Sunday, 21 May 2017

Goats


 Dear Reader,



                                                                               Wild mountain goats in Andalucia.

In the 1960s I went to stay with an artist friend who had an "estancia" in Andalucia, southern Spain, enfolded in the mountains above Algerceras.  It was a beautiful white house surrounded by bougainvillaeas, tropical trees and plants.  Apparently, it had originally been the hideaway of a smuggler and had been known as "The Smuggler's Retreat", but when I knew it it was called The Seraphine.  The thing I remember most about The Seraphine was the swallows.  Each year swallows nested in the drawing room above the fireplace on the mantelpiece, flying in through the open windows.  The male swallow sat watching, sitting on the lamp by the sofa as they swooped around the room, and you had to be careful of your drink and your head as they did so.  Behind the house were mountain paths supposedly made by the smuggler, but when I went there the paths were well trodden by goats which had large silver bells round their necks, chiming away, and looked after by a shepherd.

The wild mountain goats frequently found in herds across the mountains of Andalucia are Spanish Ibex.  The males are generally shades of brown around the body with black markings on the chest, flanks and legs, while the females are paler.  The adult males are approximately double the size of the females, but colour and size vary, depending on their whereabouts within the peninsula.  These wild herds spend their days moving gradually across the mountainside browsing on oaks, as well as grasses and flowering non-woody plants.  Both sexes have horns, those of the males larger than the females - as we might have guessed!

                                                                          *

Goats

The goats pick their way up
the steep mountain path
nibbling and bleating, tails wagging
silver bells chiming as they stop
to graze, skip and jump upwards.

White mignonettes, freesias, lavender bushes
grow in abundance along the well-worn track,
and small taranaki flowers nestle
in the undergrowth.
Overhead a black kite cries
circles and swoops
and the pungent smell of goats
fills the warm lavender air.

I see the shepherd boy
swarthy, brown and handsome
sitting on a stone, playing a flute.
He watches his precious goats
with a sharp and knowing eye.

As I pass him I smile.  He waves.
I dance a step to his music
and with light heart follow the goats,
on my own journey upwards.

                                                                             *

With best wishes, Patricia

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful account of your Andalusian stay. I love the goats and your lovely evocative poem. But most of all I love the swallows! I would give anything to have them nesting here. xxx

Linda said...

Lovely post, photos and poem. Thank you so much for sharing.