“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” Walt Whitman
I last put fingers to keyboard here on 3rd August last year. Why had I left it so long? There have been a host of very good reasons including a few trips back to the UK. Somehow writing the odd post here and there assumed less priority in my life during those idle months. Looking back, I can now see with a degree of clarity that there were a few other reasons such as lack of motivation, laziness, money concerns and a creeping resentment about our treatment here etc. Somehow their combined effect resulted in a person that I hardly recognised, someone in pain, uncharacteristically lethargic and even a bit depressed. Don’t get me wrong, this place was always heaven to both of us, but daily discomfort was starting to get me down.
But now I’m back! Clear-headed for the most part and well on the way to being pain-free. I’ve spent the last two and a half months in Bath, luxuriating in having my family close by. First stop, the doc, who said there was nothing he could do (“wear and tear dear”) but he pointed me in the direction of a cranial osteopath who slowly began to achieve results (thanks to Peter at Stillpoint). Then there’s the exercise bike and the chondroitin tabs…
But by far the most important factor was the discovery we made last October. We watched a YouTube video by Professor Mark Williams on mindfulness-based meditation. Impressed with its scientific credentials we decided to give it a whirl. I had no idea it was so mainstream; even Google are heavily involved. I’d never heard of scientist Jon Kabatt-Zin and certainly had no idea that he had pioneered something called mindfulness based stress reduction as far back as the 1970’s.
It’s so easy really, the concept of learning to be aware and ‘being’ instead of ‘doing’. Even in these early stages, the benefits to both of us have been tangible. The realisation that, used regularly, it can beneficially re-train the brain (neuralplasticity) was quite a profound discovery and is leading us on to further research in this whole fascinating area.
Living in the moment is the sort of credo that suits us both – existing as we do in a little wooden house at the capricious whims of both Mother Nature and Spanish bureaucracy. But, of course, there couldn’t be a more ideal place for us to ‘find ourselves’ (yuck, horrible cliche), ie to get back to who we really are, before we began to heap upon ourselves layer upon layer of crap and worries. As Mark Twain wrote, “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Even in this short time there seems to be a noticeable change within both of us. For example, take the end of our long haul back to Spain last week. After three overnight stops and within two hours of home, we had a phone call from our friend who had been looking after the Nissan for us, to say that he had to abandon it by the roadside as the engine had cut out, steam was everywhere, and he couldn’t start it. Were we covered for breakdown, he enquired?
We arrived at the scene and poured 5 litres of water into the radiator, bought a new battery, but it still wouldn’t start. A quick call to the insurance company confirmed that we did indeed have breakdown cover. Yes!! Within 20 minutes the grua had arrived and the lorry followed us the back to Foggie, some 35 minutes inland up hill and down dale. As luck would have it, we were able to drop it off at our local mechanic and the next day he told us we would need a new radiator and starter motor. There was probably no need for us to have bought a new battery!
Just one of those things we said, continuing to smile at each other. This wonderful vehicle has been our life-blood here, hauling tonne after tonne of stone for Joe’s walls, and has got us up and down the drive when it’s wet and soggy. It’s only let us down once, when the front axle sheared. As an extra treat for such a faithful beast we asked Jose Maria to give it a service, reasoning that we have enough in the account to pay for it today, and who knows what tomorrow will bring.
So, after the marathon, we finally arrived back at our little house while it was still daylight, happy and surprisingly rested. It was too warm to light the wood burner. A glorious pink and clear sunset illuminated the Atlas Mountains – some 95km or so over the Med as the crow flies.
But a quick recce the next morning revealed that, once again, our little wooden house had managed to stand up to yet another winter’s battering. There was nothing out of place except that a 2″ x 4″ fence post had sheared off at the base (that must have been a scary gust to have witnessed!), but no tiles off the roof. The extra four solar panels and the replaced rogue battery had continued to work their magic giving us a fully topped-up supply (despite the big fridge-freezer being left turned on as a bit of a test case).
Surprisingly, all the geraniums had survived, although looking a bit wind-burned and rather dry; in a few short weeks they will regain their former splendour. Three oleander and two purple daisy cuttings had taken. The biggest surprise was that we now have three avocado plants that have sprung up from the compost heap. They’re also a bit wind-burned but look as though they could be sturdy enough to survive.
We’ve been back just over a week now, and for the most part it’s been terrifically windy and at times the snow has gravitated down to the foothills of Maroma, just a shiver away from where we are at 850m. The sharp winter sunshine has made life very pleasant, even when the wind has done its best to keep us awake for a few nights and filter through every little crack between the wooden panels.
Just before Joe flew back to the UK in December, he was actually blown over by an icy blast, glasses dashed to the ground, torch sent flying. On another similarly windy night he ventured out and surprised Mr Fox sheltering under the cypress hedge; just along from him a little wren was doing the same. I lay in bed last night and was grateful for those precious one to two minute lulls (a bit like labour contractions!) before the mighty rush of the next series of shrieks, howls and blastings.
I thought fondly of all the now hidden little creatures we see and don’t see around us in the warmer months and I hope that – like our little house – they will manage to make it through to yet another glorious spring.