Dedicated, with much love and gratitude to EL MUSO.
On December 2nd at 5 o’clock in the afternoon I completed my first year in Salies. It was exactly 365 days before that I had arrived carrying my suitcases, my dog, quite a bit of excitement and not a few nerves. I knew, of course, that if living here resulted in disaster, I could always move back to Madrid, but I had more or less burnt my ships behind me, selling off or giving away almost all of my possessions, renting out my lovely apartment and cancelling my contracts with most services in Spain. Going back was not going to be easy if I indeed decided it was the best. Well, I didn’t: quite the opposite. Most of my days here have been an ongoing process of falling more and more in love, in love with this little Bearnaise town, in love with its friendly people, in love with my life here and the natural habitats that surround me on all sides. This blog, begun precisely here one summer before the move with the intention of sharing the month’s experience with my friend El Muso, has abounded in pieces that weave the love story of my life here.
It’s not as if there hadn’t been doubts, misgivings or even downright preoccupation with my decision to move here. There have been and more than several. Mornings when the first thought may have been: ‘Oh, god; what have I done?’; afternoons when the tranquility seemed to turn to emptiness and that to boredom; evenings when I have wondered how I could have left a city that offered so many distractions for the bored. Occasionally the quiet, usually my delight, has palled and I have wondered if rather than freeing myself, I haven’t buried myself alive. There have been moments when I have seriously questioned the wisdom of giving up my workshops and dedicating myself to keeping house and walking the dog. ‘I should be doing something worthwhile’ is a thought that has crossed my mind more than once while I watch a movie on internet or play Scrabble on my computer. ‘I shouldn’t be so disconnected from my children’ is another mind game I play with myself until I face the reality that if I lived close by I still would have to make my own life and leave them to theirs and that would mean for me living once more in a large city with all the hassle that implies.
But these moments have been relatively few and far between. They are moments when the mind would have me think there is a better world somewhere else and I am missing it. And when they have come, their duration has been short. Sometimes it takes no more than to stand up and move to a window, look out at the scenery, or walk to the store to pick up some veggies for the evening’s meal. Others, life itself steps in, in the form of a new client over internet or a phone call from someone special.
For the most part, living here continues being a love story and as my second year begins, I see no decision to change in the near future. When I first move, I had promised myself a year to decide; halfway through this year, I forgot there was a time limit and settled in for the long haul.
During this year, I have managed to improve my French. Not that I speak it yet, but I do understand very much more than when I arrived. I can still remember when everything sounded as if it were all one word and had no divisions. Today I can distinguish the words when someone speaks, and for the most part understand them. I have a long way to go, but then I’m not going anywhere for the time being, so there’s no problem.
I have made friends: a few French, a few English; a couple of Spaniards, one New Zealander, one Hawaiian. I am beginning to be able to solve some simple situations over the phone as long as the person on the other end of the line is willing to speak slowly. I have gone through the drag of changing telephone companies; I had my car break down and had to be towed to the garage for repairs; I bought new tires, found new medical services just over the border in Spain so that I can use my Spanish insurance, I know where most of the stores are that sell what I need. I have decorated my apartment just the way I wanted it; my son has come to visit, and my daughter and granddaughter are coming in April. I have continued my work with people over internet and driven to Spain for a workshop. I have spent one Xmas here and am looking forward to another one. Life is good.
In a few days, I am leaving on a trip to Mexico. I will drive to Madrid, leave Salomé with the person who always looks after her when I’m away, park my car in a safe place and the following day take the plane to Mexico City. Ten days, or perhaps more, to enjoy my daughter and grandchildren and then I will come back.
This blog will, of course, be suspended during that time. It contains 108 pieces of writing including this one. Several people have suggested I pull them together in a book. Perhaps I will. Or perhaps not. I do not know. Life decides, not me. So Merry Christmas to you all and may the New Year bring much Joy and Fulfillment. Hope to see you all in 2012!