The Bather

notesfromgaucin_edited-1I take Gracie down to the river this morning as usual for her morning swim. The Genal sparkles as it tumbles over large rocks jutting from the riverbed and I spend a while throwing ball so she could dive into the pool created by a rough dam where the river takes a step down. After ten minutes of throwing ball we ford the river just below the dam as it babbles over the stone bed at the bottom of the tree clad valley.

The flat riverbed is almost dry now but for the few inches of cool, clear spring water that meander along its way. There is still green shrubbery on the water’s edge punctuated by the odd oleander with it shocking pink flowers.

Further downstream I spot a couple of storks perched in waiting. It is always the same at this time of year when the river has all but dried up and the fish are easy pickings for the storks. They are startled by our presence and take to the wing swooping noisily overhead up the valley, disappearing into the trees.

As usual we are alone but I am not spooked. I am overawed by my sense of insignificance. I am a tiny speck of humanity strolling along a riverbed in rural Andalucía, my shaggy companion at my side. I’m almost tempted to shout aloud “this is me” and imagine the echo ricocheting around the valley as it dies out.

On our way back to the car we come across an old man changing at the river’s edge into his swimming trunks. Part of a daily routine – a constitutional swim – I think to myself; I’m wrong!

The man wades in to his waist and then begins to lather his head and armpits with soap. Once he has worked up a full head of suds, he dives into the shallow water repeatedly until his head comes up clean and small scuds of soap lap his body.

He looks up at me and grins a toothless grin. I wave goodbye and as we slowly wind our way up the valley to the village I smile to myself over the encounter and wonder if I will see the old chap again, or was he simply passing through and couldn’t resist such a magical watering hole when he came upon one…

All images © Pip Art


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