In the first week in September, I flew to Madrid, Spain, in order to meet my best friend Peter. We have spent much time together in this, and possible other, lifetimes. We both wanted to visit the mountains to walk, engage in spiritual practice, and simply to hang out.
We traveled by bus and high-speed train through the arid landscape towards our first goal: Granada. There, Lourdes, a friend of a friend, had agreed to open her house in hospitality to two large (over six feet tall) unknown and strange men. She was a music teacher in a local school, and had a secret life unsuspected by her colleagues and students. She was also a devotee of a spiritual master from India, and spent a proportion of each day meditating and doing spiritual practice.
Peter and I visited El Hambre, a fortress-palace on one of the hills in Granada, and were blown away by its beauty. It is a walled town containing palaces and houses, and is probably best known for its fecund gardens irrigated by springs and extraordinary water technology. Surrounded by dry, naked rock, it is an oasis producing fruit, vegetables in its extensive gardens, and sweet-smelling rainbow flowers.
In the evenings we meditated with Lourdes and her fellow devotees. This area of Grenada is called Sacremont, or sacred mountain. It has a very interesting geology: the hills consist of aggregate, small rocks held together with sandstone. Most of the early inhabitants simply made caves in which to live, and the modern citizens merely added a façade, which made these dwelling places look like houses. In fact, most of their rooms are still caves, carved out of the hillside. If anyone wants an extension, all they have to do is to dig deeper! Lourdes and friends meditated in one of these cave-houses, which put everyone present in touch with the energy of the Earth. Very powerful.
After 3 days Peter and I caught the bus to Orgiva, a small town at the base of the Sierra Nevada – the snowy mountains. This range sits like a family of sentinels about 30 miles inland from Malaga, a coastal town in the south of Spain, and the highest mountain is about 12,000 feet high. Peter has a friend who owns a small farm in the Sierra Nevada at about 3,500 feet, and he is a frequent visitor there. We picked up his friend’s Land Rover, which had been left for us outside the local bar, and careened up a precipitous track towards the farm.
We spent a wonderful two weeks there, walking in the mountains and engaging in shamanic pursuits such as meditation, ecstatic dance, fire ceremony, journeying, and dreaming. Our timing was perfect: the fruits were ripening. For breakfast we would simply pick fresh figs, grapes and pears from the trees overhanging the courtyard, and add Greek yogurt and honey. We also ate lots of olive oil pressed from our friends’ olive trees, soaked into toast and mixed with local honey, and lots of salads. Paradise! One day on one of our forays into the mountains, a golden eagle came to check us out. What a magnificent creature! I am glad we were too heavy to be plucked off the mountain slopes and carried away by the birds’ needle-sharp talons.
I was amazed by all the water available in the mountains. Even in August, the hottest month, there was still an abundance of flowing water from rivers, springs and wells. Everyone living in the mountains had access to this magical, life-giving substance and they took turns in irrigating their land from all the available sources. I was incredibly impressed by the springs and fountains of living, drinking water that flowed and tinkled from pipes in every village in the mountains, and by the side of many trails. And, of course, the ripe and extremely juicy fruit that hung heavily from trees overhanging the paths, seducing the hungry traveler into eating just one more…
Possibly the most outrageous memory I retain were the events of the last morning before we traveled back to Madrid. I was awakened by the crashing and growling of a storm of epic proportions, and I dressed quickly. I walked out to the place I usually danced the sun up, and enjoyed the lightning bolts and deafening explosions that rent the gloom. Then my body started to move. I danced the Wave at the center of Armageddon, and screamed in ecstasy as I became the storm connecting Heaven and Earth. What a rush! I became the God for a while and merged with the storm.
On my return, I hit the ground running. First an ecstatic dance in Montpelier, then a Druid Training weekend which included the Assumption ceremony where I channeled the God with my fellow Druids, and then 8am till 5pm yurt building for the next 5 days.
I had various reasons for traveling to the mountains in Spain:
- To have a complete break
- To feed my soul
- To spend time with my best friend
- To walk and get fit
- To dance at sunrise out in nature
- To engage in spiritual practice
- To do vision quest, and request vision, and
- To meet the God in order to do ceremony on my return to Vermont
I must admit, all my hopes and prayers were lavishly granted.
How wonderful it is to be alive!