....Sitting in my tin can / far above the world....Hopping from one entrepot of globally branded luxury goods to another, in transition from Southern California's chaparral to the Costa Brava's monte bajo - the stunted olive trees and thorny brush of the hills above Spain's rugged north east coast line. While the major part of this transatlantic recto verso was conducted via a Boeing 777 and an airbus 320, (which occasioned the brush with glossy materialism show-cased at LAX, LHR and BCN) the finer points of locational detailing were achieved, at both ends, via that old stand-by the automobile and, at the finest grain, by shank's pony.

Cap de Creus: where the shoe is on the other foot. The New World species, Agave and Opuntia, colonizing the Old World: the other side of the page. The monte bajo begins to grow in ernest in the rocky, sandy soil in the hills just beyond the old stone towns of Catalonia: it is the urban wildland, the brush where the resinous Estepa negra (Cistus monspeliensis) forms a sticky carpet (in mid-August the tiny spring roses are now browned to a crisp) and gives way at its edges to Euphorbia, fenel (Crithmum maritimum) and Eryngium maritimum. This plant community is pristine, indigenous and intact, and, like chaparral, is disturbed only by man and endemic wild fires. As a Mediterranean adaptation it is as finely attuned to climate, soil and circumstance as our elfin forest; in these hills summer rain is rare but morning mists and swirling clouds - fog-drip - sometimes brings relief to the parched, rocky soil.

The hills that surround Cadaqués, a town on the central meridian of the Cape, are terraced with walls dry-stacked in the local schist: a medium grade metamorphic rock that has been geologically flattened into sheets that split slate-like. The huge earth and stone works that remodeled entire sides of mountains were undertaken to facilitate grape production. Cadaqués was long a wine producing area beginning, perhaps, with the Romans. A Royal decree enabled its port to trade with the Americas in the eighteenth century and its wine found favor in the New World.

Phylloxera, the devastating vinicultural disease that crept down from France in the nineteenth century ultimately destroyed the local Xarello and Garnatxa (Garnache) grapes but not before this part of Spain had the opportunity to supply the north with its wine and enjoy a late-century flush of prosperity. Once the vines succumbed in the early 1900's, the newly impoverished community sent its strong sons to Cuba. Many of these migrants were financially successful in the New World and returned to Cadaqués as wealthy 'Indianos' and expressed their wealth by building grand neo-classical houses that continue to stand in the town amidst the simple stone row-houses of the fishermen.

Monte bajo is as self-effacing as chaparral. Not showy, its parts not necessarily worthy of individual display (viz. the dried, boot button roses), the aesthetic power of the landscape is dependent on its overpowering thematic repetition: its underlying mat of Cistus (Monspeliensis blanca) with rosemary and lavendar (Lavandula stoechas) in motley patches; Daphne gnidium, in bloom and heavy with its ingratiating lily of the valley scent, stands of Erica arborea and higher up, the tiny leaved thyme (Thymus vulgaris). In damp areas, close to spring water seeps, the local oak, Garric (Quercus coccifera) forms groves. Closer to the ocean, pines bend to the wind. Sempreviva borda, the local everlasting (Helichrysum stoechas) was gathered in great bunches by Gala, Dali's wife and strewn throughout their rambling home in Port Lligat, following local tradition. The vineyards above Cadaqués are no more but their terraces endure and Olives (Olea europaea) now flourish in the soil where once grew grapes.

Originally founded by the Greeks - visited by Phoenicians and later the Romans, infiltrated by the barbarian Visigoths and preyed on by Barbary pirates - Cadaqués was long an isolated fishing village, impacted, at the margins, by the politics of Catalonia. The Cape was conquered late by the Arabs and liberated early by Charlemagne and the Franks, then briefly an independent ducal territory. From the XII to the XV century Catalonia and Aragon formed a common kingdom and Catalonia prospered until the Black Death halved its population in the XIV century.

The union of Ferdinand and Isabella (1479-1516) established Spain as a proto-nation uniting Castile and Aragon and ushered in its great period of colonial expansion culminating in the discovery of the New World. It was to Barcelona that Columbus returned from his epic voyage and lay before his royal masters the treasures of the West Indies, including captured native Americans. Ever remote, Cadaqués did not suffer the wild swings of boom and bust driven by Spain's extraction of New World gold and silver. Fish, until the recent over-fishing of the Mediterranean, has proved a more reliable currency for the town. Now tourism pays the bills but Cadaqués' dance with the Americas continues and the permanent population of the town is fully one third South American, primarily from Bolivia and Ecuador.

My Catalonian holiday was an opportunity to absorb something from the other side of the page: to conduct a pas de deux with the Old World. Almost exactly 519 years ago a fleet of three vessels set sail from the small Spanish harbour of Palos on Spain's Atlantic coast. Believing that he had found the Indies, Columbus dubbed the indigenous people Indians - a name that was eventually attached to the aboriginal peoples of the entire American continent and is only now, after half a millennium, fading from use. Columbus' arrival in the Bahamas set in motion events that would lead to the conquest of California in 1769 and to the ultimate destruction of the 'Indian' people on the West Coast, the culmination of a genocidal trail that spanned the continent and endured for four centuries.

In Barcelona, a 200 foot tall monument of Columbus standing atop his column, map in left hand, his right pointing westward, is located at the lower end of La Rambla, the City's famous pedestrian mall now over-run by a new generation of Visigoths: Northern European tourists who arrive on behemoth cruise ships and carouse drunkenly through the medieval streets. Built for the World Expo in 1888, it stands on the spot where Columbus was debriefed by Ferdinand and Isabella and their courtiers after his initial, epic voyage in 1492. A further decade of increasingly troubled transatlantic voyaging lay ahead of him, but the die had been cast after this first fateful journey beyond the edge of the world.

The social, cultural and biological ecologies of New World and Old have become increasingly co-mingled over the centuries. My life stands as testament to that trend while our chaparral garden in Ojai is ranged in defense against the drift towards global botanical homogeneity. The monte bajo - the Catalonian elfin forest - is similarly threatened by development on its urban wildland borders and anthropogenic wild-fires, yet still retains its integrity as one of the world's five distinct Mediterranean climate plant communities. The view from this side of the page, then, is remarkably similar to the other: in this bouillabaise (in Catalan, suquet), this mash-up of global sameness, some of us are are called to the Crusade: to overthrow the Disneyfication of the planet and retain the unique character of particular places.