A few hours ago, I should have walked down the curving main street, underneath a night sky empty but for a scattering of stars and the dark bowl of the mountains, so like a sleeping creature. The moon should have been so strong that it would have been as if I was walking through a dream-light, neither day nor night. The air should have been scented with wood smoke from the fires drifting across the valley. I should have climbed the polished stone steps up to Sa Fonda, felt the cool of the metal railing on my palm, walked into the bar, embraced people I know and been introduced to all kinds of intriguing strangers.
But I missed my flight from Madrid to Mallorca and am waiting until morning. I’ve taken a room in a hotel in Barajas, near Madrid airport. It’s one of those places you only ever stay in when you’re on your way to somewhere else. The walls are covered in giant purple stenciled flowers and there are too many bed clothes. It’s 3 AM and I’ll leave for the airport in two hours. I’m staring out the window at the yellow highway, empty but for the occasional truck or taxi that comes hissing past. I could be on the moon.
I start thinking about the connection between the idea of Christmas presents and the idea of being present and end up on one of those half-asleep cul-de-sacs of thought that can either be profound, banal or just mad.
In one sense, of course, we can never be truly present. The moment is gone as soon as we’re aware that we’re in it. And the things we use to measure time are time themselves. But we can learn to be more present, to not project ourselves forward into a future that may not come about – Christmas Eve in Deia, in my case. We can be grateful that we’re present anywhere on this earth, when it could so easily be different.
Tomorrow I will be in Deia. I will be present in Deia. My Christmas present to myself will be to do my best to truly appreciate what it means to be in that magical place.
Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the gift of Christmas present.
This short piece was inspired partly by Graves’s remarkable poem The Cool Web, which was recently The Guardian’s Poem of the Week.
Thanks, as ever, to Brendan McCann for the use of his Deia Star painting.