HERE IN THE PEACEFUL PRIORAT I HAVE ALMOST ALL I NEED I LEARNED FAST HOW WORDS MATTERED, HOW TO RELY ON MYSELF
A life like no other... like all the others.
That’s you and me on the unfathomable journey. We have a one-in-one certainty of death and yet, roughly speaking, there was a one in four trillion chance of you existing in the first place.
It is the ultimate privilege where every second counts. One might expect it would foster unbounded goodness and staunch any tendencies for blood-letting.
In truth it often does. If given half a chance, quiet good natures far exceed the raucous. The antidote to breakdown has always been inclusive community, respect and balance with nature and that sanctuary and humility.
Here in the peaceful Priorat I have almost all I need. Nothing is perfect. Everything worthwhile requires toil, reason and patience. It is definitely not utopia. Author James Hilton’s fictional Shangri-la in the novel Lost Horizon, seeded in Tibetan Buddhist scriptures that tell of seven places of mountain peace, harmony and remarkable longevity is far away, but.... maybe there is something about mountains.
I have never lived in such an egalitarian caring place where aspiration is to sustain what sustains. Values and endeavour persist despite everything, in the onslaught of unfettered consumerism that cares nothing for the mental health of vulnerable young people.
I am trying to finish a memoir for my family, a tome that recounts early life trauma, escapes from an unbearably unhappy house to roam as young as five into wilderness; to study and follow creatures, to sit and blend, to climb to swaying tips of trees, to run like the wind. I am writing of what is now all too common - family fracture and collapse - that played a fundament part in the forming of my character and solitary tendency.
There were mother’s affairs. There was a fist fight over her by men I did not know. My father was suicidal. I was a child of the second of my mother’s three marriages. We suddenly abandoned my father and our woodland home to live in a vast, decaying five-storey tatty palace, a creaking, salt corroded former hotel on a cliff-top overlooking the sea. The walls were yellow with age. We had left all our toys and pets behind. In winter there were only us in the 140 rooms where the wind whistled under doors and ghosts stalked a boy’s mind. A stranger joined the family. He did not want me or my sister. I learned fast how words mattered, how to rely on myself.
I headed for the rock pools, the coastal path. Nature once again brought perspective and peace of mind. I could find my feet, my balance, despite being vulnerable, despite everything. It was tangible.
There was no new-media mania in the palm of my hand, incessantly feeding doubts, insecurities, fears and lies. If there had been such easy, blinding addiction I doubt my mental health would have coped.
What it must mean to be young today. They too are stardust.