Most people head to the Mediterranean for the sun. Sun, sea, Sangria and a bit of sex perhaps.
But you will find, if you talk to the locals here, that Mallorcans do not take to the sun all that much. Mallorcan villages always look deserted. All is shut, especially in the summer. The windows are protected to leave the sun out, and the heat with it, by way of shuttered blinds called Persianas. What a clever invention.
Mallorcans have a lot of respect for the sun. If you examine traditional architecture in the Mallorcan countryside you will notice that most old farm houses have surprisingly few windows of a surprisingly small size. Modern farmhouse conversions, done by well-off Northern European finca owners, can’t seem to get enough windows, all of them as large as possible. What do the locals know, that we don’t? Or better: what did the Mallorcan farmers know, in times gone by?
Talking of farmers: they respected the sun, possibly feared its unforgiving force, but they did not live, nor farm, nor grow by the sun’s schedule. Quite the opposite. Mallorcan farmers observed the Lunar calendar, and still do, when it comes to pruning their fruit trees, grafting plums onto almond tree branches, planting new trees, sowing their crop, harvesting their wine, mating their sows, sheep or horses, or even having their own hair cut. I would say that the Mallorcan farmer’s life is governed by the moon much more than by the sun. I dare even claim that Mallorca as a whole seems perhaps to be dominated much more by the moon than the sun, and has always been. Why that should be, one cannot fathom. But that this is so, you will find lots of evidence for. Take agriculture as just one example.
There would be other examples, too. Robert Graves, poet and writer (1895-1985) had a great affinity with the Mallorcan moon, for instance. Sources suggest that Robert Graves claimed repeatedly that he was fascinated by Mallorca for the moon rather than the sun. You might remember that he lived for most of his adult life and up to his death on this Balearic Island. ”The Muse, or Moon Goddess, inspires poetry of a magical quality”, as Graves would put it. You can find evidence of that in many of his poems as well as in his book Between Moon and Moon: Selected Correspondence. The book was published in 1984 but sadly is out of print, or so I am told.
A new book has just been published of poems by Robert Graves, lovingly edited in a bilingual version (Catalan-English), side by side. Graves’s poetry and his choice of words, written in a foreign land where he had chosen to live, can be seen to acquire a different quality when faced with a careful Catalan translation. Buy the book if you can. El país que he escollit (Edicions del Salobre, 480 pp., 30 €) may give you a completely new experience of Graves’s poetic output and of the sophisticated beauty and finesse of the Catalan language. And also, perhaps, of Mallorca.
The photo was chosen from my archive. It was taken in Deià, Mallorca, Spain. The date: November 27th, 2008. The time was 13:15:58. The photo shows Robert Graves’s shaving utensils in Ca n’Alluny The House of Robert Graves, just outside of Deià. You can visit, too.