January 19, 2001 (2am)
Twenty years ago we bounced up the track to this farmhouse. Our new home. It was pitch black and bitterly cold. But we could not have been happier. Life had just changed beyond our wildest imaginings.
Two days earlier we had boarded the 4am ferry from Dover to Calais en route to Catalunya. We were a motley convoy comprising our old car with a roof box and trailer, a friend’s van and a hired seven tonne truck, all stacked with necessities from a piano to empty jars. Jammed in the car were two very determined, sleep-deprived adults running on adrenalin, a trusting five year old girl, Ella, a sleeping baby boy, Joe, two springer spaniels and precious little money.
We had no plan other than to rethink, to live, learn, be, to begin an odyssey in search of time - time at the table, in nature, growing, not missing a minute of our children’s lives. We had no idea regarding income, we just had our wits and an abiding drive to heed the undeniable truth that the greatest regrets in life are not things you have done but the things you never did.
And there has not been one day of regret. Challenges, of course: countless, some very steep. But we are living, learning, being, brimming with memories. And more. We found ourselves in a country that loves books - oh joy - a land of trees and mountains steeped in rich culture, a place to breathe, within a community that retains the invaluable understanding and goodness of trust and reciprocity. Thank you to all our friends in The Priorat, in Catalunya.
We count lucky stars and we continue to grow. We are so grateful to our children, now taller and in many ways wiser than us. We believe in them.
During those early years olive trees were patient with us. We harvested, but we bent our backs in the little vineyards longer than we should. The grove bided, and as the years rolled the time we spent with the trees increased, as did wisdom. Olive oil now sustains us, is core but by no means all that is our home, L’Hort de la Mare, Mother’s Garden. This little farm grows wilder by the day. Badger, deer and boar tracks in the snow yesterday.
Thousands have come to stay from all corners of the globe. We hope we will welcome more once the world moves, hopefully to a best place of sustainability and reciprocity, not least with all living things and Mother Earth herself.
I wish everyone would read Braiding Sweetgrass, the finest book among the many we read in 2020. Reciprocity runs through Robin Wall Kimmerer’s text of native American wisdoms and essential lessons of how to live with respect for all life and nature. Yet her voice and all those clamouring warnings at the glaringly obvious tipping point are drowned out by so much bloody stupid noise. Nothing like enough is changing sufficiently or fast enough.
So outside I go.
Two days ago, the crust of frost on top of the 45 centimetres of snow held my weight for a few steps then caved. That night my gaze followed the pad and claw tracks of the badger into the broken woods. He or she was light enough not to sink. The storm has passed and the melt and the clearing of the many broken branches has begun. I stop working and give thanks for small wonders. The life-force beauty of the hungry chaffinches and robin coming to the bird table burns brightly against the blanket of white.
Live the day. Tread softly. Keep safe.