An old farmer stands in the open door of a barn. I recognized him. From underneath his cap, he squints down the road to see me approaching. Yellow halms around his boots. His back as round as the orbs of straw next to his barn. In his mouth, a cigar stump. The sun peeks over the hilltops; the valley between Calonge and the climb to Romanya de la Selva is in the shadows already.
How could I have forgotten about this old farmer? Exactly a year ago I saw him almost every day. I watched him putter around his once-so-solemn farm, while he watched me pass the climbing road along his house time after time. I saw him sitting on a straw bale, together with his sons, who pretended not to see me pedaling by, panting and sweating. Men who didn’t need to talk to understand each other.
The two sons left this summer. Making a living from the fields just wasn’t possible anymore. Everyone leaves this area, in search of a job in the city. It doesn’t just seem totally abandoned here, it ís abandoned. Only in the summer do the tourists come to live in the holiday houses. When they left, the sons promised their father to visit him frequently. Since their mother passed away peacefully under the old olive tree in the courtyard one warm summer’s day, he tends to neglect himself as much as he neglects the farm.
It turned out differently. The sons got engulfed by the vigor of the town. All of a sudden drinking a cerveza on one of the terraces appears to be much more interesting than paying their old father a visit. The farmer spends his days in solitude now. Now and then, his neighbour brings him soup. She’s not much of a talker. They hardly say a word. He doesn’t mind, for you can talk to yourself if you want. Sometimes he has long conversations with the old farm, with the creaking doors, the squeaking bolts, and the clattering tiles. And he dreams, the old farmer, when he sits on a bale of straw and squints down the road.
At those moments, he hears his sons yelling again. He sees how they rock the tractor tire he once attached to the largest branch of the old olive tree. He smells evaporating moisture in the warm grass, as his sons throw buckets full of water from the river behind the courtyard over each other. He dreams of the fruitful years, when he got good money for his olives and crops. Those were the best years.
Sometimes he sees a cyclist pass by. They don’t speak his language. They come from other countries. It pleases him there are some young people who are willing to live here, but he would rather see real Catalans. He fears for his beloved country. Not long from now, eventually all the old people will be dead. Who will remain to take care of the fields? Not his sons, they won’t come back. He realises that now.
The farmer toes some straws away. He puffs his cigar, notices the thing has died out and he snips the stump away. Then he turns around and shambles into the barn, to the neighbour’s soup.
Creating life histories. That’s what I do on the bike.