Why is it that each year seems to be speeding by faster and faster? I thought 2022 simply flashed before my eyes, but here we are, on the last day of February already. I still have remnants of Christmas decorations still lurking around in the living room, inexplicably warming up the seat for the Easter decorations! I don’t know whether it is part of the ageing process or getting caught up in all the work. All I know is that these days I blink and another week has flown by.
When you live the solitary life that I do, where neighbours are sometimes a figment of my imagination and the 12 cats that hang around my house the extent of my daily social networking, homesteading becomes part and parcel of this slow pace. Like the cats, I get up at the crack of dawn, and make a racket around the house with music, pots and and pans, and the coffee maker. Ordering food in is a long forgotten concept, whilst cooking and baking have become my new form of meditation. When you spend your entire working day on the phone and solving other people’s problems, cooking and talking to an unresponsive rickety old cat like Cherry is like being in a confessional, and doing so while looking out to the marvellous valley is incredibly peaceful. My breathing slows down and the tension evaporates from my body.
When people ask me about where I live, my first instinct is to say “in the middle of nowhere between Mafra and Malveira” and then hand them the GPS coordinates. The truth is, I live in a place where I have learned to breathe again. You may be wondering how one can possibly forget to breathe… easy, you get so caught up in driving or commuting from one place to another, rushing from pillar to post to meet a deadline or run that errand before the shop or office closes for the day, and crumbling under the pressure of the daily grind, or as we say in German, der Alltag. At the end of the day, you and millions of others out there will go through the mental (or electronic) checklist and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you accomplished everything on that list, but the most important items on that list should be: did you stop to spend time with yourself and nurture your soul? Did you detach yourself from electronics and simply soak in the sun, sit somewhere where you can be surrounded by nature and simply breathe in silence? If you are lucky enough to live near the ocean, did you sit in the sand and simply let your toes dig into the sand or the water rush up to you?
Let it all go.
We are constantly surround by noise, even when close our eyes to sleep, so much so that we filter it out with great mastery now. For many, absolute silence has become such an alien concept that they find it disconcerting. Whereas I appreciate the silence of the old churches here in Europe, regardless of denomination, getting lost among plants and trees on a walk, your own garden, or a place where the only vehicle that passes you by in the next hour is likely to be the farmer on his tractor that seems to be held together by a wing and a prayer, the silence is soothing and liberating. There is nothing to filter out. On the contrary, it becomes an exercise in mindfulness, listening to the rustle of the leaves, the distant sound of a cow, the enthusiastic barking of dogs, of you are really lucky, a gentle breeze that caresses both body and soul.
Let the silence in.
Take a look at the following three images and tell me what you hear and feel, not what you see:
Focus on one photograph.
Close your eyes.