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I Remember Ibiza
by Harold Liebow

Part Five
What I Found In Santa Inés


I Remember Ibiza

The colossal decision I had made to settle permanently in Ibiza brought with it, understandably, a flood of feelings. I remember particularly the powerful, self-congratulatory feeling. It was as if I was shaking hands with myself to celebrate an achievement of the utmost significance. I also remember the simultaneous feeling of extreme exhaustion. To make that choice had taken so much of my emotional energy that I found I could not immediately bring myself to drive on towards Santa Inés. Because I just sat there, caved in behind the steering wheel, while the glorious panorama of the Corona burned itself into my consciousness, and while, at the same time, the immense implications of my impetuous resolve began to flood in on me; Flipper began showing unmistakable signs of impatience. So, summoning up a focused effort, I obliged myself to open the passenger door of the little Renault. He instantly jumped out, exuberantly, and began to frolic in the trackside greenery of the lonely trail we were following. I fell back into my seat and into torpid introspection, and half slumbered off. Then, as the minutes became multiplied, and while I was in a state of what I can only describe as suspended animation, I found I was able to slowly generate a wonderfully welcome renewal of energy. While I nodded on, I could actually feel myself being refreshed; it was like heavy dew on dry leaves. Time began to live again. And it was the animated example of Flipper’s charming normality, his insouciance in the flora, which finally brought me fully back to wellbeing. I found I could start the motor. Then I blew the horn twice, which was code for “Let’s go!” in our inter-species communications system, and Flipper immediately jumped back into the Renault as I put her into first gear. We rolled slowly on, down and down and down in the magic Ibiza sunlight, beauty all around us, onto the vast open stretch of the plain of the Corona; and then on into Santa Inés itself.

It could not really be called a village. Perhaps ‘hamlet’ would be more like. It had a few small, very white houses, very much asleep, and a rambling, very white, bell-towered fortress church. There was also, just near the church, a pleasant looking restaurant and bar establishment, now deserted. Some invisible chickens were sounding off in the mid afternoon heat and a pair of easy-loping hound dogs moved off gracefully as we arrived. They never even looked at Flipper, which must have depressed him. I found out later that they were the real thing, native island hounds, descended from Egyptian ancestors. It was all so unselfconscious of its own biblical serenity that one dared not even photograph it, lest the poetry be violated. Its half dozen ancient, gnarled olive, and huge algarroba trees, invited you so agreeably into their shade that it was impossible to refuse. I gingerly moved the Renault into the shadow of one of these patriarchs with a strong sense of trespass. The tree must have been a thousand years old. From the look of it, the Renault could have been the very first car ever to enjoy its hospitality.

If the garrulous chickens were invisible, so were the people. I thought at first that it was still the siesta hour, which would tend to explain the deserted scene, but glancing at my wristwatch I found that it was near five, an hour at which activity should already have begun. Failing to find society, I decided to walk in a direction which I knew, from having studied a small map which Hungry Hannibal had given me, would take me at last to the coast. With Flipper tripping along beside, behind and in front of me, we set off.

At first we followed the track, and walking at a good clip, soon left the church and its cluster of white houses well behind. In a few minutes there was a fork. The right hand track led toward the coast and the sea while the left continued in what I knew from my map, would be its circumvolution of the great almond plain. As soon as we had made about a hundred meters our track fizzled out and a pristine pine forest closed in on us. These island pines were sturdy, first growth trees, standing well together and creating a refreshingly cool ambiance. Their aroma was heady, penetrating. What breeze there was sighed softly through them and enough sunlight filtered down through their latticework of branches to make free walking possible on the thick bed of pine needles which covered the forest floor. It would have been easy to become lost in such an untouched setting had it not been for the hint of a path which began to manifest, and which I followed carefully. As we went on I noticed that Flipper had begun to sidle closer and closer to me. To the little dog the great pines must have been as intimidating as an elephant would be to an ant. So I picked him up, held him close in my arms, and walked on. After a moment I could feel his little body relax. I looked down at him. His eyes were closed.

When at last we came to the coast, it was a sudden, even a frightening, arrival. We had been steadily mounting an incline so it was only as we abruptly reached the top of it that we discovered we were on the shallow lip of a great cliff. To the left and right of us, in imperial postures, ranged jagged monuments of native rock. Ahead of us and high above, a few sea gulls glided noiselessly and effortlessly in the pellucid air. The sea which lay far below in vast swathes of purple, blue and green, dazzled the eyes. We were looking straight down at the water from such an enormous height that it was impossible to estimate how far below the water really was. It was a height that brought on dizziness if one looked down too long. In the far distance a fishing boat with two tiny human figures on it could be discerned in the glare; surrounded by distant silence, the image was miniaturized, was only half there. The boat was sleepwalking on the waters and we were seeing it in a dream. But the trance was sharply shattered when Flipper suddenly barked and scrambled out of my arms.

In the next moment, I knew why. For if I listened intently, if I strained to hear, I could make out the distant sound of music! The melody escaped me, though it was carried harshly by what sounded like a crude flute or whistle, but the rhythm, even the explicit beat of a drum and the sound of castanets, became clearer as I concentrated. Little by little I heard more. Now I was able to make out even the sound of tambourines. It was intoxicating to hear such music while standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea! And it was music which beckoned, which beguiled and which begged to be heard close up. But how to get close up? How to find the musicians? I left it to Flipper to do that. He ran on ahead, barking excitedly and quite securely leading us in the right direction. As we floundered through underbrush leading back into the pine forest, I followed him as closely as I could…and the music became louder, and louder, and louder….the flute became more shrill and more shrill….and then Flipper had outstripped me and was gone and I could only advance in the same direction he had set and then, and then….there they were! Flipper had found them!

They were gathered in a large circle, seated on the pine needle bed. Opposite to me I could see cook fires over which great chunks of what later turned out to be lamb, were roasting. Wine was generously evident in the shape of large sheep bladders of it which hung on convenient branches here and there. That they were country people was immediately evident by their rough dress and their innocent manner. They were clapping their hands in unison with the beat of the drum and the clatter of the half dozen enormous castanets. High above the percussion soared the sweet shriek of the flute, its independent wail repeated over and over again. All eyes were focused on the centre of the circle in which a dozen or so young couples were solemnly dancing on a well beaten swath of plain earth. I had time to register that the couples were dressed in dramatic island finery; for the girls, beautifully fashioned long sleeve, many colour blouses, overlaid by flashing webs of golden-necklace, resplendently pillowed on their bosoms. They wore ample head scarves, pleated skirts that were very full, ankle-long, and beneath which, only the peeking tips of their shoes could be seen. As for the boys, they were in full dance regalia, as well. They wore blousy white shirts and trousers, wide black sashes and red caps with elongated crowns that folded over to front or back. But it was the castanets which held me. These were giant wooden clappers, managed mostly by the girls. They made a tremendous racket out there in the pine wood, but at the same time they seemed absolutely in harmony with the huge trees, the wood from which they had long ago been fashioned.

This pleasant forest prospect was irreverently exploded by Flipper who scampered into the middle of the circle, barked once or twice for attention, and then sat down. He cocked his head, and waited for me. There was absolute silence for a moment. Then there was near pandemonium. Everyone was on their feet shouting and applauding. Everyone it seemed knew who Flipper was, and, when they saw me hesitatingly joining them, their welcome to me was as generous as it was astonishing. The mystery of the missing people of Santa Inés was solved. These were the people of Santa Inés! They were the same people who had been missing from the white houses, from the restaurant and bar, from the white church fortress with a bell-tower. It all came together as I saw them in this setting which clearly said they were enjoying a communal fiesta. They came to me to greet me and to welcome me, and to astonish me by letting me know that they all knew me, too. For some of them had been on the quay in the morning when I had photographed Flipper during the unloading of my Renault. Some of them had been there and seen that wonderful shot I had got of Flipper looking down at me as I shot up from underneath the little car in its loading net, high above me. And those who had seen it had lost little time in describing it to all of those who had not. And all of them thought that it was a wonderful thing that a little dog should so dramatically pose for his master who was a photographer. Not too many special events happened in Ibiza in 1964, and so it didn’t take much to make an event special. So when one did happen, it appeared that it was celebrated with huge enthusiasm. Needless to say, we were wined and dined until we could wine and dine no more and at last the time came to return to Ibiza town and the Delfín Verde.

And that’s what happened to me in Santa Inés.

Harold Liebow