The Art of Poetry

Es Comú Muro Mallorca

Allow me, please, to remind you that today, March 21st, we celebrate the World Poetry Day. The marking originates from a decision made by UNESCO in 1999 in Paris to support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities. Much to my regret, the Mallorcan language is one such endangered language.

Poetry is not just verbal or lingual; poetry is manifested in sound and in movement, in disposition and in structure, in shape and in chaos. There is poetry in nature, in life forms, in ritual and in art; there is poetry in maths and in music; poetry can simply be found everywhere and at all times.

There was poetry in yesterday’s eclipse of the sun, unfortunately not visible in Mallorca due to meteorological conditions, and there is poetry in springtime’s birth of nature with all its sounds and wonders.

Allow me to quote a poem by Joan Brossa, Catalan artist, poet and playwright:

Conec la utilitat de la inutilitat. I tinc la riquesa de no voler ser ric.

(I know the usefulness of uselessness. And I have the wealth not to want to be rich.)

The Art of Poetry

Cool in the Pool

You may be surprised when I tell you that we do not possess a swimming pool. We had guests staying with us the other day, for a week or so. Friends of theirs, who were here on holiday, were aghast to hear they stayed with us in a house without a piscina. The truth is that I would quite like to have a cooling-off swim basin but my wife is not in favour of my idea. You may also be shocked to hear that we don’t have air-conditioning in our house, either. I am totally against the environmental insanity and the harmful effect of air-conditioning, health-wise. Luckily my wife agrees with me on that one. Okay, it is hot out there right now, I grant you that. But temperatures will drop within a week or two; so, what’s the big deal? We keep our shutters shut all day long, and there is always a slight breeze and sufficient circulation of air in the house.

As for swimming: there is a large municipal piscina less than a mile down the road from our house with two large pools, a jacuzzi, a steam room and a sauna. And even better, there is the sea less than twenty minutes from here, by car, with two dozen bays and coves and beaches within half an hour’s drive, and some 250 beaches in Mallorca, all told. Would you rather swim in the pool or would you rather float in the Mediterranean Sea? That’s an easy answer, I would have thought.

The photo was taken near s’Alquería Blanca, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 22nd, 2012. The time was 22:40:14.

Cool in the Pool

Fifty Grades of Shade

We have recently been sent a heavy humid heat wave from the African land expanse. The Agencia Estatal de Meteorología has seen itself prompted to issue a Yellow Alert warning of high temperatures for today and tomorrow.

You may agree with my findings that the heat is more bearable when under the protective shield of some natural shade. The Mallorcan natives have always considered shade an important ally in combating the unforgiving aggression of the Summer sun. Main roads between major villages used to be lined with tall and handsome Aleppo Pine Trees (Pinus halepensis) affording a canopy of shade for those traversing the island. The same in Palma, where streets such as Carrer de Blanquerna were tree-lined, in this case with Lledoners (Celtis australis), offering the animals some shade on their way to the slaughterhouse at s’Escorxador. When I sit sipping my morning coffee, I do so under the shade of the Felanitx palm trees (Phoenix canariensis) and when I go to the beach I seek comfort under the pine trees. If there are no trees, I do not go to the beach during the hot July and August temperatures. I am not mad enough to get roasted like a suckling pig just for the sake of a swim in the Med.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 7th, 2012. The time was 14:54:20.

Fifty Grades of Shade

Irreparabile Tempus

Time is relative. As Wikipedia puts it, time is used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects. In addition, the temporal position of events with respect to the transitory present is continually changing.

In the old days, let’s say, 188 years ago, in 1824, people here in Mallorca could on the whole not read nor write. Education was a privilege of the upper class then, of land owners and the landed gentry. Likewise with time keeping. Only the church and nobility needed to know what hour of the day it was at any given moment. The common man in the street would structure his year by the saints; today, July 14th, for instance, would be the day of Sant Camilo (Saint Camillus de Lellis). The hours of the day, as far as the farmer was concerned, would be governed by the position of the sun; daybreak would mean that animals wanted to be fed. Other than that, it was important to know when it was time for church mass; but for that one could rely on the church bells to be rung.

I can’t tell you more about the origin of sundials here in Mallorca except to say that they always counted the hours from sunrise to sunset, from dawn to dusk. Nighttime was for sleeping.

Irreparabile tempus. Time can not be recovered.

The photo was taken in Manacor, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: July 13th, 2012. The time was 17:31:43

Irreparabile Tempus

An Early Summer Heat Wave

AEMet, Spain’s Meteorological Institute, has given a weather alert concerning an Ola de Calor, a heat wave.  That’s early. The big Summer heat wave normally comes around July 20th, give or take a week. That makes it three weeks early for this year’s early Ola de Calor. In Southern parts of mainland Spain, temperatures are said to be going up to 38° C, even 40° C in some places. Here in Mallorca, temperatures are forecast to reach 30° C today and tomorrow, and may go up to 31° C in some places, and even 33° C by Friday. UV radiation will be higher than normal as well these next few days with a reading of 11 and above.

My advice would be to take it easy. Be wise. Put a straw hat on your head or some other cover whenever you go out. Drink plenty of liquid, preferably non-alcoholic. Put some sun cream lotion on, ideally with a higher than 35 factor. When at home, keep your persianers shut all day long and open the windows. If you must go to the beach, seek out a Cala where you will have plenty of natural tree shade, such as in my photo, taken in s’Arenal Petit, in Portocolom. Don’t sit and get your skin burned; you will suffer from it. If you do get sun burned, apply some juice from a freshly cut Aloe Vera plant, or rub your burned skin with some plain natural yoghurt.

The photo was taken near Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: June 22nd, 2012. The time was 11:34:41.

An Early Summer Heat Wave

The Sun Deity

Real Mallorcans do not much value or even, worship the sun. Far from it. They fear and respect the sun for its unforgiving strength and harsh impact on the land, the crop, plants and animals. On the island, country houses used to be built with few windows and small ones in size at that, just to keep the heat out.

Once a year, though, the sun is celebrated, almost as a deity. That will be tonight, the Nit de Sant Joan, when the sun’s Summer solstice is celebrated, or Midsummer Night. There will be fires on some beaches, such as in Cala Sa Nau. In Palma, there will be a Correfoc (Fire Run) at the Parc de la Mar. The Festival de Sant Joan (Festival of Saint John) is really tomorrow, June 24th. It will be celebrated in style at 06h30 at the Santuari de la Mare de Déu de Consolació just outside of the pueblo of Sant Joan, in the middle of the island, in an act called El Sol Que Balla (the dancing sun). If you go there you might be invited for a drink of hot chocolate and even, a freshly baked ensaïmada.

The photo was taken near Petra, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: March 30th, 2012. The time was 07:41:13.

The Sun Deity

24 Hours in the Life of an Island

(near Felanitx, at 00:40:23)

Twenty-eight years ago today, I orchestrated an exciting photo event in Los Angeles, California, in collaboration with one Red Saunders. Together, we edited the book that covered that event: 24 Hours in the Life of Los Angeles. All those years ago, we had assembled a team of 145 people, including 103 photographers from all over the world plus 16 local school children, to capture the life in this metropolis in the run-up to the 1984 Olympic Games.

Today, I have the pleasure to invite you to sample a similar adventure, somewhat different but nonetheless exciting, albeit without its results ending up in a glossy coffee-table book. I endeavour the making of a comprehensive portrait of Mallorca, my home for the last 25 years, by taking photographs over a period of 24 hours in the life of this island. This time, there is no team and there are no other photographers involved or invited. I will upload photos every few hours, depending on broadband connection, and today’s post will grow bigger and longer as the day progresses. The first photo was taken this morning at 00h40 on top of Puig de Sant Salvador near Felanitx, and the last one will be captured just before midnight in Plaça d’Espanya in Felanitx. Let’s see how it goes and let’s witness, if I will last the Tour de Force.

(Portocolom, at 01:28:42)

(Porto Cristo, at 02:03:46)

(Son Servera, at 02:52:00)

(near Canyamel, at 03:10:01)

(Cala Rajada, at 03:32:23)

(Cala Rajada, at 03:43:12)

(Felanitx, at 04:39:18)

I made a scheduled return to Felanitx to upload the first photos of this self-set challenge. Quite unscheduled, I fell asleep and had a 45 minutes nap. I was still good on time and schedule, though.

(near Petra, at 07:41:13)

(near Petra, at 08:00:33)

(Santa Margalida, at 09:24:54)

(Muro, at 10:44:09)

(near Muro, at 11:35:52)

At this time, I was still running to schedule, more or less. But it began to dawn on me that the task I had set might be a bigger one than I had calculated. I may have underestimated the challenge and the sheer distance between places, and I may have overestimated my abilities as a one-man-band. I decided that Mallorca was, in fact, a continent.

(near Muro, at 12:11:55)

(Port de Pollença, at 13:59:13)

(Pollença, at 14:18:33)

By now, it was quite evident that I was running late, and well behind schedule. I decided to alter my route plan. Instead of returning south via Crestatx, Sineu and Sant Joan, I decided to go up into the mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana to see if I could catch up on time by eliminating some of the planned stops.

(near Pollença, at 14:58:40)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:23:18)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:25:40)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:32:31)

(near Sa Calobra, at 15:33:02)

(near Fornalutx, at 15:37:35)

(near Fornalutx, at 15:43:27)

It now was clear: there was no way I could complete the whole island portrait, and comprehensive at that, within the self-elected time frame of 24 hours. For a start, there was no way that I could upload any photos during the course of my parcours. There were just too many kilometres to be driven from point to point. Mallorca is too big an island to be ticked off in one single day by one individual. I realized that I would have needed to employ the good services of a driver to allow me to concentrate on the scene selection and the location, instead of me minding the business of getting there in the first place. And it would have been wise to seek the support of an assistant to keep my back free from the logistics of the task. Me, on my own, doing the driving, route planning, rescheduling, time keeping, scene selection, setting up the tripod, shooting, editing, copy writing, Lightroom-ing, WordPress formatting and what have you, was just too much for one elderly man. And I was getting tired, sleepy, red-eyed, exhausted and anxious. I needed a hug, or a helpline, or something.

(near Sóller, at 15:51:15)

(Sóller, at 16:45:14)

(Sóller, at 17:03:36)

(Sóller, at 17:11:26)

In Sóller, I accepted the inevitability of defeat. It simply was impossible to cover all of Mallorca or at least, all 48 locations that I had scheduled, in one day and on my own. I would barely manage half that number and not even half the total distance. By now I had done some 300 kms, and I would surely need to do the same again, or more, with more than two thirds of the time already gone. I would need to be fitter (and younger), less mad, better equipped, better supported and assisted, and more realistic. I should simply have listened to my wife.

(Alfàbia, at 17:46:32)

(Alfàbia, at 17:54:46)

In Alfàbia I decided to go home. I needed to upload some of my photos and take stock. I might go out again after that to cover some of the Mallorcan hinterland, Porreres, Campos, Llucmajor, Sant Joan, Villafranca, Sineu, Llubi, and so on. For now, I certainly would not be able to cover the western parts of the island, Andratx, Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Valldemossa, Deià, Orient, Alaró, Bunyola; I might have to have another go at the region at some later stage. Palma, I was pretty sure that I would skip Palma for now.

(Felanitx, at 23:43:43)

Having aborted the project and not having gone out again once I arrived back home after 20 hours on the road and in the hot sun, I was busy photo editing, photo optimizing and uploading. I now did not need to do that final shot just before midnight that I had scheduled from earlier this morning. But I wanted to do it anyhow to have a pair of bookends, so to speak. As it happens, I met my friend John and he kindly agreed to pose as another mad hatter for mad me. No. This is not me sitting there, just in case you wondered.

Good night, and thank you for joining me on this ride and this very long day indeed. I need some sleep now.

24 Hours in the Life of an Island