Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oh dreary rainy chilly day in Barcelona

A second day of rain and chill and my apartment has just one gas heater. Well, at least I can move it around. Yesterday, I worked in the studio and today am itching to get out. At least I'll walk downhill those many streets to the market for fresh bread and to replenish my little fridge. Should all clear up around 3pm, or so the weather forecast says.

The other evening, I had a a wonderful dinnertime with my friend Gemma Gorda, the Catalan poet I met at the Sanskriti artist residency last year. She teaches Ancient Spanish History here, writes poetry and has been translating marvelous Indian poets into her native Catalan language. She's done an anthology and a collection of another a poet (she's sending me his name) who struck her as especially marvelous while she was  researching in India. I'd loved being able to just walk down to the next studios and call out "Gemma!" We'd get together for a chat, join our meal together, and/or go to downtown New Delhi for lunch. Periodically I needed to eat chicken, being overdosed as I was on the Sanskriti vegetarian fare.

Seeing her again (see pic) made us both feel as if time had stood still. It's been a year since we'd seen each other. She told me about the Jewish Quarter in Girona where I'm planning a day trip on Monday or earlier.

Now the pics - of that day starting with my studio flooded by morning sunlight, then market pics of very fresh food; Gemma and I at the raucous cafe/bar across the street from my place; and ending with the first artworks of my stay here in Barcelona. You may ask, what are those about? Briefly, the first three are a take on the arches and large concrete balls at Parc Guell; then a pink/orange wall from Parc Guell that took my fancy and that are titled, Windows to Where. Then, note the variations of Gemma portraits, and finally Catalan Beasties from the Middle Ages (a work still in progress - more to be done on dipping their feet in the pink river), perhaps beasts such as these stem from the time of the dreaded Spanish Inquisition.

I was reminded of that Jewish tragedy at Parc Guell when I saw a mosaic on one of the benches with two white Jewish stars. One was cracked, and nearby an opulence of mosaic, there's an area only white. I'm sure he meant that section as a reminder of how the Spanish tried so hard to destroy the Spanish Jews. I've included that pic too.

Some years ago, daughter Janet did a genealogical study of my maiden name, Elkins. She learned that the Elkins were of the priestly class. They went from Israel to Spain, from Spain (naturally they had to leave) to Germany and from Germany those that went to England converted to Christianity. The others included my forebears. They went to the "Pale" of Russia/Poland. From there my father's grandparents emigrated to the States.

Perhaps my genes felt Israel as a homeland when I set foot there in 1977. I felt so at home, so a peace. I'd felt the same in Spain at the Fundacion Valparaiso artist residency in Mohacar, Province of Almeria. I loved my short stay in Barcelona in 1998. People seemed so alive, so happy here. That's why I've returned, and also to see my dear German friend Eva Eckhardt at her solar house in Fomentara (off the coast of ibiza and a short plane ride form Barcelona).

With the bleak economy here now, and so many people struggling just to hang on, the only people who smile are tourists. Among the Catalans, smiles come from those you might buy something from, or someone with a secure job at a tourist office. Otherwise, there's little eye contact. What a contrast to India where even passers-by want to check out your soul by staring into your eyes. If you happen to look at someone on the street or Metro here, especially a man, that person nervously looks away. I've also been told that Catalans, like the French, never invite a foreigner into their home. Hmm.

Now, feast your eyes and visit with me on this chilly rainy day in Bacelona (it's warmer in Ridgefield, CT today!) :

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