Excerpts From A Quiet Life
On September 1st my partner and I packed everything we owned, jumped on a train and left the big city behind. We were moving to a small town I had visited once in my life, into an attic apartment we had only seen on a video call. I’ve been wanting to write about my impressions after such a drastic change.
Here are some snippets from my quiet life in northern Spain:
Today the sun came out after two weeks of rain. Coming from a place where it’s sunny most of the time, I dreaded the cold, rainy winters of the north. And yet the north is showing me the beauty of change. I no longer take sunny days for granted: I treasure them. And I treasure the rain too because it makes everything look so green and alive.
When I lived in the city, I couldn’t really observe seasonal changes. Some trees would lose their leaves in autumn and I enjoyed the crunchy sound these made under my feet. The cold would come abruptly and days would get shorter and shorter. Those were the only tangible changes and, for the most part, I didn’t like them. But here it’s different. Cold air doesn’t bring fumes with it. I can breathe in and appreciate so many smells from different plants. There are fewer flowers now but mushrooms are sprouting instead. The beach looks wilder and it feels more special to visit it because there are very few people around. And the light has that beautiful quality you can only see at this time of year.
Living close to nature allows you to see more, I think. You perceive things you never thought about before and learn to appreciate them. There is so much life around us. I see wasps’ nests in hidden places, slugs coming out to nibble mushrooms, crows overseeing the hills from the tallest trees, spiders relentlessly weaving their webs… It might seem like life slows down in autumn but there is still so much going on. I suffer from winter blues every year. I’m curious to see if this year will be easier.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ― Anne Bradstreet
Before we moved, I had to give away a big part of my book and movie collections, and all our plants as well. We also sold or gifted the furniture we had bought or scavenged for four years for a ridiculous fraction of their value. It was sad to see all these things go. We still miss them. At first I thought it was silly to be so attached to objects, but then I realised it wasn’t the objects we felt sad about. It was the fact we had slowly created a home over the years, filling an empty apartment with beauty and comfort.
Now we live in a borrowed space we’ll have to leave in seven months. Such transient nature makes it hard to feel at home. We are like the cats we’re fostering: Here for now, making the most of it, but unaware of our destination after this. I suppose that’s the nature of life, especially in times like this.
Whenever I feel nostalgic about the things we’ve left behind, I remind myself that all of them found a new home. The plants live with caring people. The books and movies fill their new homes with stories. The furniture and appliances give comfort to people who needed them. We managed to give everything a second life, and that’s what matters.
Perhaps our next destination will feel like home again.
This apartment comes with lots of things that remind me I’m living in someone else’s home, like a small collection of books that have been gathering dust on a shelf. The first time I saw them I thought, “these books must feel pretty lonely”, and I promised myself I’d read at least some of them. I picked Borges and Kafka. I read the former in the living room, the latter, upstairs in the bedroom. It’s like they live in separate parts of the apartment, like the foster cats when they first arrived.
Borges greets me from the couch when the sun is up. We talk about the mysteries of the universe. Kafka is a creature of the night and waits for me to settle under the blankets before he starts pointing out every detail of the world he sees. You can never feel lonely if you have books. You can never live a dull life. They provide both comfort and variety. Wherever you are, they take you somewhere else. They are powerful vessels.