Home from Abroad

British Poet and Writer Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

I have just finished reading a wonderful book of Laurie Lee’s travels in Spain during the mid 1930s, when he walked out of his Gloucester village, wound up in Spain, walked for hundreds of miles across Spain to Andalusia—at which point Spain erupted in its Civil War. He was evacuated by a British destroyer in July 1936. His book, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, is a travel classic and gives a better picture of life in Spain than I have ever read. Doing further research on him, I discovered that Lee also wrote poetry, among which was the following poem about his travels:

Home from Abroad

Far-fetched with tales of other worlds and ways,
My skin well-oiled with wines of the Levant,
I set my face into a filial smile
To greet the pale, domestic kiss of Kent.

But shall I never learn? That gawky girl,
Recalled so primly in my foreign thoughts,
Becomes again the green-haired queen of love
Whose wanton form dilates as it delights.

Her rolling tidal landscape floods the eye
And drowns Chianti in a dusky stream;
he flower-flecked grasses swim with simple horses,
The hedges choke with roses fat as cream.

So do I breathe the hayblown airs of home,
And watch the sea-green elms drip birds and shadows,
And as the twilight nets the plunging sun
My heart’s keel slides to rest among the meadows.

For all his travels, Lee ended up in the Gloucestershire village from where he started. How curious!

 

You’ll Wonder Where the Yellow Went…

Can a Nation Ban a Color? Catalan Demonstrators in Barcelona.

Decades ago, I remember a stirring film about the Regime of the Colonels in Greece. The film, called Z (1969) and directed by Costa Gavras, ended with the announcement that the rightist Colonels had banned the use of the letter “Z” because it was used to signify that Grigoris Lambrakis, who had been assassinated in 1963 for the protests he had organized, was still alive.

Now, in a stunning repetition, Spain has banned the use of the color yellow, because it was used by Catalans to symbolize their aspirations for independence. They couldn’t altogether ban the color, because it’s one of the colors of the Spanish flag. You can read all about it on the BBC News website.

The Catalans Want to Be Independent of Spain

It’s interesting to me that Europe continues to fragment into ever smaller pieces. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the “segmentation” of the former Yugoslavia, we have a host of new countries: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Slovakia. As the countries become smaller, they become ever more appetizing targets to be reabsorbed by some larger nearby power. This is what seems to be happening to Belarus and Crimea (formerly part of Ukraine).

I am part Slovak: My father was born near Prešov. For its long history, Slovakia was never independent; but it became so under the presidency of Václav Havel after the Slovaks and the Czechs came to blows over the governing of Czechoslovakia. Now there’s the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

How much farther will nationalism go? The states of the Confederacy are threatening to secede again from the Union. Canada continues to have problems governing Québec and other French-speaking areas. On a more local level, several rightist-leaning counties in California want to secede from the state and form their own state, to be called Jefferson. Oh, yeah, like we need more conservative senators in Congress!