I pass hillsides of olive groves interrupted intermittently by crops of solar panels, neatly planted in rows. As the train departed Granada minutes ago I experienced a twinge in my heart. Something about the tightly tucked neighborhoods on hills, the Moroccan influence of kebabs and street vendors, the University vibrancy, gypsies living in the hills and entertaining in the plazas, the presence of the snow clad Sierra Nevada Mountains, and of course the distinct emblematic presence of the Alhambra overlooking it all. That and the mix of languages coming from all corners as you pass. The culture blended in language, history, and customs- something to embrace, as I will never find its equivalent in Colorado as long as I live. Despite these feelings it was no doubt time to move on. To sit in once place for too long without a sense of purpose (beyond seeing the sights) becomes uncomfortable. It’s like a root determined to set itself in foreign and concrete soil with no concept of what it may fruit. There is temptation in experiencing the growth process and blooming out from the unknown. Especially in a place where gravity seems to have a stronger pull. However, there is ease in movement because movement will eventually return to the comforts of where it started. Yes, the comforts of home and the love of friends, but as much the sense of purpose that seems so relevant and waiting.
Elevation has stunted the growth of the olives, farmers giving way to the barren. Further along I witness a landscape unique to any I have ever seen. Resemblance to the carved unassuming desert soils of Colorado and Utah with rolling snow painted mountains resting in the beyond, but with the presence of low valleys of seemingly planted tall and wispy poplar-esque trees. The white-washed residences and brief encounters with unvisited villas sparks the imagination as to what life is truly like in that little speck of the Earth. So many specks, so many people, so many ways of life. As the distance to Almería shortens I see the landscape noted in my Lonely Planet, one straight out of America’s Wild West. In the 60’s and 70’s dozens of Hollywood Westerns were shot, at least in part, here. Some movie night in the future may have to include The Magnificent Seven and Fistful of Dollars. The valley I currently gaze at has now given way to rows of giant wind turbines; alternative energy has its presence on much of this journey I’ve taken. Visions of moving into the future.
And how to move into the future is still a translucent image in my eyes. This time of travel is clearly a time of transition in my life, the break from the form my “calling” has taken over the past five years and into a lifestyle more purposeful. How to move vocationally to encounter a greater sense of purpose than teaching? The answer found in how one defines purpose. (And important to note as I watched the antics of school groups touring the Alhambra today, I was happy NOT to be the one in charge of disciplining and ordering the rambunctious ones. Exhausting just to watch. I chuckled to myself with the clarity.) Purpose has a synonym that I’ve always knows, and that has become apparent again with the examination of those I have encountered, even just in Granada. The old couple running the pension I stayed at. Each morning a warm smile as ginger teas was delivered with kind Spanish comments regardless of one’s ability to understand. A day of cleaning, making beds, checking in and checking out. Day after day… I wandered tiny streets which led to pathways up the hill opposite the Alhambra. What appeared to be open land I quickly realized was inhabited. Caves etched out of the Earth and marked by recycled fence pieces, hubcaps, and other useful rubbish. The call of a drumbeat pulled me higher to witness a shirtless dready, hands making music. Accompanied by a guitar and two dancers. Dancing to the day, dancing to the One, dancing ‘cause they’re people living underneath the sun… I struck up a conversation with a street artist, the first I’d ever seen with his craft of cutting the coins of the countries into creative charms. Truly detailed work of which one I now wear. He had spent years working the mechanic’s trade in Germany where he bore two children but was eventually politically pushed out. His origins in Costa Rica intrigued me, but he laughed at my inquiry of living there. “I can’t afford to because of you!” I understood the generality of “you” and gathered more awareness in the inevitable laws of cause and affect. He now lives hand to mouth following his creative passion as content as could be. “Life is good in Spain.”
Purpose is living in happiness, being content with who you are, what you’ve got, and what you do, each as individual entities. The world is overwhelming with possibilities for the fortunate ones. We, the fortunate ones in the Industrialized First World, so bent on being industrious. How many sacrifice who they are by defining what they do by what it allows them to get? And what do they really have? Analyze this via possessions and money, the crazy concept of retirement, self-image, what you will. I’m sure the problem lies in never really being allowed to know one’s self. Others start defining you long before you’ve got the faculties to do it yourself. Unlearning is much more difficult that learning. It’s much more daunting to realize your capabilities than your limitations.
This may read as vague gibberish, it may strike with personal relevance. I’ve uncovered my own insight. I started this trip as a cautious shadow dweller and storyteller. I’ve bent my stature into a stiff neck and tight shoulders. Fear and paranoia have manifested into gastronomical mourning. I’ve caught anxiety in the form of clenched fists and jaw. Honestly, I believe the origin of these side effects have been my self-concept while traveling overseas as an American. At times I’ve wanted to run home and hide, I’ve played with becoming a Spaniard and falling into the lifestyle of siesta (still not a bad option), and I’ve wondered what it means to be an American. I have had countless interactions with a variety of foreigners and each one has shaped my understanding. The generalities that we all hold towards each other are amazing. I could see the change in foreign attitudes as our election results opened the shades to large windows in a dark room. I had something I could speak proudly about other than the vistas and open space of the west. My newfound pride to be an American is not based on power, it’s based on possibility. The world is overwhelming with possibilities for the fortunate ones. The fortunate ones have responsibility for the possibilities of the world. It is not necessary to pick a purpose out of possibilities, but to live one based on them.