It’s not the first time we’ve had a guest post from Charlotte, who lives in the US. She loves the Alpujarras as much as we do. Her previous stories – A Quiet Escape on the Ruta Olivos Centenarios and On the buses – an American in Paradise are a joy to read. So it’s a ‘thank you’ – again – with this post, closer to the heart.
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We are meeting our son’s new girlfriend for the first time. The same son who is recovering from the devastating pain of a marriage that exploded. We ache to see him happy again. We want her to relax and feel welcome. We sit in our garden, socially distanced, lowering our masks to sip wine, slightly on edge, getting to know each other by half-faces.
And then it happens: she tells us that she has recently been on a holiday in Las Alpujarras. ‘Las Alpujarras?’ We barely come across anyone who has even heard of the region that has called to us since we first visited in 2014, far less someone who has been there and found it just as seductive.
While we had lodged in a comfortable holiday rental in central Órgiva and taken day hikes out of town, ‘A’ (as we’ll call her) and her friend had, more energetically, walked from Lanjarón to Trevélez, a distance of about 60k. Words tumble like water down an acequia as we gab about white villages and jamón, about free tapas and herds of goats, about the subterranean chocolate shop and the colourful woven rugs in Pampaneira.
The evening light fades, and as we scrupulously maintain the six-foot distance and tug our masks into place, we resist the impulse to hug. I slip our copy of Chris Stewart’s Driving over Lemons into A’s hand so that she can revisit Las Alpujarras from our Covid-restricted world.
Months pass. Covid still rages, A is still part of our son’s life, and my relationship with her has progressed to occasional texting. During one chat, the topic turns again to reminiscing about Spain, and A fires off two or three photos from her trek. I gaze at them, wishing I were strolling past the olive groves down to the Rio Guadalfeo or working my way up the acequia to Bayacas rather than being stuck in the house in a Midwestern winter.
One frame in particular resonates. In the far distance, a mountain shoulder heaves in from the left, forming a blue-grey backdrop. In the middle distance, sinuous roads cling to the rocky hillsides – the two walls of the Poqueira Gorge. A cluster of white houses draws the eye – Bubión perhaps? In the foreground, tall trees wear their tawny autumn coats.
I scroll through my own photos of our walk up the Poqueira Gorge, and there it is. Low cloud casts a veil over the landscape – the distant hills merge with the grey sky – but I am looking at the same mountainsides, the same twisty roads, the same white houses, and the same trees, bare in March, but poised to produce the leaves that A will photograph four years later, standing where we stood.
Perhaps it is only mildly coincidental that we chose the same spot to pause, look appreciatively down the gorge, and snap a photo. But every inch of the footpath from Pampaneira, through Bubión, to Capileira offers a photogenic view, and A had chosen to send me this one.
I don’t know what the future holds for A and our son; they will figure that out. But I do know that as we navigated a year of personal and global disruption, this moment of connection, this pair of photographs, one glowing with autumnal light, the other suggesting the promise of spring, felt like a good omen.
© con jamón spain