Despite the glorious flowers still to be found in window boxes and tubs around the town, summer is officially over: the days have been getting shorter and Thursday was the Autumn Equinox.
I think all the local churches have either had their harvest festival or have it scheduled for tomorrow and the thought of harvest has reminded me once more of Spain. We didn’t pay much attention to the garden but even untended trees produce blossom and fruit as the year turns.
I particularly miss the figs, warm in the sunshine, which I used to eat straight from the tree, pretending I’d never heard of fig wasps.
I don’t miss the apples and pears so much, as there were always far too many; if we’d stayed there longer, I suppose I would eventually have bought a cider press, but as it was, many of them would simply fall and rot. At this time of year, I reckon you could get drunk on the smell of fermented fruit in the orchard.
I’m not sure whether this piece of writing counts as poetry or prose. It originated as a post here on the blog, then was polished and appeared in The Apple Anthology published by Nine Arches Press; the book was runner-up for Best Anthology in the 2014 Saboteur Awards.
The house is on a narrow strip of land that runs beside an olivar, beyond which there’s a plot that belongs to an old guy who keeps cerdos in a wooden sty. Two pigs each year: one for each of his daughters. I’ve started taking windfalls from our orchard across for them when I walk down through the olive grove to the village.
The old man sits there, morning and evening, watching the pigs fatten in the sunshine. I thought they’d eat anything, but he cuts away the maggots and the bruised flesh, pares the fruit neatly and allocates it to one of the assorted pails and buckets scattered around the pocilga. At his side there’s a long cane – though I haven’t worked out if he uses it to scratch the animals’ backs or to make sure they each get equal access to the trough.
Sometimes one of the other viejos del pueblo joins him and they put the world to rights while the elderly burro – our neighbour’s transport to and from the village – grazes patiently, tethered to an olive tree.
When the neighbour isn’t there, I leave the bulging supermarket carrier alongside the metal chair with its peeling paint and rust, ready for him to find next day. The other evening, a pile of misshapen marrows lay there, bloated and yellowing, and I realised that I am not the only person who leaves their harvest offering at the pig-sty shrine. I’m reminded of the theory that ‘man made god in his own image’, and wonder what it says about our village if we are worshipping pigs.
Come Martinmas, and la matanza, we will slaughter our pig-gods and turn their flesh into jamón and chorizo, and their blood into morcilla and sangre frita. But the gods are immortal and they will return to the shrine beyond the olive grove as squealing piglets in the spring.