To gyre and gimble in the Main: of Spain, where it chiefly rains…

I’ve “gyred” back to Toledo.  I rode into this town on a Miyata touring bike with an elliptical sprokcet in 1986.  The theory is in this copied image (and explained very well for enthusiasts here): you are meant to gain more momentum in your stroke.  My bike had the Shimano variant marketed as “biopace,” which is slightly different than this image.  Although there were theories that this wasn’t really good for your knees, I never got to that stage because the bike was stolen sometime in 1990 when I took it to college.


But back to “gyre.”  Humpty Dumpty said:

When I use a word… it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less

Alice reads through the lines of the Jabberwocky poem, and HD tries to explain the words to her:

To “gyre” is to go round and round like a gyroscope.  To “gimble is to make holes like a gimlet.

When I was here before, I was terribly excited to visit “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” in the Iglesia de Santo Tomé.  It is extremely large: more than 15 feet high.  The snippet of an image I’ve included is only a pittance of the whole.


We were also excited to try and find some switchblades to buy.  Now, as then, the city abounds in swords.  My high school history teacher Mr. Gaul taught us that Toledo was famous for swordsmithery.  He also told us that some people named the Vandals, notorious for their sacking, looting, pillaging and despoiling acumen, gave popularity to the term “vandalism” following their 5th C escapades across southern Europe, into the Iberian penninsula and north Africa.  We didn’t believe him at the time.

We had elliptical sprockets, but no pervasive cell towers allowing us to fact-check our teachers at a moment’s notice: something my friends today do with reckless abandon.  (Once or twice a year I reminisce with Jimmy Wales in 2005.)

Memory is self-serving and imperfect.  Having experienced very disturbing memory loss in recent years, I look forward to re-experiencing the countryside I once toured.

I recalled Toledo as being magnificently dark, covered in cobblestones, high medieval walls and narrow streets.  I was partly correct.  The streets are as I recall, but perhaps I was looking down too often back then: the city is rather ruddy in complexion, almost sandstoney in tone: brighter than I recall.

I’m also now better able to recognize the Muslim influences in the architecture.  A superb example of the overlapping “horseshoe arch” I’ve cribbed from Córdoba:


There’s plenty of similar textures in some photos I took inside the cathedral (Catedral Primada Santa María de Toledo).  There’s a kind of nested fractal regularity that meshes Indra’s Net with Jackson Pollack with a Harmonic Theory of Everything at work.

I wonder how much of this patterning resulted from the early 8th C edict of Leo III the Isaurian, Byzantine Emperor, banning the use of imagery or iconography in religious worship.  (Not to deny that aniconism exists in many forms of religious worship and seems to develop organically: I’m reminded of reactionary artistic explosions, like the Caves at Mogao (莫高窟).)


Over the next two weeks I’ll gyre my way south, and I look forward to my re-imagining of Gibraltar, the Costa del Sol, and Al Andalus.


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