A desert wind from Morocco has blown all through the night since we arrived from Valencia at twilight yesterday. In the morning, the skies are empty and blue. From the balcony we scan the landscape, from the ridge of mountains in the west to the lighthouse on the brow of the cliff at the end of the cape across the bay. New homes cluster on the hillside above the town. The finished ones are painted white, with red-tiled roofs; those still being built remain gray, like blocks of dust. On top of the ridge above the houses, a jagged row of towers look like ancient fortifications. “No,” say my friends: “they are the ruins of old windmills. We can visit them later, if you’d like.”
The Mediterranean is the darkest of blues, laced with green veins, like patterns in marble. In the bay below us, a small boat cuts through the water. Its red sails catch and hold the light as it turns and tacks in the wind. Farther out against the cliffs near the end of the cape, an expensive motor launch chugs out to sea. Slowly, it grows smaller and the blue waters curl over the froth of its wake as if it had never passed by here.
It’s nearly silent on the balcony, except for the breathing of the wind and the chatter of birds hidden in the pines and the soft murmur of the voices of friends. The embrace of their arms. Our moments of peace.
At twilight we walk along the spine of the cliffs high above the sea. From the lighthouse at the far end of the ridge, a pulse of pale green light arcs through the gathering dusk—light, dark, light— every twenty seconds. In the west, the sun has disappeared behind the mountains, but above them, a wall of clouds streaked with red still lingers. A full moon rises in the east and below us in the blue water, the last sailboat of the day returns to its home in the harbor. The lights of Jávea flicker along the shoreline that curls away from us to the southern end of the bay—an arm of lights embracing this small edge of the Coast of the Orange Blossom.
There are eleven windmills. The round towers made of ochre-colored stones loom above us in the fading light. The wind fills the air with the fragrance of pine and sage and bats dart around the towers. Slowly, the ochre stones turn to pale blonde as the moon rises higher.
No one speaks. We dance with the bats in the murmur of the wind, balanced between sea and sky, between sunset and moonrise, here, now, on these cliffs. The heat and noise of Valencia is only an echo from a place far away. Not one of us wants to leave this peace.
The street that curves along the coastline is full of cars and motorcycles, but a block away, at the end of a narrow alley, a small café is quiet and full of shadows. A tanned young couple passes by the open windows on their way to the beach and then a few tourists with maps and cameras. Then three workers in blue overalls covered with dust. Then a young woman– red dress, blonde hair—pushing a dark blue pram with white wheels.
In the café, six strangers ignore each other to concentrate on their laptops. The blue pram slides up against the wall and the woman in red sits down at the table next to mine. The rhythm of clicking keyboards is interrupted by gurgling sounds— a baby. The woman opens her laptop and the bright-eyed one—a girl— gradually draws the six strangers into her orbit. The mother allows one of us to hold the baby and soon we pass her tiny body around from stranger to stranger. We nuzzle her and coo, “Mi vida,” “hija mia.” She drools and tugs at my beard. “Mi amor.”
Then she’s returned to her pram and we turn back to our computers. Suddenly, a scream. Her mother rocks her but she will not be consoled. The little one snuggles into the curl of her mother’s arm. A breast appears. The baby dines. Slowly, with her free hand, mother checks her emails. Peace in this quiet little world.
© 2004 J.M. Keating