Last week I was in Spain, not specifically on a cow hunt you understand…however…
Today the sky is a sweeping wash of high cirrus clouds. It is bright and there is a slight breeze. I make sandwiches for the journey and take my coffee to the clay tiled terrace to take in the view. Goat bells jangle softly in the distance and a chorus of dogs are barking down the hillside. I can hear a rumble which may belong to heavy machinery behind the chatter and song of the birds. This house stands on hills and slopes above a wide plain. The Sierra de Gredos mountains are behind, hovering above in deep granite folds.
The plain stretches for 50km until it reaches a parallel set of mountains, now hazy and gray. It is the end of a baking hot summer and the land looks parched and dry. The reservoir, which sits in the middle of the plain, is barely more than a puddle, its exposed sandy banks telling the history of its former level.
As I walk through the meadow, the bleached stalks of the grasses splinter and crack underfoot as crickets and grasshoppers scatter. A few days ago there was a couple of days of rain. I look closer, and beneath the parched and brittle surface a new bloom of tiny green seedlings cloaks the ochre earth.
A stony track leads us into the hills and even though it is late afternoon the sun is fierce and hot on our necks and shoulders. The heat releases the sticky perfume from the swathes of Cistus which clothe the hillsides and the air is full of it, sweet and aromatic. I have been told that in May it looks like snow because of the white flowers. I imagine that scene, the papery flowers unfolding day after day, until just like snow, they melt and disappear. In amongst the Cistus are squat lavenders, blue gray leaves needle thin and the skeletal remains of their purple winged flowers standing proud above.
Around here has been gradually colonised by people, pantiled roofs peeping out from between the scrub of Broom and Oak. Mixed orchards of figs, cherries, pear and pomegranate stand alongside vines and olive groves. Yesterday a neighbour came with her brother to harvest the grapes to make the wine and gave us two bursting bags of their own dried figs which they do by turning regularly in the hot summer sun.
On our way back we stop by to say hello to the cows. I wonder if those bells bother them.