March of the Seasons
When I entered college, there were strong changes in my life. Growing up in a coastal town in northern Tarragona has been positive but the four academic years helped me become aware of the land and get knowledge in exploration. My daily commute to Barcelona took an hour and half, and the journey’s sights were an enjoyable part of the rides. The railroad follows the coast and has beautiful views.
Early mornings during summer have an idyllic calmness
I often wonder what all those shores looked like prior to the last century. Marshes that spanned undisturbed, of which few kilometers survived.
In the past, there were fishing and agricultural towns along the coas, but today most of the coast is populated by apartment buildings with few stretches of undisturbed land. After the 1950s, this coastline became appreciated for holidays, and real estate developments were created near the beaches. Further inland, dwellings were left more undisturbed, and they kept much more of their legacy while the fishing towns have been washed away.
Early mornings during summer have an idyllic calmness. Very often, the sun shines through the water, and it remains still in a special way that gets lost later in the day. Not much company other than just a few senior citizens keeping their pace or a few runners that train while vacationers remain in bed. As the morning transforms into noon, slowly but constantly people with parasols and towels come and take a spot until the shoreline is packed.
A brisk stroll or more strenuous exercise can have a soothing effect. Sport is good activity and its benefits are often praised, but having the sea as a backdrop is priceless. After absorbing some heat, the best way to finish an interval of walking or running is by taking a generous dip at the sea.
During the hottest days of summer, especially between 11AM and 6PM, there is an unwritten curfew thanks to the ample sunlight and heat. Generous sunlight warms the air until the point that an occasional rainfall is desired. People fill the beaches by day, and leisurely wander the promenade and beachside streets. Summer weekend evenings see the promenade packed with people strolling and enjoying themselves at the restaurants and bars, making the town a city.
While I was abroad for a few months, a friend wrote me these words about the fading summer: “Now the weather is changing in this land and that means less people, less vampirical insects, stillness and the lifestyle that I enjoy. Productive days without noise, a coolness at home remediated by a blanket and the profound rest at night, well warmed in bed.” (circa September 2015)
Polar opposites that can be challenging in their own way, summer and winter as opposite siblings. Madness of bustle, and madness of silence.
Inverse to spring’s blooming and genesis the fall of visitors in autumn is prompt and the memory of summer is fleeting and gone until next season. By August, people finish their vacations and the September mood is quieter but still lively. The weather holds itself but gradually softens. September is one of the months where the mood is balanced here.
Winters are mild compared to northern latitudes but there is something unsettling about that overbuilt apartment city by the shore that is void, silent and dark. On every other street and block, there are one or a couple apartments lit as if those few were hermits. No other noise than the waves crashing in the beaches. All left empty, awaiting the next holidays.
Winter walks see another attire and slower pace: maybe a first of January day-long ride or a walk along the Barcelona promenade prior to a mid-morning class after a packed commute. This is a good way to set a positive beginning, to the day or year.
Gray days of gale turn the beach hostile and are best walked from the promenade where the water’s seen at a distance. The cool, sunnier days are more welcoming, and it’s enjoyable to walk the stretch of beach. As warmth progressively comes, boots are replaced by lighter shoes until feet walk bare to be caressed by the waves. Something left for me to try is a dip into sea during one of these colder months.
THE METAPHYSICAL STROLL
“The sea is not landscape, the sea is barely presence. A place of complete abstractness and experience, which has no memory. The sea is the closest entity of the physical to the idea of eternity.” —Carlos Barral, TVE interview, 1982
Carlos Barral writes of the area when it was sparsely built, and there was a promenade between the beach and the marshes. It represented the special feeling of such a human made infrastructure acting as a frontier between the land and sea.
There is something very special about walking in the beach when it is scantily occupied. One’s own reflection, observation and immersion in thoughts —or salt water—.
Tech notes: Photos taken between July 2015 and August 2016. Coast from Tarragona to Sitges (single Image of the barceloneta monument, Barcelona. Feb 2016). Formats: iPhone+VSCO (8,11), 35mm (majority), 6×9 Fuji RF (3, 7, 10, 12, 20, 21) & m43 digital (2)