Andalucian Breeze, English Rain and Wind

Finally we have had a day of relatively sparse rainfall and more sunshine than we have seen in a while. The gusty breezes are a constant companion and have been throughout August. Such temperamental weather contributes to the greenness of this Fair Isle but I haven’t seen an August quite as cool and grey as this in a while. Of course I have spent the previous four years in Southern Spain, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range in Andalucia. Summers there are so hot that there is little anyone can do before nightfall. Barely anyone works during August. A lot of people return home to their families in the mountains, to the villages where the employment opportunities are so poor that the majority of people leave for the coast to earn a living. During August they feel the pull back to the mountains and so the village population almost triples and its streets become as lively as they must once have been in better times. Once the sun has set there is a slight relief from the relentless heat of the day, often accompanied by a delightful breeze. Groups of women and groups of men (rarely mixed) set off on walks out of the village up towards the pines on the beacon or out towards the olive and wine fields. I often walked with a friend out towards the large threshing circle at the edge of the village and without fail, every time we turned the corner that took us out of sight of the village and closer to the fields, we would be met by that delicious breeze and throw our arms up and whirl around in its refreshing embrace. A simple but so effective reminder of the mercy of God.

Now I am in England and the wind is unrelenting at the moment and it is often tempting to complain and wish for more sunshine but here too there is mercy and provision. What better help could I hope for as I write my dissertation late into the night becoming ever more bleary-eyed? There is nothing better than to go in the garden and let that chilly wind wake me up. It’s what I need to do right now as I need to be writing well past midnight tonight. Of course, a good cup of tea is another great remedy. Alhamdulillah for cool breezes that bring relief in the heat, for chilly winds that help keep me awake, and for the good old English cup of tea!

Amazing Diversity

It is August and many people are on holiday. Everything is quieter than usual; even the internet seems less busy. I feel the need for a holiday too. I miss Andalucia and it’s nearly a year since I was last there. I can’t go anywhere at present though because I am working hard to finish my MA by September. I have a dissertation to write which also involves field study. I am working on the role of memory in interfaith dialogue and looking specifically at Jews and Muslims ‘remembering’ the times they lived and worked together in Al-Andalus. So Andalucia (present day Al-Andalus) is never far from my thoughts. This topic will be expanded when I begin my doctoral research in September.

I was speaking to a Spanish friend on the phone last night and she said I wouldn’t want to go over there right now even if I had the time and money because it is so hot. Climate change is making itself noticeable in the Alpujarra Mountains as well. Summers have become shorter and hotter. In Al-Andalus of medieval times there was a tendency to build houses relatively high and to keep the streets quite narrow. This provided shade and a measure of relief from the heat in summer. They also used water in numerous water channels and fountains. The Court of Lions in the Alhambra in Granada is a wonderful example of this. On a hot day I find even the sound of trickling, bubbling, splashing water immensely refreshing. Well, to come back to where I am now, sitting at my laptop in Bristol, the sky grey, the air chilly, quite unusual for August, it certainly makes it easier to work on my dissertation. So, Alhamdulillah for all kinds of weather, rain and sun, wind and dust. What a beautiful planet this is in all its natural diversity!

England

Dartington by I.ChatterjeeDear friends and readers please excuse my short absence. I have been busy re-locating to England. It is dramatically different from living in the mountains of Andalucia but although I was expecting it to be much cooler here, the day after I arrived a heat wave began!
I hope to be back to normal soon with regular postings but for the moment here is a haiku:

The green land of Blake,
Visionary of worlds unseen;
Mountains rise from ponds