Saturday, 27 October 2012

Antonio Machado's "Recuerdos" and the Healing Power of Nature

Antonio Machado's Andalusia. From flickr.com

After an endless stream of presentations, translations, meetings, and seminars, I had a bit of a meltdown on Thursday. To be honest, I had one on Wednesday too: I woke up and my head was screaming "DON'T DO IT, STAY IN BED!". I managed to fight through that and attend two seminars and a meeting, but on Thursday my inner-self concerned with my wellbeing was having none of it. I can tell that a day isn't worth pursuing when I can't stop crying, noises make me jump more than usual, and I hate everybody. It's not pretty in the slightest.

The part of Thursday that I was most stressed about was the group presentation I was to do late morning. I texted another group member to say I wouldn't be able to attend, and she still hasn't replied (oh dear). I'm glad that I didn't push myself, however; it's not worth putting my health at risk.

Although I skipped that seminar, I did go to my 9am Spanish lecture the same day. I'm glad that I did too, as the lecturer of this module - on The Generation of 1898 -  is a certain supporter of bibliotherapy! We're currently studying Antonio Machado's Campos de Castilla collection.

The Thursday lecture focused particularly on a lovely poem called Recuerdos, in which Machado mourns Soria, a city in north-central Spain in which he once lived. A week after his wife died of TB, he felt he could no longer live in Soria, and left for Andalusia  Machado writes about the gloomier landscape of Soria whilst looking out his window at the bountiful, flourishing Andalusian countryside. Here's the first stanza of the poem, which I've very loosely translated:

Oh, Soria, when I see fresh orange groves
filled with perfume, and fields turning green,
flowering jasmines, ripened wheat fields,
blue mountains and an olive grove in bloom; 
the Guadalquivir flowing through land to the sea; 
gardens filled with lilies under the April sunshine, 
and swarms of golden bees leaving their hives to 
spread through the fields and make their honey; 
I know the oak tree is crackling in your fireplaces, 
the north wind blowing through your frozen fields; 
and I dream of the harsh mountains—Urbion above the pines, 
white Moncayo, rising up into the sky of Aragon! 
And I think: Spring, as if a shiver,
will begin to cross the high plain of the romancero, 
poplars by the river must now be turning green. 
Can that elm by the Duero have green leaves by now? 
The towers of Soria will probably have their storks, 
and on the rocky hills blackberries are in bloom; 
the shepherd will now be herding his white sheep 
through the gray rocks to the high meadows.

The poem is so beautifully written, and you can't help wanting to see similar views, flowers, and animals. During this lecture, I decided that I needed more time outside and in nature. I was too caught up with my desire for isolation and peace to spent time getting fresh air, and when I was outside I was distracted by anxieties.  On the way back from my lecture, I paid more attention to the colours of trees and the crunchiness of the leaves lining flowerbeds and paths. It's a beautiful time of year, and by paying proper attention to the state of nature surrounding you, you can do great things for your wellbeing. So many studies have certified the benefits of "ecotherapy" on mental health, particularly if you're affected by depression.

Therefore, I've come up with the following action plan (I love a good list):

  • Wear less products with SPF protection. Judging by how I usually mix spf40 primer, spf15 moisturiser, and spf15 tinted moisturiser, it's no surprise that I feel in need of sun. I do supplement with Vitamin D (although probably not enough), but getting some from the direct source would be handy. 
  • Walk to places where there are trees, not shops. Chris is staying for the week as of this afternoon, and we're planning to spend a few days in Corwnwall - this will be the perfect opportunity!
  • Take better care of my plants. My mighty cheese plant and withering herbs could do with a little extra love. 
  • Visit the gardens and ponds on campus. I'm very lucky to go to a university with a campus that makes you feel like you're in Center Parcs. Despite the rapidly lowering temperatures, it will be easy to have a break on a bench away from the usual hustle and bustle.


3 comments:

Violet said...

That is a lovely poem and I agree that nature can work magic on our moods. It's so nice to take a walk or sit under a tree and just be for a while and give our brain a rest from the busy, busy. I live close to the ocean and I like to watch the waves. Very soothing.

I'm sorry you had the Overwhelms. The good thing is that every day is a new beginning and we can try again.

Brian Joseph said...

That is a great poem.

I really try hard to spend a fair amount of time in the "natural" world. It really helps with the meltdowns that I have too. Life get so busy and it gets really hard sometimes.

Coincidentally I am currently reading Emerson's "Nature" . He seems to be trying to tying the natural world together in one big theory.

Lucy said...

Violet - You're so lucky to live close to the sea, and you're very right about every day providing a new start. Things are going better for me now, thank you. I hope you're well.

Brian - Yes, it's very important not to spend too much time inside. There's so much to enjoy and to soothe your nerves outdoors :) Life does get very busy; the fact that I take on so much extra work doesn't help either. Emerson's "Nature" sounds like something I could do with currently - thank you for the recommendation (/prescription!)