When I finished my travels in India, Nepal and Japan, I had to return to Spain. I escaped immediately from the burning summer of Madrid. I sought for refuge with my parents in a village in the mountains of northern Spain, in my grandparent’s house. The first thing I did upon my arrival was to set an altar in one room with all the little objects I had sent from Japan and brought from my trips. In that room, the three of us practiced yoga and meditation every morning before breakfast. Right after, one always said: “now we’re cultivated.”
It was a very pleasant summer in a land where the heat rarely gets high, hiking in the surrounding hills, and eating the greens of my uncle’s orchard, a retired police officer and the best fisherman in the world by fly fishing.
At the end of that summer, my parents returned to Madrid but I stayed in the village. With a weaker sun and without the bustle of visitors that for a few weeks come back to reconnect with the place they were born, mostly from Madrid and Barcelona, the village returned to its usual resting state. In a nearby city I bought a pair of guides about mushrooms, and I went out almost every day to the forests to enjoy identifying specimens. I found king’s trumpets, parasol mushrooms –some with hats of nearly half a yard wide–some edible boletus, and some terrible amanitas. By All Saints (Halloween) day, the red pine and the yellow knight mushrooms became the queens of the pine forests.
In addition to my new hobby, I resumed reading. If I had missed something during my travels that was to have time enough to read calmly. That fall I indulged in it, with several biographies and old novels that roamed the house.
At that time, just a year after I had recycled from pilgrim to hermit, I planned another adventure. I intended to capture in black and white the experiences of my travels during the last years. However, the project could certainly take months if not years, so I wasn’t quite convinced about it. I decided to consult the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes. I set up a round table covered with a white cloth, lit some incense and sat down to meditate for a few minutes. As stated in the protocol, I threw three coins six times and calculated the corresponding hexagram. I opened the book with trepidation. Its response was shocking, like a punch in the stomach: “There is already enough stupidity in the world for you to add even more.” The oracle had spoken so forcefully that the idea of the book was no longer an option. I had not anticipated the prospect of a reply so impossible to be interpreted in any other way. One must ask the I Ching with short and direct questions, so I did not dare to ask what I really wanted to know: what to do with my life.