Sketches Of Spain

The kitchens are closed. A man rides his motorcycle through the plaza, his helmet unable to contain the beard that is more pronounced than is fashionable here. A white-and-green truck from the department store supermarket arrives, presumably to deliver groceries to the bars that line the edges of the plaza.

It is called Plaza de las Cañas. I don't know if the word caña has another meaning, but in Spanish it signifies a small glass of beer. Estar de las cañas is a specific and geographically rooted phrase to describe being out and about drinking and socializing, often for much of the day. It's an appropriate name for this plaza, full of the clatter of glasses on metal tables glinting beneath layers of condensation and spilled wine. The sun glances off the cups from time to time, trying to emerge from behind the dense clouds gathering over the river nearby. These are not the pillowy white clouds that I usually see in the expansive Spanish sky, but rather dark, glaring rain clouds. 

The region needed the rain, everyone says, and I can understand. I am also from a drought-ridden land; southern California and southern Spain have this in common. We all complained about the three weeks of nonstop rain we had this spring. Soy de tierra caliente, the Andaluces say. Me, too. Ten days of the sky opening up daily was enough to make me swear to never move to the Pacific Northwest. 

The houses here aren't built for the rain. Even the newly renovated hostel where I work, located in a gleamingly refurbished casa patio, surrendered to the deluge and sprang a leak. We placed plants beneath to catch the water. The terrace where I sunbathe became a floodplain.

Which is why, after so many days indoors, I find myself here in this plaza. It looks like rain, but I want to stay out as long as I can. The breeze is cool, a little too brisk, but I revel in it nonetheless. I think for the millionth time since coming here that I am grateful for the palm trees because they make me feel like I am home. 

I am grateful for the children screaming with joy as they aim for improvised soccer goals in the plaza. I am grateful for the blue-eyeshadowed old ladies toting home their fruits and vegetables as they have for the last forty years. I am grateful for Miles Davis, who first allowed me to imagine this country when I found his record as a little girl. And I am grateful for Spain.