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The Arenal de L´Albufera

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In these times, looking for new distractions and things that fill us is essential. That is why we want to help you and make this wait more enjoyable.

We return with a new installment of our beloved stories, this time by the hand of Narciso Martín H, with a work called El Arenal de L´Albufera. A story that will thrill and evoke you to those beautiful moments that live in our memories.

THE-ARENAL-DE-L´ALBUFERA-1

Chapter 1

Life is a groove in the sand of time, always left behind and only drawn as we go. This extends to our path, always leaving the question of what will be its end. Few are capable of stopping, turning and observing this extensive life line and reflecting on the form it has taken. Those who do so are the true masters of their destiny. Unfortunately, this complex work of retrospective and existential analysis usually comes to us when the autumn leaves begin to fall within us. This is not the case of Marc who, at thirty-eight, had already carried out this profound task, undoubtedly led by a deep feeling of emptiness that, without explanation, had been stealing his sleep for some time.

Marc was a seasoned engineer whose career had been very successful and from whom, despite all that success and recognition, he had long since denied. Partly because his body asked for a sabbatical, after several years of incessant and exhausting work and partly because something told him that his place in life was another. This made him make a drastic decision; sell their houses in Amsterdam and Madrid, and hit the road on an old but impressive motorcycle; its forever loved Harley. Luckily no sentimental bond forced him to stay there wherever he had been hired. That is the only fortune of the lonely. They are those whose heart has no anchor or roots and therefore can be carried away by the wind that blows under their wings. So without thinking much more he took his motorcycle, a backpack and his curls in the wind and decided to see the world on two wheels. The weeks were sliding through the calendar, without haste but without pause and on any given day He realized, between surprised and comforted, that his crazy journey had been delayed for more than ten months. Until now, he had already seen half of Europe and decided to return to his beloved Iberian peninsula, where the warmth and the sun seemed never to be in short supply or at least not so much, something that any asphalt eater appreciates. When undertaking the route back to Spain, it passed first through the north, making the mythical path until it reached Santiago de Compostela, then it descended along the coast of Portugal, delineating every kilometer of coast until it reached southern Andalusia and finally reached the province of Murcia. It was then that a strange feeling began to grow inside him and press against his chest, without being able to identify what it was. All he knew was that he looked like the one who ripped him out of his placid and gentrified life and threw him onto the road of the nomadic life of curves.

Sitting on a rock as black as night, Marc enjoyed the rays of a sun that announced the coming spring, despite still being a callous February. The place was the Calblanque natural park, between Cabo de Palos and Portman. The old and roaring sportster It rested silently a few meters away on the shoulder of that little-traveled road, although the crackling of the engine and the red-hot cylinders could still be heard, cooling with the cool breeze. Meanwhile Marc delighted in a brief moment of peace, letting his curly hair air out, dancing and getting drunk on nitrate. I should go home ... It was his first clear thought in all that time. And the second was... but where?

It was not a trivial question. His home was for many years Madrid, while preparing to be someone, but so were the Netherlands and Brussels, for the last seven years. In all that time a whole career was built and a life project, which at that time seemed only a memory in the form of a diffuse mirage. More than fifteen years of working and growing, of fighting to achieve something and that, when the time came, it was not as important to him as he thought it would be. It is without a doubt a common evil for many people who fight tirelessly for a goal which, once achieved with the greatest success and pride, turns out not to offer as much happiness as it should. The reason is simple; destiny cannot be written by human hands. Those lines and drawings can only be outlined by something else, something different ... The what or who? It is not known, but drawing a goal and reaching it is not always the answer to long-awaited happiness, because it only comes when it should, not before or after.

For that same reason Marc had been meditating on this matter for some time and understood that none of those places was really his destination or his home. In the depths of his being he did not feel them as such. The answer to that question was as clear as it was strange to him, since only one corner of the world seemed to be the one that his heart felt like his true home. Determined and driven by a warm internal impulse, he pulled on his boots, stood up, brushed off his worn jeans, and started the Harley. A different countenance could be seen on his sun-reddened face. Almost a life ago and also a few hours was a man aimlessly, a man wandering on his motorcycle, who walked miles away from any root or memory, instead at that precise moment, had just become something different, in a person with a destiny, in someone who returned ...

I'm going home today.

I will return to Albufera ... to Arenal ...

Chapter 2

The road was diluted under the fiery tires of the sportster, while Marc enjoyed every meter of asphalt and every curve as if they were the first. The landscape was idyllic and, for the young pilot's enjoyment, he was interspersing stretches of coastline, sand and cliffs with mountains, pine forests and small towns. The cold wind played with the skin and at times it became warmer and then froze again. It was not difficult to enjoy a last stage like that, so much so that Marc lowered the engine revs and savored the last kilometers at cruising speed. He could already feel the home a little closer.

Sepia-toned slides from a childhood far beyond his mind, more than his actual distance, came to his mind. They were hardly flashes, but they managed to provoke a few breaths in his chest and a few more beats in his heart; lakes like mirrors shining at dawn, rice fields swaying in the wind like a green tide, his grandfather's big rough hands dropping a thread of dried rice grains, the beach sand under his bike with rollers, a clay pot steaming, with aromas of the sea and orchard, and thus a constant flurry of images accompanied by sensations and emotions, which managed to steal the beauty of the road to appropriate it more than deserved.

It was curious that Marc had not returned to that place so full of life and purity. The reason was simple; sometimes life itself decides for us. Not everything we do is our choice. Sometimes circumstances do not leave many options. That was the case of Marc who, despite growing up in love with that corner of the world, had to follow in his mother's wake and then his own. His mother got a good job in Madrid that he could not give up and, as he grew older, his studies permanently anchored him in the capital. Without knowing very well how or why, that humid piece of land in the east quickly became a memory, too diffuse to understand anything and to which he never returned, beyond dreams.

After a few kilometers the path began to look familiar, despite being clearly different, even so there was something in the air, in the vegetation and even in the light that made him feel an almost familiar proximity, when traveling those sections of road. That place had something magical, because between curves and games with the coast, the road once again seemed like a pure mountain, when in reality the sea was only a few meters away. And that road twisted restlessly and mischievously. The best route of the route has just begun. There was no ocean and yet there was sea, a calm and almost motionless one. It was the wonderful lagoon of l'Albufera. The marine dynamics and the winds of the area had shaped this immense dune field in the Devesa, which advanced parallel to the coastline. The Aleppo pines were spread and mixed with mastic, kermes oak, palm hearts and a long etcetera of forest tones. He was very close to his final destination and despite this Marc felt the need to stop, not even for a minute, to visualize for the first time in almost thirty years, such a gift for the eyes.

He took a cobblestone exit and in a matter of only twenty meters he stumbled right in front of the first of his slides from the past. It was a flooded paddy field. An immense pool that extended until caressing the next and this in turn to another and another, which would surely reach the immense marsh of l'Albufera at some point. The print took her breath away and bristled Marc's skin, who without knowing why, smiled. I didn't remember how beautiful this place was... he thought to himself. And it is always said that memory misrepresents facts or images and sweetens them so that everything turns out to be more beautiful than it actually was, but in that case it was just the opposite. The beauty of that corner far outweighed any vague memories it might have lovingly preserved.

After that small break of pure nature and inspiration, Marc walked the last three kilometers, the most convoluted, far from the usual traffic and almost instinctively came the small house that, despite having it lost in memory, he could never forget. It was relatively easy to find, thanks to a series of small details that seemed to have endured over time and in his express mind; the two quarreled palms followed by the two lovers, the small bridge that connected two fields over the ditch and the landmarks. Seeing them, he paused for a second. He knew then that he was on the right track. Grandpa's apachetas ... thought. To get there I just had to follow seven apachetas; stone promontories like rustic pyramids no more than sixty centimeters high, which marked the way. His intuition was confirmed when he saw the barracks in the distance, less shiny than before, but just as beautiful. The road narrowed between two huge rice fields and a sign, subject more by obstinacy than by firmness, indicated the name of the farm, Arenal Giner.

The sound of the motorcycle stopped and the birds, frightened by such an unexpected roar, returned to their idle splash, now calmer. Looking at the small adobe building with its pointed gabled roof made of mud, mansega y simple, woven into a lattice of reeds, brought another of those slides back to Marc's mind. It was of him leaning out of one of the windows of the narrow upper floor and observing the water of the fields flooded in the winter, surrounding him everywhere, like an immense and peaceful sea. Then, standing there, contemplating a fragment of yesterday resisting against all odds, an unexpected event occurred, although much more emotional than observing stones and reeds holding up the years.

From behind the house emerged, like a mirage that was gradually taking shape, the hunched but stout silhouette of a man. He came to meet the biker, who had caught his attention with the bellow of the classic engine. It was four o'clock in the afternoon and it was evident that the old man was resting his eyes at the back of the barrack, in the afternoon sun and sheltered from the cold breeze that entered the plain from the sea. Decades of work in the fields were drawn on his face. Her complexion, caressed by hundreds of suns, played between dark brown and violet and the furrows of her skin could be counted by dozens. To good afternoon... nice iron... said the old man, who was smiling and put on the beret he was holding. Thank you very much. It is all a relic, but it works wonderfully... Marc replied smiling, not sure how to react or what to say. It was a very special moment for which he had not been able to prepare. Oh ... this is definitely his place then ... the relics here are well received ... They both laughed and then Marc approached the man, who narrowed his eyes, trying to analyze the stranger. Doubts were playing in his old mind, but it would be the comment that the young man would make next that would end up dislodging the old man and would take him out of that placid contemplative calm in which he was plunged until a few minutes ago. You don't know who I am, do you?

The old man moved closer until he was face to face with the newcomer and observed him more conscientiously. Marc kept his smile, between the nerves and the emotion, without being able to sit still, tightening his curls. Although the surprise for the man who was scrutinizing him was going to be great, Marc's had already been too. It was a scene that I did not imagine living, for many reasons. The old man felt that sweet frustration of oblivion, but he didn't want to give up. Oh ... it's been a while since I know who anybody is ... sometimes not even myself ... He protested the mistreatment of time to his mind, while he did not cease in his efforts. But the truth is ... You have an air to my little girl, Amparito, but ... if that were true ... Then he paused, a very deep and revealing one. His face changed and it was when he spoke some enigmatic words. If you are ... you ... it means that the tradition ... the omen ... are true ...

Those words still traveled in the air, between dilemmas and suspicions, when Marc opened his eyes wide, unable to contain himself any longer. Grandfather Ricardo, I am Marc, the son of Amparito ... After saying that, the old man gave a little jump, looking for the truth in that statement and, after a few seconds of much reflection and dealing with his denials and superstitions, his eyes reddened and then a tender smile, somewhat tremulous, was drawn in his punished face. The Marc? But no ... it can't be ... you're ... The old man was visibly moved. Her voice vibrated and her eyes filled with water. You are made a ... a man ... And both merged into an emotional embrace, which lasted for a long time, in which time seemed to stop and even go back.

It was beautiful and strangely brief. After so much time without seeing each other, the excitement of the reunion turned those minutes into just two blinks, returning them to a simpler and clearly better past. After laughter muffled by the bodies and some sob of indeterminate owner, Ricardo moved Marc a few inches, but without letting go and then, with a grimace mixed with emotion, he said:

I already thought you wouldn't come.

Did you expect me?

Not really ... but yes ...; My grandfather told me that ... that the third generation must always return to Albufera ... and here you are.

Chapter 3

After the emotional and surprising reunion, grandson and grandfather made their way slowly towards the barrack. What they had shared in that place was more transcendent than Marc would have imagined and inside there was an intense mixture of sensations, between disbelief and joy. For him all this was more than he could have hoped for, since he doubted whether he would find the shack standing, much less his grandfather, who was already around ninety-many. And for the old man, that was more than just an unexpected visit. Like it happens in all the families, in his family they also cooked beans, but there was something else after the problems with his daughter, Marc's mother. Something that made him surprise by the coincidence and not by the appearance of the grandson himself. lost. The poor man had already given up hope of seeing some descendant return to the land of his ancestors. The legacy and tradition already seemed doomed to oblivion and absolute abandonment. And it is that the past always has small spots, which end up clouding what should always be a walk between memories of roses and jasmine.

As they entered the house, the past hit Marc's mind squarely. Everything was exactly as he remembered it. Even the scent that gave off inside was the same. So much so that he closed his eyes and swore he heard his grandmother's pot boiling in the kitchen. It was a mixture of smells between garlic, bay leaf and rosemary. It was an intoxicating time perfume that abstracted Marc from any other thought and emotionally kidnapped him. Everything is the same, grandpa... He said as he took a look around him. The same feeling that overwhelmed him as a child returned to him. The idea that the barrack was much larger, deeper, and warmer than it seemed on the outside, as the product of a strange enchantment. Inside, all the details were pure family history; black-and-white portraits, furniture almost as old as the house itself, and a small mess of junk that, in a peculiar way, formed a perfect balance and a feeling of unique hospitality and peace.

Once the first impact of that yesterday preserved in formaldehyde and rosemary had been overcome, the conversation took place in a natural and prolonged way, while the hours followed one another like the flow of a river, constant and slow. The grandfather was eager to know what had become of the life of his only grandson. When the latter told him of the incredibleness of his personal and professional journey, the old man showed uncontrollable emotion and pride when he saw the greatness in his own blood. Curiously for Marc, this apparent success was not such. He shook his head at the old man's praise, looking at all the details around him. Then he came to a revealing conclusion; I prefer to be here, where life is more appealing to me, where breathing is easy for me and where each puff I take relieves my soul ...

Then it was time for Grandpa, who kept looking at his wristwatch. There was no hurry, he shouldn't, but something was prodding him, although Marc didn't notice it. The old man related how the last twenty-five years had been, which had passed like a sigh and two blinks. Still ... life was generous to me, from my youth until today ... since my feet stepped on this earth everything seemed to improve... When he settled there, he continued with the work of his own grandfather, the same that he felt as his at the same moment that he felt in his hands the muddy and full life of the rice paddies. Then the marsh provided him with everything he could have needed, everything to never have to abandon him, as if it were a source of desires; a job in the field, a woman and a family. He achieved a life and above all a robust health to enjoy it. And so, suddenly, he turned eighty-nine and was alone again and waiting for an impossible, one that had just become real.

Marc, who avidly listened to the whole story, asked about Grandma Flora and then her grandfather was visibly moved, took a breath and said: Oh, your grandmother ... my Little Flower ... passed away twelve years ago, she left in peace and sleeping ... thanks to the Lord ... After that the story continued with a little more difficulty from that chapter. Her two male children followed their own paths, leaving no offspring and their daughter Amparo had also left ... the story was interrupted and Marc perceived the pain in his grandfather. He thought he remembered something, but he was too young to be aware of reality. However, she was an intelligent person and she knew that something happened, because her mother hardly told her about all that, nor about her years there. That meant something...

Then the old man asked him to go out for a drink and they both went to the back of the barrack. There the cold of the night faded and the stars seemed to multiply in the reflections of the rice fields full of water. The emotions have been many today and this old man is no longer for many jogs... The day, which had started like all the previous ones and with no sign of changes on the horizon, turned out to be an unexpected surprise, but full of happiness. The conversation became somewhat more dense and peaceful, but no less relevant for that. In fact, Mr. Ricardo had spent hours looking at the clock for the same reason. This moment was important to him. For both.

After that last moment together before going to rest they both left with a lot to think about. In the solitude of the main room, Marc was still not sleepy, he couldn't sleep after what his grandfather had revealed to him minutes before in the moonlight, so he decided to go out and meditate on everything that had happened. Under the starry night, his motorcycle already looked like a relic that had found its perfect place between the sown fields and the sea. A sea that, despite not being seen, could be heard nearby. The sky and the flooded rice fields melted as the gaze drifted away, leaving clinking stars everywhere.

Chapter 4

February left just as the new cycle of rice began. Grandfather Ricardo welcomed Marc and taught him everything he needed to get him to work in the rice fields. He passed on all his knowledge in the best possible way. During the first two months of the year, the water had been emptied from the fields to begin muddle. The fields had been plowed and the straw from the rice left over from the previous year mixed with the mud, rotting and creating a great natural fertilizer. Marc delighted with the dozens of birds that populated those humid areas and that played an important role in preparing the land.

March and early April arrived. Moments of recollection in which grandson and grandfather kept catching up, an arduous and immeasurable task, but above all in which Marc meditated long and hard until he understood that this place that his ancestors had preserved, could be better used. It was a task for which he felt truly prepared. As if his presence there had been neither random nor accidental. Whenever the young man spoke of the new plans, the old man smiled and nodded, something that Marc was grateful for, although at the same time he saw a certain unease growing up about getting involved in something so important. Easy, Marc ... you know that I am not the owner of anything anymore. Now these fields are no longer mine, they have always been, are and will be of the family and right now yours. You must do with them what you think best. It is part of the legacy and tradition... Thus the grandfather calmed the young entrepreneur. As the weeks passed and Marc's projects piled up on his busy head, the land rested in the sun until it was well curdled. Later, more work days followed, to turn the upper layer of the land.

The end of April came and until mid-May they allowed the bogged water in the fields to heat up little by little. Grandfather Ricardo told Marc that in the past, the last days of April and the first weeks of May were the planting time, but the weather always changes and so do the techniques. You have to adapt, Marc ... the water can only stay stagnant for a while, otherwise it stops producing and ruins the harvest ... nothing remains the same forever. Life is change and changes are always good ... Each of those tips were collected by the young man as if they were ethereal treasures. While germinating the rice in the heat of spring, Marc traveled every kilometer of the natural park with his old Harley, delighting in the endless rectangular rafts, which formed huge mirrors on clear and clear days, and which became dancing and agitated when the rains of April unleashed their exuberance.

Then came May, June and July, the months of abundance. In the month of May, the stalk of the sown rice had already grown about 30 or 40 centimeters, so it was time to pluck it and transport it from the planter to the paddy field, that is to say to those fields that had spent the winter flooded and where the birds had spent the coldest months of the year before flying to Europe. It was the moment of greatest contact with the land for Marc. When he felt his body sunk in the water and the mud, his present mixed with his past and he remembered seeing his mother and father, along with his uncles, grandparents and other planters. , working side by side, transplanting the rice by hand. Yesterday was mixed with his now and, although he used the new agricultural advances, in some neighboring fields, most of them smaller, he was able to see and even lend a hand to the groups of planters who still did it in the old way. , placing the bunches of rice stalks in a straight line, always walking backwards so as not to step on them, creating a geometrically perfect image in the rice fields. There is nothing like working on the ground, wet and muddy hands, the satisfaction of contact with the roots. The fullness that Marc felt in those days was immeasurable, only comparable to the moment he arrived at the barrack, where his grandfather awaited him, and where they both cooked some delicious inherited recipe; Esgarraet, arroz a banda, paella, arroz del senyoret, baked rice, there i pebre, fideguá, cocas, black rice and thus a long etcetera of culinary knowledge transmitted with love and skill. Marc lived that stage in perpetual exhaustion, but with a constant smile on his face, which deserved every drop of sweat.

On the other hand, in their much larger lands, that hard task was no longer carried out, since the current machinery allowed them to plant directly in the rice fields as of May. The rice grew without problems thanks to the spring heat. On starry nights, grandfather Ricardo told Marc about the years when herbicides were not used to kill all those weeds that sprouted naturally, because they were pulled by the sickle farmers themselves. My grandfather sent me with the sickle and spent whole days clearing the land, now instead ... how easy you have everything, che ... how vidorra yours ... the man commented and they both laughed, laughing out loud into the night silence.

It was then, just before the harvest season began, when fate made an appearance in Marc's life again. He was making one of his detours around El Palmar with his roaring sportster, when he almost fell into a paddy field. The reason? Stare at a young woman. Sometimes love does not find us subtly, but runs us over. The girl in question was photographing one of the fields, which looked with an intense green tone mixed with reddish tones, produced by the imminent sunset. It was in that fortuitous and rugged way that Marc met Mara, the final piece of a mysterious puzzle that not even he knew.

Chapter 5

Summer came with its usual force on the Levantine coast and with the heat also promises of prosperity. This future was already forging, it was even written, although its outcome could not yet be seen on the horizon. For Marc everything was taking shape, while life in the rice paddies continued its usual course and the harvest had already begun. Dried and the stems, it was time to harvest. Again, grandfather Ricardo, in the cool of the Albufera night and seeing his grandson enjoying a delicious glass of horchata, remembered the years when all that collection work was done by hand, with a sickle and hours and hours of mowing under the imposing sun, which gilded and smoked his body. Fortunately, mechanical evolution had made great strides, avoiding not only work but also difficult times in the field. Oh ... what memories ... You can't imagine what we were going through ... When the harvest lengthened and the typical September storms fell, they caught us half-harvest and flooded the fields again ... then we had to wait again for the land to dry to be able to restart the task ... that was a nuisance, yes ... The old man related, drawing a calm smile between his dozens of wrinkles.
It is true what they say that even the difficult moments seem much less with the distance that the years grant. Even the bad will make us smile someday. Perhaps it means that what disturbed us so much was not really so bad ... A similar reflection caught Marc's eye when observing the image of that man, sitting in the shelter of the barrack inherited from his ancestors, with no greater luxury than that offered by the peace and at another time a rich and fresh horchata. What many would give for something like that, without even knowing that this is what they are needing ... he thought to himself, while his grandfather observed him and smiled, as if he had read his mind.
Along with the rice, a beautiful summer love also sprouted. At first it was just that, after all it is what all summer loves are. Nothing that seems moderately important, but at the same time they subjugate in such a way that they make you lose consciousness. They are something that is not expected and that later you do not want to let go. That strange feeling had Marc floating and always with a tickle in his stomach that made him smile at every moment. Elder Ricardo could not be happier to see his beloved grandson enjoying this place so much. Among the work in the fields, Marc took time out from under the stones to discover the most secret nooks and crannies of the Marjal de l'Albufera with Mara. In this way she could take beautiful photographs and he could in turn steal from her snapshots the odd kiss.
The days passed in the most pleasant way in which time can pass, when one night, being a grandson and grandfather observing the piles of rice already separated from the spike in one of the dryers, they had one of their talks. The sun was just a memory on Marc's still warm skin and the moon seemed to ease each one of those sun marks and in turn attracted a pleasant cool breeze that came from the beaches of the Saler. You know, Marc. These months have been wonderful, thanks to you ... The old man said, squeezing the young man's leg, who looked at him and smiled. For me too, grandpa. I never thought that in such a calm and simple place I would find everything I had always wanted. Such reflection was not trivial and they both knew it, although each by different convictions and beliefs. It was strange and at the same time very normal to feel so complete being there, although why was not entirely clear to one of them. The conversation continued, until a comment raised doubts. It is this place, Marc, this land, our land ... This little piece of the world has always been generous to us. At least with the third generation ... Marc drew a strange gesture, which Grandfather Ricardo detected immediately, to which he had to stop the craving for answers from the young man, who could already be intuited by piling a thousand questions on his curled and tangled head. Easy, easy ... As I told you the first night ... the answers are before our eyes. Everything will make sense when you have to. You just enjoy and "pasiensia" ...
Faced with that intriguing premise, Marc recalled that first conversation full of questions and skepticism. Still, he assumed that, just like rice cannot be collected in February, some truths must come in due course. And the summer took its course and love and the countryside filled with the heart and spirit of Marc, who woke up one morning, looked out the small window of his room at the rice paddies, then contemplated Mara asleep in his bed and wished that time stopped at that very moment.
After that first harvest, more than generous, after tasting Valencian cuisine and after touring the most beautiful corners of the Albufera Natural Park on foot, by bike, by boat and on a motorcycle, Marc felt he had discovered why his presence there. The solution seemed so simple and clear that it even seemed ridiculous not to have seen it before. He laughed out loud and looked for his grandfather. Of course he did not find it. That old man was elusive and it was not until he returned from daily work, with the sun already falling when grandson and grandfather met, where they always did, after the barrack. Grandfather! I finally find you! I already have it! He said euphoric with a laugh. The one you have? What is so much gossip about? Said the startled old man, who seemed to be immersed in a pleasant sleep. We are going to raise this place ... and it is going to be ... Incredible! Grandfather Ricardo looked at his enthusiastic grandson and observed the same illusion that he drew when he was his age, when he decided to accept the responsibility of conserving the family rice fields. You know they are yours ... Do what you think best ... The future of this place is all yours ...
And with that blessing began what would be a new and better future for "El Arenal Giner" a name that would go down in history throughout the region and also beyond the Valencian community.

Chapter 6

Nothing in life can be compared to looking at the smile of the person you love. The evening reddened the sky over the Albufera when autumn had already arrived for weeks. The temperature, although pleasant, already made the skin bristle and forced to take refuge under a warm sweater. And there were Marc and Mara under a huge thick blanket, in a cold November, watching a beautiful sunset, sheltered behind the facade of the barrack. It was at that precise moment when he felt that each and every one of the elements that made up his life were right where they should be. He felt complete when he averted his gaze from the imposing natural spectacle to delight in something much more beautiful. Impressive... she said excitedly. Definitely… she replied. No. you are awesome... She blushed only could give him a heartfelt kiss, but it was not all said.

At that precise moment, almost a year after finding his whole life upside down, aimlessly and without knowing what would become of him, Marc got up to stand in front of Mara and stick his knee to the ground. She, excited and surprised by that unexpected movement of her beloved, sat up, feeling how all the cold in her body evaporated. Honey, would you do me the immense honor of marrying me? Her face lit up, making an indecipherable grimace for him. A mixture of joy, emotion and even complicity. The reason for all those chain reactions was not only for the happiness of receiving such an exciting request, but he could not know that. Mara approached Marc, who held that alliance like someone holding a bright and unique star, put her delicate and cold hands on the face of her beloved and with a gentle gesture made him get up. He did not understand anything. The excitement, the doubt, the nerves and the uncertainty grew strong in her stomach and a chill ran through her body. It did not matter that Mara had not stopped smiling at any time, because she had not responded either.

But…

You do not want…?

Before Marc finished asking that horrible question, Mara kissed him with passion first and tenderness later, leaving him so perplexed that he didn't know how to react. She with tears in her eyes made a subtle gesture behind her, looking for something. Marc didn't understand anything, but he was getting more and more nervous. Then, against all odds, Mara showed her some blue baby socks and with a trembling and undoubtedly happy voice said ... How can I not want to marry the father of our son ... After that exciting news Marc watched the time stop, even his heart paused, skipping more than a beat. The whole scene froze barely a second, maybe less, but it was enough to understand that the life he had always wanted, even without knowing it, was just that one, at that precise moment. After the pause, the heat and heartbeat returned with more force than ever and then both lovers melted into an incredible hug. Mara danced in the air carried by the arms of Marc, who waved her in circles while screaming and laughing out loud ... Let's be parents! Let's be parents!

The expected link did not take long and in a beautiful and still fresh spring, Marc and Mara Yes, I want. She sported a round and beautiful belly of almost six months. The ceremony was most intimate, in a beautiful and small hall in El Palmar, with a succulent and traditional banquet in a back garden, which offered an idyllic image of l'Albufera and of all its winged inhabitants. Barely twenty people witnessed that unique and special moment for lovers. It didn't take much more. Few are the ones who really count to see and share the happiness of two people. Only one or two people were missing, but that always happens. Important moments in life highlight empty spaces at the tables, hugs that can no longer be given and kisses that will always be missing.

Despite this, the happiness of Marc and Mara was then almost complete. Only comparable to that day that same July, when little Martin came into this world and looked for the first time at those who would always be by his side, loving him without measure and helping him in everything he needed.

Chapter 7

Once Marc's life took the course it seemed it should have always taken, time reached stratospheric speeds around him. After the link and the wonderful moment of Martín's birth, many others followed that did nothing but increase levels of happiness and complacency, which could only have been dreamed of and never ever expected. And is that happiness is a gift that is hidden in the little moments of life and which we do not normally believe or even deserve. For that same reason it is always so well received, although we also tend to be suspicious of it. We are complex, but even if we do not know it we are made to smile.

Marc grew older and the years showed on his face. The furrows in his skin were pierced without contemplation and his complexion became darker and darker with the caresses of the sun. Her curly, unruly hair lost its dark brown hue and silver. Nothing he regretted or renounced, quite the contrary, he always prided himself on the worthy passage of time and boasted of his old age more than worthy. His family grew in the same way that his name did. After Martín's birth, Gabriel and Valentina's followed one another, who finished completing what was undoubtedly a dream come true for him.

The Arenal Giner It grew and ended up becoming a cultural and gastronomic reference in the entire region, thanks to those ideas that one day it had when it was young and daring. He turned what was a prosperous large field of rice paddies into something else, something to be proud of and that he could transmit, knowing that he had grown the legacy of his ancestors. All that hard work, all the projection and future plans displaced passions and habits, nothing that he did not understand, but that still weighed.

Today, suddenly and without realizing it, fifty years have passed and nothing seems to have changed in that little piece of marsh. Albufera it continues where it found it and it will surely last hundreds and hundreds of years more. The shack in which he grew up is still standing, resisting against all odds, preserving within him the essence and soul of his family, which existed and which will exist. But Marc doesn't like being inside, there are too many echoes from the past. He is abroad, he prefers it. The cold breeze pleases him, it clears him. He has never stopped enjoying that spectacle that is the sunset, when the sky turns dark behind him and on the horizon, beyond the lagoon and the mountains, the reddish and ocher tones still stain the sky. Each of the flooded rice fields serve as mirrors, one after another and after another, offering a unique and spectacular vision that, despite happening every day, Marc continues to enjoy as if it were the first time.

Once the sky darkens, Marc returns slowly to the interior of the barrack, where time continues to stand still as it did decades ago. The same junk, the same memories and some more that he has been adding, like his beloved Harley, who now decorates one side of the main room next to the fireplace, which continues to work at full capacity. He who today has become an old man sits in front of the fire and looks at the sturdy and somewhat rusty motorcycle, which gave him so many joys and moments of happiness. You and me ... how many things we saw ... he says out loud, as the fire crackles, as if giving him reason.

In that machine with a soul he traveled half of Europe. In it he traveled alone and also with his beloved Mara. Her three children also enjoyed fun journeys, and even the oldest, Martín, inherited it for some years. But today the magnificent sportster it rests calm and no longer roaring. Marc watches her and thinks they are both the same. Both rest and enjoy their well-deserved retirement, in the heat of a campfire, in the place where they were happiest. Where they gave their all, where they ran, where the sun burned them and the rain calmed their burns. Where the sea salt oxidized them, but also gave flavor to their lives.

I've become a nostalgic old man ... what you have to see ...

But unlike his Harley, Marc still has some chores to do, fringes to tie and issues to settle, before what happens is more than inevitable at his age. Also tomorrow will be a very special day. Tomorrow the television will go to his house, Arenal Giner, to report on him, his family, his legacy and his success. Tomorrow will be a great day, even more than he imagines.

Chapter 8

The morning came long after Grandpa Marc lifted his whiny body off the bed. The huge barrack was silent, a silence that he so longed for when little Gabriel, Martín and Valentina were small and that now, with everyone making their lives, is as overwhelming as it is annoying. Good morning love. I slept fatally. That thing about the interview has not let me keep an eye ... You are just as beautiful as always ... He says as he passes by a portrait hanging on the wall. It's from Mara. She is gone, not for four years, but every morning says good morning and before going to bed good night. He decided not to stop talking to her, and somehow that made him cope better with her absence. After all, those we love do not leave completely, not while we remember them, and that is good, that keeps their legacy and affection more alive in our hearts.

In a little while there is a knock on the door and when they open there they are; three young girls and a boy. Marc greets you with a smile and invites you inside. As soon as their reactions pass, they make the old man smile, who feels a mixture of pride and nostalgia. My God, how big ... this is like a l'alqueria museum ... Says one of the girls. I tell you ... how many memories ... Answer another. Wow ... what a motaza ... is it a Harley Davidson? Asks the young man. Indeed, the old sportster 883. A relic, like me ... Everyone laughs and after a good while of banal but pleasant comments, the guests get ready to work. They belong to a national chain that has echoed the achievements of this unknown old man. They prepare to start, after preparing the utensils for the interview; camera, light, makeup, sound ...

Tell us, says the youngest of the three girls, who happens to be the journalist, while the others act as producer and camera, How did you make a barrack and a few fields the hot spot for neighbors and visitors?

Well… Marc smiles. That question is very good, but also very difficult. It's like asking the owner of Coca Cola, how do they make a drink that sells so much ...

True. Lets start by the beginning. When did you decide to turn this place into a business?

Well ... I got here much younger, without a fixed course and my dear grandfather Ricardo was waiting for me. A brief pause allows Marc to digest the tiny but powerful lump that lodges in his throat, the result of the emotion when remembering his beloved grandfather. He was the one who taught me everything about the field and how to make good rice.

Hence the restaurant? The young woman intervenes, subtly.

More or less ... The recipes are all his, that's for sure. I simply proposed to open up to people. Teach anyone who wanted to see the Albufera by boat, set up a restaurant with his own garden and he simply gave me everything and supported me.

Wow. That is a good grandfather ... The girl comments with a pleasant tone of healthy envy. And since then, it has become the benchmark for culture, tourism and gastronomy, with I don't know how many prizes are behind it ... Unbelievable, right?

Yes, the truth. I just wanted to show people this little corner that I fell in love with and give them a taste of a good esgarraet and a rich Valencian rice and it looks like it was a good idea. Marc smiles as he realizes reality while commenting on it. Since then everything has been going great.

Definitely. The best restaurant in the community, dozens of awards, famous and famous diners, reservations for months. The young woman lists all the achievements of the old man, who cannot help but sigh at the evidence. Without a doubt a success.

Yes. The essence is in the natural, in the tradition, in the earth ...

The interview lasts for two more hours, which pass relaxed and full of pleasant and fun moments. Marc has become a very funny grandfather, who does not miss the opportunity to make a joke at the wrong time. The filming team goes first to the rice paddies, then they take a ride in one of the restaurant's boats, where they record beautiful images of the marsh and finally they finish off with a delicious paella of artichokes and duck, with its corresponding rossejat, which delights everyone. The day ends and the young people say goodbye to Marc with praise and thanks. He, exhausted but satisfied, offers them his hut for as many times as they need it and, when the sun seems to be going through its last stretch, he decides to go where the best views are always; the back of the barrack. That corner is very special for him, because that is where he asked Mara in marriage and where dozens of great moments happened with her and with the little ones. The same place where his beloved grandfather Ricardo was resting when the young and lost Marc arrived unexpectedly. The small viewpoint where each sunset always seems different and more beautiful than the last.

Once again the silence of the rice paddies is only broken by a breeze, today softer, and the constant cooing of the little nocturnal beings that are already beginning to wake up, to begin their day of singing. Marc sits there where one day his grandfather sat, and his grandfather and thinks... This was my place ... This and nothing more than this ... Then narrow your eyes. You know this is not a good place to spend the night. The cold at daylight is dangerous, but it is said that it will only be an instant. The calm and placidity are such that in the end it falls deeply. But then a horn breaks that tranquility and startles the old man, that something annoying gets up and looks out to see who it is. What is her surprise ... when she turns the corner of the barrack and, in front of her and sitting on a small and striking motorcycle there is a young man ...

Daniel? Asks the old man, somewhat confused but happy.

Grandfather!

Chapter 9

Life is a relentless constant. Inheritances and legacies are a matter usually ignored or not taken into account, beyond some assets that pass from one to the other generations, but for some families it is something much more important. Many, many years ago, grandfather Ricardo tried to understand him, when he was barely a young man in his twenties, just as it happened to his grandfather before him and to his great-great-grandfather much earlier. The how or the why of this complex and peculiar tradition is something that none of them knew how to keep in the family memory, but in some inexplicable way, the descendants of the family ended up returning to the land that gave them everything to be happy.

Marc, believing that this story would not be fulfilled, was very pleasantly surprised to see his beloved grandson, Daniel, in front of the old family barrack, whom he had not seen for a few years, since his tenth birthday. History repeats itself, but now Marc is the grandfather. That is a strange gift that life has offered him, being able to witness his youth reflected in that lanky and disheveled boy.

And what are you doing here? Asks the old man, who does not leave his astonishment, for all that this entails. I was kicked out of college ... and at home things were weird ... The young man's confession makes Marc shake his head, but still embraces his grandson's misguided. So you've decided to come see Grandpa ... after ten years ... The reproach is subtle, but the young man hunts it on the fly. Well ... you know ... I didn't really know where to go and for some reason, this seemed to me the best place ... I don't know why ... Daniel's explanation, expelled almost as an exorcism, reveals a lost and somewhat troubled boy and in turn confirms many things. Good... do not worry ... the third generation always returns to Arenal... Marc answers in the form of a riddle with a lot of patience and understanding. Then he takes it to the cabin. It is already dark and begins to refresh with more momentum.

The scenes are repeated one by one. Marc gets excited and smiles all the time, as his grandfather Ricardo did in his day and as he imagines the other elderly ancestors did. Every conversation, every gesture, every anecdote, everything is a kind of déjà vu that does nothing but channel all possible paths. Young Daniel seems dissipated, as if diluted in his own life. The reflection is almost traced to the past. Marc knows perfectly well how his beloved grandson is and also knows what to do. Everything is somehow already written and the fact of knowing it and feeling it that way certainly produces a strange mixture of tranquility and fear. Will everything happen like it did in the past? She wonders, while Daniel tells him about his little misunderstanding at the university and his disappointment with the academic world and with his father Martín. They are very common and at the same time very particular stories, but Marc listens to them like a distant echo. Not because he is not interested, but because he is aware that he has little time left and he must do what one day his grandfather did for him.

Luckily it won't be tonight. Today it's time to remember, laugh, let off steam and enjoy the reunion that brings so much joy to Marc's old heart. Between talk and talk and between various pecks, the laughter escapes like smoke from a fireplace and Daniel confesses that he doesn't know what to do with his lifetime. The crossroads has reached him before time and Marc wonders if it has been fortuitous or if really the destiny of the family is what marks the line of each grandson, when the time comes. These are complex issues, but the night becomes darker and deeper and the dawn settles with all its weight, forcing the grandfather to give up the sofa to his grandson, to retire to rest. Tomorrow will be an important day... think to yourself.

Once in his room, Marc sits on the edge of the bed and looks at a photo of Mara. It's on your wedding day. She is beautiful, radiant, and exulting in happiness. He smiles with wet eyes, but no hint of sadness. Can you believe it? Daniel is here ... The time has come, darling. I thought it was a story from my grandfather, but it is not. I could never tell you, so you wouldn't think I was crazy, well ... crazier, hehehe. A lot happened in those months and one of them was you. Nothing that happened was a coincidence, now I know. Tomorrow will be the big day. Less is left…

I love you my love…

Goodnight.

Chapter 10

The night has passed soft and light, like a silk sheet sliding over Marc and lovingly caressing his spirit. The sun has not yet risen, but its light is sensed in the distance, on the horizon, dimly illuminating the calm sea. The old man is on the beach, breathing deeply, contemplating the beautiful indigo tapestry that gradually lights up. However, he knows that he will not see the sunrise. He can't wait to see such a show, he has too much to organize. Time is money, especially today. You must do many things, prepare many tasks and leave everything ready. Daniel is still curled up on the sofa and he doesn't even want the noise of the coffee maker to steal his sleep. Blessed youth… Thinks Marc, who longs for deep sleep, like someone who misses a place in the world.

After a couple of hours of hectic routine throughout the house and filling out a few documents that are arranged on the main table, Marc sits in front of the lighted fireplace and next to his motorcycle, waiting for the awakening of his grandson, but When this did not arrive, the old man decided to work his magic and threw several almonds on the young man until he finally returned to the world of consciousness. Marc can't help but laugh at Daniel's difficulty opening his eyes. Good day, lazy ... it was about time ... today we have a lot to do... After a good breakfast they both get going. Marc decides to do a tour of the fields, the restaurant and end with a brief journey through the canals of l'Albufera. At all times Daniel enjoys like when he was a child. All he sees are memories that he had lost in his head and that have now come to life and value again, just as it happened to his grandfather when he got there on his old motorcycle.

After the extensive itinerary that lasts all day, it is time to put the cards on the table. Marc has shown Daniel everything he has managed to conserve and create, thanks to the work of his grandfather before him, and his grandfather, in a long chain of generations inexplicably but deeply linked to that humid land. When they return to the barrack, they both sit on the bench behind the house and there Marc, with an imposed solemnity and a lump in his throat, understands that the time has come to pass the witness. Daniel is immensely excited to see everything his grandfather has accomplished and to the possibility of being able to contribute and participate in it, without being aware of what is about to happen.

Time is diluted and stops at the moment when the sun sets its round silhouette on the horizon. It's time, Marc ... the old man says to himself.

You see Daniel, this is ours, it is not a normal family. The why ... is no longer known, the explanation of grandparents to grandchildren was lost. But I will tell you what my grandfather told me when I got here. We are victims or perhaps fortunate for what runs through our veins. While Marc tries to explain something, clearly incomprehensible and complicated, on Daniel's face a smile of affection is mixed with some strangeness in the face of so much detour. What do you want to tell me, grandpa? He asks directly, trying to get the old man out of the jam. Well, you see ... The truth may seem crazy, but I don't have time so ... It seems that Marc has decided to embolden himself and takes a run:

The grandchildren and grandparents of this family are united in some way. It is not known since when, but it goes back many, many generations. We are linked to this land, "the third generation will always return and these fields will take care of it." That is what they told me and it was so. Now your turn has come, as mine did at the time. And today will happen the same thing that happened when my grandfather brought me to this same place and said these same words to me. This is my last night on the Arenal, but don't worry, I will stay by your side for a while longer. Such a statement straightens Daniel's body, which, surprised and misplaced, cares more if possible. I know it is hard to understand, but tomorrow everything will seem much less serious. I assure you ... I will be with you even if no one else can see it, as my dear grandfather was. I will advise you, guide you and protect you and one day, any one, you will see that you will no longer need me, but then this land will provide for you. And you will be happy, just as I was, just as my grandfather was, and his and all the previous ones. This place loves us, Daniel, this land cares for us and will never fail us. This is your legacy. This is your place in the world, your reason for being.

El Arenal is now your home ...

When the last words are still floating in the air, Daniel realizes that he is alone. He, the moon and its reflection in the hundreds of mirrors of the rice fields around him. But what you feel is not fear, not even uncertainty. It only harbors hope. In an inexplicable way he feels peace inside. Everything is as it should be. This is my place, my house ... my home ...

FIN

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4 answers

  1. Few are capable of stopping, turning and observing this extensive life line and reflecting on the form it has taken. Those who do it are the true owners of their destiny »
    MAGIC., NARCISO MOVES YOU AND MAKES YOU VIBRATE.

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