Cordoba is a city where you can feel history. Listen closely and you’ll hear the footsteps of the past echoing across the Roman bridge that connects the old city to the new. Squint slightly and see how life might have been centuries ago around the Cordoba Cathedral, which is squat and square by cathedral standards. It used to be The Great Mosque of Cordoba, built after the Islamic conquest of Spain in the 8th century and taken over by the Catholics in the 13th. Now, frescoes of Mother Mary with baby Jesus look down from the arched, slightly crumbling Moorish walls outside while inside the prayer hall are 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, and granite built from pieces of a Roman temple that originally sat on this site. This mixture of religions, architecture, and eras is spectacular.
Walking through this holy site, it was impossible not to feel the infinite–all of what has been and all the possibilities that lay ahead seemed rolled into one. This city, with its famous interior courtyards packed with bright flowering plants, may not last forever but has certainly withstood the test of time. Standing at the end of a small dock on the Guadalquivir river, the water still and empty of boat traffic, I listened as the city’s church bells rang together in an elegant, exuberant clamor. It was 9:17am by my watch–a strange time to ring but perhaps the bells were used to trumpet the beauty of the city’s low, ancient skyline instead of just marking the hours.
Later, in a shop full of Catholic rosaries and Islam-inspired earrings, I noticed a delicate silver bracelet inscribed with the words, “Lo mejor está por venir”–the best is yet to come. Although it was beautiful, I was not a buyer, feeling strongly that one should not live in the future. Or the past. Being able to appreciate now as the best time seemed suddenly–certainly–the secret to living a happy life.
When I got home from Cordoba (a one-night excursion with my friend Lisa whom I’ve known since our U.C.L.A. days), my boys greeted me with such enthusiasm it seemed I’d been gone a month. Adrian climbed onto my lap, his little brown body warm from the Andalusian sun. “Mommy,” he asked, “how many minutes are there in a year?” I picked up my iPhone and did the calculation. “525,600. More or less,” I replied and he looked surprised. To a six-year-old that must sound like a lot of minutes. But I don’t want to waste even one.