this time, and I have found two figures etched into the limestone. In the coming days I intend to renew my search in this timeless landscape of the wild tortoise, the Bonelli's eagle, the myriad fauna, the fathomless past.
And I itch with unease that, even now, writing this, I am compounding the challenge of change. I have written about the Priorat for nearly two decades, with precious little impact it has to be said, but now there is my work in film too. Most recently I have been executive producer on a short film project set here, a drama written and directed by our daughter Ella , and we finished the shoot at the beginning of April.
The worldly crew – Catalan, Spanish, Thai, English, Venezuelan, Danish, Irish, Scottish, Singaporean, Bulgarian and Argentine – were collectively dumb-struck by the colours, character and beauty of the location. And most surprising of all was that none of those based in Barcelona had ever been here before and did not know anything about the Priorat.
So how to preserve as well as share? That is the question, one for all of the country and its many priceless wonders as the light that is Catalonia burns all the brighter.
- Catalonia Today 07-05-2017 Pàgina 7