We are now at Sant Nicolau. Bonnie is happy and well.
Our morning walk is down the lane which leads winds through the woods and emerges at what must be one of my favourite views. Across the fields lie the mountains. On the left I see the dark shape of Mare del Deu del Mont which is actually not far from here
Beside it to the right, or so it appears, is Canigó now covered in snow
This beautiful mountain is in the Pyranees, in the region of Rossello´ in France. But ask any Catalan and they will tell you it is in Catalunya Nord, that part of the country which was ceded to France by Spain by the Treaty of the Pyranees in 1659
Canigó is deeply symbolic for Catalan people. There is a famous poem about its legends by Jacint Verdaguer. And a beautiful song called Muntanyes del Canigó. I am trying to learn it while I am here and practise singing every day on our early walk as well as in the little church.
I am not always moved by mountains, I am more of a sea person. But I love this view. A few years ago we went to Prades and climbed Canigó. Just short of the top there was thick mist so we turned back but it is something we will do again sometime soon.
Every year at the feast of Sant Joan, close to the summer solstice, a group of young people from Perpignon take a flame which is kept lit all year round and climb with it to the top of Canigo´. There a large bonfire is lit and more torches are taken from this mother flame and carried far and wide across Catalunya to light the Sant Joan fires. Crowds of people climb the mountain to be part of this ancient ritual. After the descent the torches are taken away by foot, on bicycle and in cars. they say that over 3000 bonfires are lit from the one at the top of Canigo´.
The flame is symbolic of the life and vitality of the Catalan culture. The mountain, although it lies outside the borders of the present Catalunya, exists outside the world of treaties and countries and frontiers. It is very powerful and as I look at it each morning it is clearly part of this landscape
Here is Marina Rossell singing Muntanyes de Canigó. I searched through several versions and this is the one that I like best. It is a beautiful song but so often these culturally significant songs are sung too sentimentally as I know from a similar tradition in Scotland.
This one is lovely and listen to how she rolls her rrrrr’s! I need to practise that more.
Muntanyes de Canigó
fresques son i regalades
sobre tot ara a l’estiu
que les aigues son gelades
que les aigues son gelades
Yesterday we celebrated the Night of Sant Joan which is the night before the feast of St John the Baptist
Note here that the Catalan name for John is Joan which has two syllables( Jo-ann) and is not the same as the English womans name Joan.
Other names for this festival is The Night of Fire or the Night of the Witches.
Essential elements – friends, food, drink, a bonfire and for some, fire crackers called petardos.
We went to visit friends at Premia del Mar. All the necessary elements were there (minus the petardos which could be heard outside on the streets). With a lot of people from Argentina, it was a good chance to practice my Spanish.
It was one of those parties that warm your heart. Lots of laughter and warmth and interesting conversations. There were also about 6 or 7 dogs there, all jostling for space under the tables or racing around the bonfire. Bonnie managed very well and organised herself a little hole under a bush to hide in when things got too wild.
This celebration marks the beginning of summer and has many pagan associations in spite of its links with St John.
Sant Joan traditions: Herbs
“Les herbes de Sant Joan tenen virtut tot l’any” means “the herbs of Sant Joan retain their virtues all year round.” Herbs are a big element of Sant Joan. Herbs are said to have curative powers that become one hundred times stronger on the night of Sant Joan. Thyme, Rosemary and Verbena (the herb that gave name to the fiestas!) are collected and eaten on Sant Joan. The herb verbena was offered to the Gods in ancient times. It has a very powerful smell and some say it has aphrodisiac properties.
We tried to spend the night on the beach of St Pol but it was full of young people with petardos and a sound system. so we took to the hills and found a quiet parking place to watch the fireworks and the full moon over the sea until dawn.
I am back in Sant Nicolau and feeling full of a wonderful lunch cooked by Helen and shared with her family and Pep. We sat outside at a long wooden table in the shade of some trees, surrounded by birdsong.
Conversation flowed. That’s not just because we were speaking English because actually we talked a lot in Castellano so that Angie who is from Honduras could join in. I thought about how many awful and awkward dinners I have sat through, not understanding, not feeling able to speak from a mixture of language deficiency and shyness. I noticed how we all tried to make sure everyone was joining in and I wondered why this doesn’t happen more often to me.
What can help you feel comfortable in a multi-language dinner table?
- feeling you are liked
- feeling you are welcome
- feeling people are interested in you
- smiling and being smiled at
- having eye contact even when language is faltering
- being listened to as well as listening….ie patience
- an atmosphere of love and generosity
It is so easy to be comfortable when, like today, these conditions are met. I am not shy when I am with people who like me and show it. But it is quite another thing to be able to speak confidently in another language with people who appear to have no interest in you. This is what separates the sheep from the goats. Those who are shy begin to suffer in silence and want to run away. Those who are more extrovert start to perform. I’m sure it is possible to learn how to do this but….HOW?
Last night was the revetlla of Sant Joan. We had a barbeque here under the stars, listening to distant fireworks and music, eating lovely food by candlelight and feeling relaxed enough to admit that we were too tired to stay up all night or even until sunrise.
Here is a wonderful blog post by a Norwegian woman who lives in Barcelona. She explains all about the celebration and I think it is better to send you over there rather than attempt to say anything new myself!
Finally, here is another photo mix from my camera app. Not related to any of the above – sorry! Except perhaps, without words, it is saying something about me.