It is the first day of the New Year and I am reminded of Roald Dahl who wrote that January should not exist and why could there not be two Julys or Augusts instead?
As usual at this time of the year I am in Liverpool for family and friends. The skies are grey and heavy, and suddenly they seem to collapse in one sodden mess, throwing themselves at our windows. Water streams through the roof into my husband’s study, as it has done for two weeks. We are waiting for the festive season to be over and our roofer to return and our buckets are full.
I think of Spain where I would welcome some rain as it has been an incredibly dry autumn. The cisterna, all 45,000 litres of it, is nearly empty after a summer full of visitors and the planting of many trees.
A Spanish friend emails a photo of New Year’s Day in the mountains. The skies are irresistibly blue with thin wisps of opaque clouds and it looks just like summer. I see rocks and dry stonewalls and lots of low oak scrub. It occurs to me that the seasons do not distinguish themselves in the same way as here in England.
Spanish days are mostly sunny. How I long for that sun, and the eternally evergreen olives tinged with blue! They are always there, like the ubiquitous oaks and pines, the cacti, and of course the stones, only changing hues subtly under the altering path of the sun across the year.
In the mountains it is chiefly the almonds that define the seasons with their abundant blossoms in the exquisite late February light, their fruits developing throughout the summer and then dropping their leaves for the winter.
Last March, as well as many many trees, we planted three sunflowers in front of the house. The seeds came free with a Liverpool purchase none of us can remember anymore. A pot, a mug, a box of cereal. That kind of thing.
Much to our surprise and delight, the seeds took hold and grew. The resulting flowers defined our Spanish summer, and now on this first day of the New Year, I look at the photos of them longingly, giving teasing promises of a wonderful Mediterranean year to come.
The dying heads have been drying in the woodshed back in Spain. Many seeds had already blown to the winds and were perhaps eaten and regurgitated by birds and rodents. How many will take root? I wonder.
It reminds me of the conservationist Johnny Appleseed wandering barefoot around America in the 1880s preaching and planting apple seeds, thus changing much of it’s topography forever. A good and spiritual man, for him the apple represented God’s love in us. Nurture. Imagine if he had grown up in Spain and fixed upon the sunflower instead? What could have Johnny Sunflowerseed had done for the costs and sierras? Again I wonder.