Keeping quiet

I dig in the garden with my partner. At dusk we wander the farm. Sometimes we talk. We ache with age and labour, but we press on, gladly. We have a lot to do, much to plant and a great many things to abstain from.

We stop here and there to make time for the visceral, to sense what is real, what we need to feel. There are fresh tracks at the nature crossroads where the badger, fox, boar and deer pass.

A nightingale serenades in the walnut tree, loudest of all the songsters. We are knee deep in clover, mallow, hawksbeard, poppies, vetch and more. Pollinators bounce from one bloom to another. We don’t think we have ever seen so many flowers on the olive trees. We don’t need the Servei Meteorològic de Catalunya to tell us a storm is brewing.

Another storm. A year ago we were contemplating the cost of having a second water well drilled. Our spring had stopped running for the first time during our two decades here and the old well was all but dry. I sank a solar pump into the spring shaft to draw what little was left. The farm was parched, our vital olive crop in doubt.

Now the spring runs relentlessly again at 1,000 litres an hour and the circular reservoir, home of fish, frogs, and so much more, brims, a mirror of the gathering clouds.

Storm Gloria kicked off this thunderous year in January, you may recall, when the Ebre Delta all but disappeared beneath the flood. Time and time again rain has pummelled the red earth of our lower terraces, rushing into the storm drain and down to the river. After Gloria the empty pantà dels Guiamets, village home of heroine Neus Català, was rapidly replenished.

It is bewildering, frightening, to feel the forces of nature. It makes me deepen my want for knowledge, to draw from the well of our collective sensory history, when early humans did not have books but could read the sky and the wind, knew the meanings of bird and animal cries. It is faint, but we all carry the treasure of forgotten wisdom.

The biggest picture is what is around us, what and who matter to us. Yes, the deranged utterances of Trump and his ilk, and desperate tolls on the darkest of news days are soul-destroying aspects of this new, pandemic reality. We feel compelled to watch and listen to vacuous, unapologetic politicising, when the glaring imperative, in spite of the dire economics, is to wait for the science to catch up. The hard but glaring truth is that nobody should be put at risk until we know how to protect, yet many already have been.

So we seek as often as we can to abstain from this torrent of conjecture and table thumping, to be as quiet as we can. Nothing adds up financially. One child made it home from university, the other is locked down in Asia.

We must bide. And we will.

A great deal can change in the course of a year, and it will again.

Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still

for once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for a second,

and not move our arms so much…

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