How much can you soak up in one single step, in one blink of an eye, in a single breath of air breathed in and out by centuries of people gone by before you? How much can you ingrain into the solitary blank space of a memory you are about to make in a given moment? How much do you choose to remember of what you experience? I tried for a moment and like a sunflower would turn toward the sun unnoticeably, I too morph into a hiatus being, observing all there is to observe, allowing my senses to capture every bit of detail there is to encapsulate in the moment. Barcelona can do that to a person. It makes you want to stay. It makes you want to remember every tiny bit of information on display along its roads that flow like veins, full of life and loaded with history.
What follows is a brief moment in time, coordinates unknown.
An old woman with a black beret and red scarf opens a large wooden door that has been attached to its copper hinges for many centuries. As she steps over the thresh hold she turns and smile at me. I thought I was being inconspicuous trying to take a picture of her but her friendly expression tells me she doesn’t mind and that she wants me to capture her portrait. While the door is closing behind her the moment seems to linger, as if the age old cracked up colorful walls around the door have eyes and that they relay the moment back to me. I wonder how many memories have been made behind the door. It leads to a world that has existed long before the instant I share, with the old woman whose name I will never know. I step back onto the narrow side street and prepare to walk on by. Like the shutter opening and closing when a photograph is being taken, my mind is kept open for the brief juncture in time and space. I see reflections on the ground and people inside street cafes, some in pairs and some in groups. Others sit alone remembering, reminiscing, reflecting. One thing they all have in common is the colonial setting they share along with the coffees they savoir.
Above me, a smattering of colorful window shutters line a wall that is only of an arms reach away from the wall across the road from it. Laundry is hanging from washing lines and pot plants sit on the edges of narrow windowsills, seemingly falling to the ground yet undoubtedly defying gravity for years gone by. A streetlight glows a warm yellow, even though the sun is still high. A tree with purple blossoms blocks out the sky while a man rides past on an old bicycle, in no apparent hurry in the most stylish way. The way his long coat tails in the wind, inches above the chain, tells me he knows his old bicycle well. The spokes of his bike have seen as much as him, if not more, among the mazes of this city. A waiter with a white apron is inviting a couple into his small street café. A bearded old man next to me lights his hand rolled cigarette with a match and the distinct sound offers me a brief but enjoyable rhythm to my interluded scene.
A moseyed sign on the wall to my right is written in Catalonian, and although I do not understand what it means, the font of it makes me feel something. It is a feeling similar to when you carry fresh baguettes wrapped in brown paper under your arm while holding a bottle of good red wine in the other. The reality of the scene becomes cemented with the power of the words that I don’t understand. I repeat the words to myself and in doing so I become part of the backdrop for my momentary memory encapsulation.
To the left I see a man with a guitar on his back and even though he is silently cycling away from me, his silhouetted movement strikes a chord deep with in me and I indulge in the momentary imagination of the sounds of a Spanish guitar.
When the door that the lady walks through finally shuts with a deep thud as the old hard woods meet, I withdraw from the moment and step right into the next.
When you travel a lot it can happen that you start taking new scenes for granted. I have met people on the cruise ships that never go ashore because “ They have seen it all”. I do not understand that attitude. There is always something new to experience, even if the experience lasts only for a short moment in time.
Learn how to ask for a beer or a coffee in another language, your accent will attract conversation. Travel on local busses and sit among locals in city squares. Don’t worry if old people flip you off on the bus and take advantage of being able to drink a beer while walking down the road.
Look above you once in a while, the clouds are always different. Listen out for music being played by the things happening around you and stop, smile and admire the moments you share, even if it is just to yourself.