This is Tom.
Tom is a golden labrador, living The Dream. He runs, he hunts ducks, he gets his stomach petted. Life is good.
Tom is also the coolest dog I’ve ever met. He’s extraordinarily friendly, tolerant, and caring. He never lets the children roam away alone–he’s always there, making sure they’re safe. And even the adults, when he decides to walk with a group, he takes care to assure himself that every one is accounted for.
I met Tom today in my adventure to the country. About a month ago, I had mentioned to one of the directors of my study abroad program that I loved horses. Coincidentally, she told me that she had a friend whose family owned a giant farm about an hour outside of Sevilla and that someday we could go out and visit it. With a bit of luck and a lot of sun, we set off to a farm on the outskirts of the famous Doñana National Park. The cityscapes of Seville gave way to the rolling countryside, filled with rows and rows of gnarled olive trees. The Seville province is actually the world’s greatest producer of table olives, and Jaen (another province in Andalucía) is one of the greatest producers of olive oil.
Eventually, we turned down a winding and unpaved road onto the farm.
The farm is a family event. There are seven houses; a center one where the matriarch and patriarch live, and six others for their children which in turn house their children’s spouses and children. You can basically kiss privacy goodbye.
From the houses, we walked to the stables and saw beautiful Anglo-Arab horses, which are supposed to be the “perfect” breed of horse. When we walked into the courtyard, the dogs chasing after us, the horses stuck their heads curiously out of the stalls to observe the new visitors.
After our trip to the stables, we walked back to the house and got lunch ready. Well, actually just Maria got lunch ready; the rest of us contributed by eating pieces of incredible half goat-half sheep cheese.
We were in the kitchen and they were trying to explain to me what made Iberian ham “pure,” but I didn’t know any of the vocabulary. We finally figured it out, but afterward, the mother turns to me and says, “Necesitas campo.”
I couldn’t agree more. I love the city and its chaotic atmosphere, but there is nothing like an open field and the shade of a tree to ease your soul. Add in some sunshine, and suddenly even the most severe pessimist starts to see the other half of the glass. Sitting at the green picnic table, soaking up the rays and breathing in fresh air, I was content. Relaxed. Zen. Well, as zen as you could be at a table of four children.
Lunch was nearly a religious experience. Nearly everything we ate was grown on the farm; meat, vegetables, potatoes, the most divine fresh olives, tortilla of asparagus picked that morning. The sun was shining, the food was delicious–I was in heaven!
Sadly my hopes of horseback riding were dashed because of a little detail called liability, so instead of galloping through a flowered field, I drove a coach lead my a team of majestic steeds.
Ok, so maybe that was exaggerating a little…
It was an ornery Shetland pony hitched up to a cart. Ponies, as it turns out, are not as cute as they appear. I guess I understand…if someone tied me up to a wagon and expected me to drag around lazy humans, I wouldn’t exactly be compliant. But Pony (who was quickly named “Hippy” due to his long and luscious locks), trotted through the farm after a stern talking to and I learned how to drive a cart. While we went, the children and Maria sang a little song:
Corre, corre caballito
Trota por la carretera
Corre, corre caballito
El cuadro te ya espera
These aren’t exactly the lyrics, but this is what I remember them singing…
I asked Maria how life was like here, in this idyllic swath of paradise. She told me that she loved it, at least until her parents wouldn’t let her go out at night to Sevilla, which is an hour away. I tried to imagine what it could have been like with all of your cousins around you, surrounded by flowers and animals. When they were growing up, she said, they weren’t allowed to watch TV or play videogames. They had to entertain themselves outside on the fruits of the land. With a backyard like this, I can’t imagine it was too difficult. I have to say that agree with their parents’ decision. It would have been a shame to waste all of this by staying inside.
After perfecting my driving skills, we tied up the pony for a snack of chocolate and bread. This was literally a sandwich of bread and a bar of chocolate.
“The snack of the country,” Maria assured us. I could get used to this.
Eventually, the shadows began to lengthen and the children grew tired, signally the day’s final stages. We returned Hippy to his stall, closely escaped being trampled by young mules, and pet Tom one last time.
In a busy life of running around, it was nice to get away for the city, out to the rolling fields that I love; for a wonderful day spent entirely in Spanish.