THE LADY AND THE CYPRESS TREE

Before I set off on my Journey some people asked: “How can you travel alone without your husband?” and “Won’t you be lonely?”   They were, I think, projecting their own feelings onto my situation for many well-functioning couples spend a lot of time apart, often due to work demands, and hopefully most single people are living full, contented and self-sufficient lives without the need of a partner.   Nevertheless these were interesting questions for me.

At our wedding my husband and I chose a reading from Kahlil Gibran‘s “The Prophet”, quoted below, which encouraged couples to have “spaces in their togetherness” to allow each other to flourish as individuals, because “the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow”.    We had clearly aspired to this at that time. Yet over the course of more than 25 years of marriage allowing each other this space can become a challenge for any couple. If cohabitation becomes interdependence this can become choking, and can create a need, rather than a preference to be together.

I anticipated feeing alone on my Journey but wanted to realise my dream and my husband was not free to come, so it was either “seize the day” or wait for some years and risk not being fit enough to travel – an issue at my age. Luckily I went with his blessing and full support to follow my dream.

Sometimes I was briefly lonely, but the feeling soon passed when I was occupied. What was much more noticeable and surprising was how happy I could be on my own for long periods. This was a revelation.  I was excited to be reunited when we were, meanwhile I was turning a little bit more into a cypress tree next to his oak.

This was never more true than when I was exploring the O Salnès valley whilst staying in “The Room of Life” in the middle of the vineyards of Meis.   Every day I set off in a different direction and each time I thoroughly enjoyed my discoveries, including Pretty Pontevedra; the Graceful Lady of Sanxenco; and the magical 9 waves of A Lanzada …

Pretty Pontedevdra
The city of Pontevedra is an ancient port with an extensive medieval old town area and a classical main square flanked by historic buildings which leads to a shaded promenade and gardens. It is perfect for strolling around and just soaking up its attractive architecture, perfecting the art of meandering.

Pontevedra hall

The City Hall in the town square

pontevedra house

Another classical building in Praza de España

The Bull Ring

The Bull Ring

Leaving the centre behind me I wandered through the pretty old town, with its impressive churches, charming squares and stone streets.

Pontevedra streets 2 - Copy

Pontevedra streets 1

Pontevedra square - Copy

Pontevedra arches

The  C16th  Renaissance Basilica of Santa Maria

The C16th Renaissance Basilica of Santa Maria

Santa Maria's breath-taking West Façade

Santa Maria’s breath-taking West Façade

The gothic church of San Francisco

The gothic church of San Francisco

Pontedvedra is said to be an essential stopping point for pilgrims on their way up to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino Portugués and I am certain that they all visit the ‘Capela de Virxe Pelegrina’ – the Pilgrims’ Chapel – which gave me immense pleasure. Situated in Pilgrim’s Square, it is a round, ornate tower fronted by a decorative fountain. The small chapel inside is full of light and above your head there is a magnificent cupola. Everything is charmingly decorated with scallop shell images – benches, windows, confessionals – as well as there being an image of St James above the altar of course. It is a calm and uplifting place to take sanctuary, which I did.

The baroque Pilgrims' Chapel

The baroque Pilgrims’ Chapel

The chapel's fountain

The chapel’s fountain

pilgrim top 1

My reflection in the chapel door, complete with St James regalia.

My reflection in the chapel door, complete with St James regalia.

Chapel altar presided over by St James

Chapel altar presided over by St James

The chapel cupola

The chapel cupola

The shell font

The shell font

The Statues of Sanxenxo
I sat for a very long time on the beachfront at Sanxenxo gazing at the Lady of Silgar, captivated by her graceful beauty.  She stoops forward on a rock in the middle of the tranquil bay, where the sunlight reflected and glittered on the water.  Sea birds flew by her, some resting at her feet to keep her company. She seemed like an elongated fish-woman forever holding out a shell to the sea. Was she collecting it from the ocean or returning her bounty?  I thought the latter – that she was making a gift to the bay.

Whilst I lazed there in bliss a passing gentleman engaged me in conversation and, upon learning that I was British, burst into the only song he knew in my language, ”My My My Delilah”, before wishing me well and going on his way.

A Madama de Silgar

“A Madama de Silgar”

Sanxenco hole

The “Madama” viewed from the marina

Previously a small fishing village, Sanxenxo is now a tourist paradise in the summer, “considered the touristy capital” of the region according to one brochure. It was peaceful when I visited, and I was able to enjoy Sanxenxo’s statues around the beaches, marina and town at my leisure.

The sleeping giant

The sleeping giant

Sanxenco statue - Copy

Poignant Cambados
Little Cambados is described as “old and noble” with its ancient streets and aristocratic “pazos”,  its stone manor houses. I visited shortly after All Souls Day and the moody churchyard of Santa Marina Dozo was still filled with the floral offerings of local people to their relatives. As far as I could see every grave was honoured. It was a moving sight.

Cambados All Souls

After All Souls Day in Cambados

Cambados churchyard

The ruins of Santa Marina Dozo churchyard

The Magic of A Lanzada

Beach 1

On a rocky headland beside the 3,000 metre long A Lanzada beach a small 12th century hermitage stands alone. Legend has it that on the last Saturday of August childless women gathered here at midnight and, after circling the chapel altar three times, entered the magic waters to bathe and jump over nine waves. Then, as my trusty brochure explained “the nine waves bath gives the waters of A Lanzada properties to save the sterility”.   So, it continues, “The legends that surround Sanxenxo makes more magical the stay in the council”.   I could not agree more.

Our Lady of A Lanzada hermitage

Our Lady of A Lanzada hermitage

Alone on the promontory I found a stone stairway down to the sea. Was this the one taken by hopeful women all those years ago? Descending the steps I emerged on a rocky beach where I sat watching the ebbing and flowing of the magical waves, accompanied by watchful rabbits, in perfect harmony with my surroundings.

20141105_160819

The stone stairway to the 9 waves?

The magical spot

The magical spot

Late that afternoon I walked on a wide buttery-yellow beach in the late sunrays, alone except for a shoal of seal-like surfers. And further along the coast, sauntered along a beachfront boardwalk which led to the bird-rich wetlands near O Grove. As I drove home a wide rainbow dramatically crossed the sky from side to side in front of me and, travelling into it, I knew I had learned that one does not always have to have company to have blissful days.

Beach & tower

Beach lone surfer

20141105_153003(0)

– + –

Extract from “The Prophet”,  by Kahlil Gibran :

Then Almitra spoke again and said, “And what of Marriage, master?”

And he answered saying:

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.

Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

– + –

Note: I have now completed this first Journey around Europe alone, and am back home in France, where my French home borders Geneva, Switzerland. I still want to catch up on the stories of my travels so I will continue to write about them here.  MK

Comments
3 Responses to “THE LADY AND THE CYPRESS TREE”
  1. Jenny says:

    Wonderful xxxx

  2. joan says:

    I loved the details of the special places such as the lovely shell font. Now I wonder if it is any good
    for me to dance around the hermit house and into the waves? or is there an age restriction?
    However keep writing I enjoy travelling with you – Joan

  3. Sonia says:

    What a touching and refreshingly honest piece of writing; writing which is full of a newfound confidence which shines through, it really does. Thanks for this. Sonia xxx

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