house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

In Search of Time

Two months ago we left our comfortable home, our family and friends, our forest walks and favourite tea bags in exchange for a long road trip and waiting at the end, a crumbling farmhouse somewhere in Northern Portugal. Why? Any sane person would ask the question. At which all other sane persons around the table would shake their heads, speechless.

We are in Portugal now and I have had some time to ponder on the issue. Time to think... Time! - it suddenly strikes me. This is the answer. I came here in search of time. Not the good life, not the sun, not solitude or a different way of being. What I seek, most of all, is time.

I mean, what do you do when you find yourself in the grip of the trivial, when you have an increasingly persistent feeling that you are living someone else's life – someone running around all day, stressed and cranky? Someone you don't like?....

“You sort yourself out, girl!” - I can clearly hear my mother say. You organise your time better, you get a “real job” (don't ask). You read all those self-help books if you must and then turn on the confidence, discipline, assertiveness. You go and do what-you-have-always-dreamed-but-never-had-time-to-do. You cook less and dream more (OK, mum would never say that!)

In short, a small mental shift, and all else will fall into place.

Or you pack your bags and go in search of your own overgrown terraces in a remote and foreign land, your ancient farmhouse with granite walls and a broken roof. You start clearing the place; you spend days measuring, drawing maps and, on them, great sprawling houses. You bore everyone to death with frantic explanations; there, you break your pencil pointing, there is the living room, the kitchen garden, a pond.

You start chatting with neighbours and learn thirty new words each day (impressed? It's one of those things you list as a New Year resolution...) Instead of walking to Tesco, you water lettuces with manic enthusiasm. You spend whole days cutting into a jungle of brambles that immediately start growing again. You also still cook, wash, pay taxes, buy school books and mop the floors. On top of that, you buy and assemble furniture, and generally walk around carrying heavy tools, pockets bulging with different-size nails, plug adaptors and long lists of things to do. You read about building design and the best time to plant your perennials.

If anything, you are more busy. How did this glorified form of running away solve your time problem? What has changed?

Every day I find something that holds an answer. One day it was an old man with a handlebar moustache, bowing gallantly upon being introduced. Small children hugging their teachers when they arrive at school, and when they leave. Late night concerts held in leafy village squares, old couples dancing slowly and solemnly, toddlers lulled to sleep in their parents' arms. The afternoon we found out who the owner of our house had been and the initials wrought in the iron loops of the old gate suddenly became a name. Another time, as we swam in the river, a little train appeared and wound along the bank with a soft staccato, half engulfed in foliage and cloud. And each day when I sit and bathe in ruby sunsets, writing this journal is also a small joy.

Perhaps it has to do with the “lightness” of time. Most of it flows and vanishes, a string of thin rituals and unremarkable minutes. Washing up, watching ads on TV, waiting for the bus. And then there are moments brighter with colour, deeper with meaning; they march by all the time, I'm sure; we don't always notice, but when we do, they sink inside and anchor us; capture them, perfectly formed memories, and you collect a story, build a history. You are more attuned and alive. Ready for more.


At 11 February 2009 at 20:46 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incantator articol!
Mi-as dori sa il pot publica in lb romana pe blogul meu. ?


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