(Nature Connected Activities in Tarragona)
Last month we walked along Playa Larga near Tarragona and had several nationalities: a Dutch couple, a Portuguese, a Greek, several Spaniards, a Venezuelan, a Scotsman, an Englishman (yours truly) and a Swiss woman (Mika) – it sounds like the beginning of a complex bar joke (but it wasn’t, lol). It was a beautiful place with forest right next to the sea. This month we go to the Febró ravine; I’ll tell you about that.
Recently we had our first NCAT English meet up. We were asked recently if we had outings specifically for speaking English, so we obliged and created a new branch of NCAT. This group is more for people that want to practice their English in an informal setting. We do have a few exercises to learn some basics, but just something simple whilst we walk. There’s plenty of extranjeros (foreigners, like me) that want to learn Spanish, so why not an NCAT Spanish?
We also have NCAT Eco-Art; the first workshop will be the end of this month. Here we use natural materials to create works of art (mandalas, “touchscapes”, etc.), but working with ecopsychological principles by becoming aware of the natural world around us with senses little used!
Here are the links for each group:
NCAT - for excursions and activities out in nature.
NCAT English - excursions in nature, learning and practicing English.
NCAT Ecoart - artistic activities in nature, combining natural materials with ecopsychological principles.
It’s been a long time in coming. A very long time in coming, but at last it’s happening!
For the last few months I’ve been looking through my poems and creating a book of poetry from them, using Blurb. I’ve written so many that I’ll be publishing several books. For the moment, all the poetry for the first book has been collected and I just need to work on the look of the book and put pictures in, then it’ll be ready for publishing.
It’s amazing the amount of people that get to the countryside and say “It’s so peaceful here.” What’s unusual isn’t that they notice it, but that it’s somehow “out of the ordinary” and not something they usually experience. Contrast this against entering urban areas, especially city centres. We have to filter out all the sensations we’re bombarded with, and, if we become used to this, we develop a habitual numbness, an adaption to stop us from being overwhelmed. We are sensitive creatures, after all. Perhaps there is no such thing as an “insensitive” person, just a desensitised one?
Desensitised like this, we seek out extreme experiences that will fulfill us, or at least give us a brief moment of fulfillment. Perhaps in drugs and other substances. Perhaps in extreme sports or at adventure parks. If we can’t live these ourselves, perhaps we find it in films filled with high emotions, action and violence, or sex. Something, anything that will evoke something in us. (Or perhaps we seek out things that will numb us more; it can all be too much, even our own emotions and sensations!)
I think it’s necessary to find sanctuary where we can lower our defenses against an intrusive world, where we can appreciate and delight in the little things in life, pleasures that are easily overlooked. I’m used to the rhythms and seasons of my mountain valley home, and my senses pick up on anything that looks “different” or “out of place”, subtle changes in the environment. Back in the city my well-developed defenses come back into play, and I enter The Tunnel, just to get from A to B. It’s a useful adaption, and saves me from more stress than necessary (though I’m not saved from the numbness). But I like living life with sensitivity, using and developing all the senses that nature endowed me with. In natural spaces, I reconnect not just with nature and its wonders but also with my own body, a connection I don’t want to lose.
(wow, I’ve just noticed a boost of traffic to this blog. Thanks for the views.)
So, what have I been doing lately? A lot, aikido, walks, gardening, hunting exotic crayfish, but I’ll leave them for other blogs.
One thing I’ve been busy on is translating the CEN Association website from Catalan to English. CEN is an association that “works for the improvement and conservation of habitats and biodiversity”. I’ve been involved in several volunteer actions (including “hunting cranks“) as well as being a board member. We (Biodiversidad2030) signed an agreement with CEN under the Custódia del Territorio (Land Stewardship Scheme in English) to protect the land and its ecosystems and develop projects in a sustainable way for us and the environment.
So, I’m translating the website so it’s accessible to the anglosphere. Moreover, it helps in an application to EOCA to do work for the Glorieta river, such as litter picking, control and eradication of invasive exotic species, regulation of canyoning, restriction of access to vulnerable areas and raising awareness of environmental issues, both local and in general. It’s tough work (I am not a professional translator) but I enjoy it.
I can read Spanish fairly well, and because of that other Romance languages are more accesible, like Portuguese, Italian and Catalan. I can read them a bit and make “educated guesses” at what they’re saying. But to hear them… no entenc res! (I don’t understand a thing!). I understand enough Catalan to translate it, and there’s plenty of resources online to help me, but the mental gymnastics I have to do translate from one grammar to the other is mindbending. A long list of de… de… de… de… might sound okay in Catalan, French or Spanish, but in English of… of… of… of… doesn’t flow. Then there are the technical terms that I have to accurately translate to make them meaningful. But I think this sort of saturation is good for learning a new language.
Well, I think I should get on with the translation now. Time’s a wasting!
Strawberries and straw
Yesterday me and Mika cleaned out the chicken and goats and collected the straw for the veg patch: we put it with the strawberries. Every years we’ve put grass cuttings or straw, and the stawberries are still doing well. Mika also used our little green house (an old bed structure covered with shower curtains – how’s that for recycling!) and planted some tomato seeds inside. Meanwhile I was clearing another section of my no-dig veg patch to sow fava beans and tomatoes of my own. The spinach, radish and rocket in the first section are doing very well, though I’m still waiting for spring to give a kick-start to the rest. I’ve been planting, more or less, in sections, though I’ve also done some mixing just to see what can grow together. I’ve still got some space to think about. Maybe carrots and courgette?
No-dig garden, covered with a bit of mulch and divided into sections
Saturday we went with our Meet up group, NCAT, for a tour around l’Espluga cave - apparently one of the longest in the world. It has had a long history, going back to the neanderthals and there is evidence of other human use. But it’s tied into natural and human history and evolution, which makes for an informative and inspirational visit. We only went as far as the tour in the first part of the cave. The second part is for speleology activities, and I haven’t been to it… yet! Wouldn’t mind doing that one day. Afterwards there was a reconstruction of a Stone Age village, which you can see in the picture above.
After that a few of us went to the Monasterio de Poblet, which really took us through layers of history.
Or rather red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii – known in Catalan in cranc vermell americà, hence in title). It is an introduced species that has displaced the native white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes), outcompeting it and carrying a disease to which they are resistent, but the native crayfish are not, so you won’t find them in the same stretch of river.
As volunteers of CEN we’ve spent a few nights (crayfish usually come out at night) removing this invasive species, and we did that on Friday night too, with Jesús Ortiz, the president of CEN, and a few other volunteers. It was very cold and wet, but luckily we wore waders and long rubber loves to avoid getting wet (I did reach a bit too deep on one occasion, and got a glove filled with water!), but we had a very good time. Made even better with good company.