Spanish Mountain Life, Part 2

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 10:16 AM | Wise Woman (Administrator)


Part Two

by Juliette de Bairacli-Levy


All alongside the many streams of the mountain there was also a flowering; more hyacinths, and then mostly tiny things, such as the scented violet, chickweed, red and yellow pimpernel, white clover, and in the water itself much watercress which Rafik and I gathered for our midday meals.

The winding roads of the mountain, later to become ankle-deep in white dust, were bordered by fleshy-leaved, grey-hued aloes and cacti.

The passing of the goat flock in front of my window was being repeated by others throughout Lanjaron; everywhere house doors were being opened to pass out animals of all sorts, hungry for the feed of the mountain. The animals were attended by men and youths, frequently gypsies, either on foot or mounted on their donkeys, mules or horses, the latter very often colourfully decorated with harness and saddle trappings, the saddles being embroidered with bright wools and hung with fringes- which are also a deterrent to flies- of crimson and saffron wools, almost always only those two colours.

The music of that Sierra Nevada procession of animals! Collar and harness bells pealed, hooves beat wild on the modern concreted road, the herd dogs barked, and men shouted instructions to their mounts. 'Burr-O!' for their donkeys, 'gall-arr' for their mules, and 'hack-ah' the horses. The herding cry for the goats was always 'she-bah, she-bah!' Otherwise the men are very silent; but away by the streams of the three water-mills and the narrow river Husagre, the women sang as they washed their household linen and clothes-and they gossiped much, also, one about the other. Washing work on the mountains was very easy.

Washing machines and soap powders were not needed. Exposure to the fierce sun bleached out all stains, and likewise dried out all moisture in quick time. Housework too, was very easy. A sweep-out with an old-fashioned broom, then a wipe-over of furniture, with paper to remove dust, then a cloth moistened first with vinegar to erase marks, then polished with a little olive oil, made fragrant by having steeped in it, again in the hot sun, mountain flowers from lavender and thyme to scented broom blossom.

The singing heard on the Sierra Nevada is typical Anda-luz. The sweet and sad throbbing chant of flamenco, which resembles Moorish song, was doubtless influenced by the long occupation by the Moors of the Andalusian area of Spain facing Morocco.

The women and girls also go forth from the houses to the sierra; they to the nearer places to cut fodder for the immediate needs of those animals which have not gone to the sierra to graze, and to gather also herbs for their cooking, especially fennel and sorrel, sweet mint, a sweet watercress, water-celery and a form of wild onion of much abundance. Watercress is not very popular with them, and they scorn chickweed and nettles, all of which Rafik and I ate in a daily salad, especially the water-celery. That going to and from the mountain of the people and animals was the heart of the life of that part of the Sierra Nevada. Every evening I took my child to meet the procession of the animals; for he loved the beasts of all kinds as much as I loved them, and that was very much indeed.

My greatest affinity was for the herbivorous creatures, especially sheep, goats, cows, horses, camels, and the wild deer. On the sierra roads I met with an abundance of all except the camel and deer, although that latter animal also lives in some remoter parts of the mountain. How good it was to be close to so many animals and all of them in fine health, excepting perhaps some of the cows which suffered from mastitis, due mostly, I believe, to irregular milking and being walked long distances when their udders were un-naturally heavy with milk. Rafik and I liked to see the great herds, and have the sweet herbage scent of them, and touch their strong bodies with our hands. The goats especially came to know us, and would greet us in their high vibrant voices and nuzzle against us.

    to be continued...

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