These past few days I and the family have been in the north. When you leave a city whose name means strength for a the wide expanse of a wetland 300 kilometers away, you gain more than in the wheel rotation count of your automobile.

When viewed from space, the Ebro Delta looks like the geological capture of a primordial whale’s breaching. Driving up, the terrain I see only confirms this statement: neat squares of rice stalks separated by thin canals could easily be the interlocking cetacean vertebrae.

As we travel, the mountains that define my field of vision recede along a spectrum of color from charcoal to indigo to warm gray, with no apparent logical order in between. These chains of rock, I think, could be substituted for fins in my imaginary whale. Already I am imagining Oparin’s abiogenesis, and my huge aquatic mammal swimming in the soup, though this makes little sense from an evolutionary standpoint. When my brother asks who I named him after, when I am in a good mood I answer, typically, “Alexander the Great”. Maybe next time I shall say “Alexander Oparin” and instruct him to purchase spectacles and grow a goatee.

We emerge from the hotel every morning and drive around the coast. Our oldies station works, miraculously, even amid the teeming mass of mountain. One-hit wonders until the car strikes sand and we unload, bringing Pikachu towels and cheese sandwiches from the trunk and to the shore.

On the first day we visit a curious strip of land that cuts the Mediterranean so that there is visible water on both sides. “You can have your pick,” my father says, as though this lovely dual beach were the product of his own efforts.

After a swim it is decided that we simply must visit a bird viewing tower, and so when she is through with salt water my mother rises and the rest of us follow like a string of ducklings. The depressions her feet make on the sand give me a path and a pattern, staying much after she herself has disappeared from view.

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