Seville Snapshots: The Life, Death and Rebirth of an Orange Tree

A round lump rests each year at the bottom of my stocking. This gift, a California orange, is something we get every year from my grandfather, who signed us up to get a huge crate every December, even though he’s been gone for years.

It’s hard not to think of him when I see the beauties growing on the trees just outside my door. A dull smack, and one hits the ground rolling. While they’re not to be eaten in Seville (they’re used to make bitter marmalade), we often pick them up and make a cheap air freshener out of them. Just like a bullfight is characterized by three acts, culminating in the final faena, so is the life and death of the naranjas, whose final rebirth is a fragrant flower called azahar.

Orange trees enjoy the temperate, rainy winters in Seville. Come mid-February, the thunks become more frequent as workers use metal poles to dislodge the naranjas from their trees. The fruit is then gathered into large crates or burlap sacks and shipped off to Merry Old England.

Within days, the springtime rains bring along the small, silky buds that pop out amongst the waxy leaves. Sometimes they open early, filling the nighttime with a clean scent. My Irish friend claims they always come up around St. Patrick’s Day, so my nose has been upturned for the last few days, waiting.

Like all things springime in Seville, the azahar petals fall to the street within a few weeks, and the tempratures shoot up into the high 20s. The azahar is overpowered by incense from the Holy Week parades, and then by fried fish and sherry during the April Fair.

My friend told me that if I liked Seville during the Autumn and Winter, I’d swoon in the springtime.

She was right.

Seville Snapshots: NO8DO and Seville’s Most Popular Urban Legend

Nuzzled beneath the seated San Fernando, San Isidoro, and San Leandro on Seville’s city crest is the cryptic symbol: NO8DO. The city’s motto, No madeja do, commonly said as No me ha dejado, makes an appearance on everything from the city flag to the sides of city buses to the drain covers on busy roads.

The words NO and DO surround what resembles a figure 8. While I assumed it was an infinity sign and have heard it was supposed to represent hay, it’s actually a spool of yarn. The Spanish word for this is madeja, so together, the anagram is NO MADEJA DO, or in English: It [Seville] hasn’t left me.

The story behind the symbol (you can read it on  Inside the Travel Lab), isn’t as important as why it’s important to me.

When I received notice I’d be living in Seville in late June, 2007, I immediately consulted with my Alpha Delta Pi sorority sisters about the city that many had studied in. I got long mantilla-like sighs when they said, that city takes a piece of your heart. Much like leaving one’s heart in San Francisco, Seville quickly won mine with its charm, its mudejar architecture and the haunting saetas and cante hondos I’d fall asleep to each night while living in Triana.

Using Camarón’s long distance lens on baking afternoon, I realized that the five cryptic symbols are also embossed on the city’s light posts. The way the light from the wrought.iron lamps floods the streets next to the lit-up Cathedral, bathing the regal Avenida de la Constitución in a golden color, is magical. Seville will never, ever leave my consciousness or my heart.

Got anything special to share about the city you call home? I love urban legends, ghost stories and the like, so please share!

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