Sunday, April 03, 2011

Dog Day Afternoon: Santa Maria

Late summer came early on Saturday. The heat consumed the interior for the first time this year. The Sirius dog star had not risen, but the Luna dog, with the madness of the moon that had yet to wax, was crazy with the smell from a grill and trophies to be sniffed and dug from the sienna terrain, the red-stone earth, scrubbed like a maquis beneath the hills of plane and pine trees.

Here is the hinterland, and within it a duo-turreted folly of a finca home of some one hundred years provenance. In the dog days of late summer, the heat will wrap you in its bear-like paws, the escape being the mid-afternoon breezes that flap like swallows carried on the cooling thermals of the mestral or tramuntana, except when the Sahara blows its occasional and contrary migjorn from a stifling south.

This is Santa Maria. Santa Maria del Camí, to give the village its full name. Saint Mary of the way. Along the way, through Santa Maria, are the local areas from Son Pou in its northern entrance to Es Torrent Fals at its southern exit. As falls Santa Maria, so falls Torrent falls. And along the way is this house. Cal Tio Tomeu. Uncle Tom's house, I guess. Certainly more than a cabin. Built like an outhouse. "It must be cold in winter." Yes, it probably is, but not on this day of phoney summer.

Rural Mallorca or even the real Mallorca. This is where they come for an excursion. "You will not see tourists." And you don't. We are not tourists anyway, but we have been following the route down the highway into a cradle created by hills but high enough to be as lookouts for the arrival of the Civil War.

You scan south from the scrub that stretches to a dip, on top of which is a natural watchtower for observation. We are at journey's end. At Uncle Tom's house. The excursion itself, when it starts for summer and lasts through the dog days and into the stormy shifts of September and October, is to the markets of Maria de la Salut and Binissalem, to collect the vegetables for trampó and pa amb oli, to a bodega to collect the wine, all to complement the meat that has already been collected and marinaded for the grill.

Amidst the scrub, there's a small garden that has been laboured on over the winter. It has a baby apple tree and a yet to be born kiwi plant, and other shrubs lining up in a carefully constructed grid formation. The makers of the excursion have been making the garden, frills of flowers and flora, Uncle Tom's tribute allotment.

Rural Mallorca and Mallorca without frills. A large trestle-style table for the food's preparation; everyone chips in, that is part of being a part of rural Mallorca. Ordinary plastic chairs that you fear might bubble in the dog day heat, sheltered by creamy shades in the dreamy other world of the still interior. Still, save for the chatter and laughter and the spit from the grill, save for the odd bark of a mad dog pleadingly looking for scraps.

The simplest can be the best. Everyone says it's the best, or one of the best. And when the food is finished, when the wine has been drunk, when the photos of the old boy who has been the chef and who had waited patiently, drawing on a cigarette, are all taken, so they take the highway back. Away from Uncle Tom's house, back along the way of Santa Maria, towards the sun that will set and towards the dog star as it rises. And there is a contentment, one of simple being the best and one of having peered into an other world of ruralism, away from the madding crowds.

* No Frills Excursions' "Rural Mallorca" tour will be available throughout the season. Luna, by the way, is Seamus's dog.

** Music references duly acknowledged in this piece. Paul Simon, "Graceland"; Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls".

*** Photos at HOT Alcudia Pollensa on Facebook -

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