I love the silence of snow… lying in bed it closes around us; cocoons us. I can hear no planes in the sky, no cars on the road, no sound but that of nature, of snowflakes falling softly onto our caravan roof.
Reluctant to wake completely I stay motionless, lost in the stillness of it all, but the sound of horses hooves passing the window on the other side of the fence make me realise that it is daylight and animals need feeding. I close my eyes again, grasping a few more moments lost in the sound of compacting snow beneath hoof.
When in the depths of nature, closed in, I realise I never want for anything like I do for this feeling. The noise of the world we have constructed around ourselves suddenly seems futile, pointless, and just as with the freshness of snow, I want to start again, choose what to grow from this beautiful blank landscape.
My daughter wakes and delights at the sight of real snow; “real snow!” she sings, and hurriedly we pile on layers before venturing outside. The alpacas sorrowful faces look up to us, their ears weighed down with moisture. We scrape thick snow from their troughs and break the ice in their water bucket. The horses are going crazy, galloping around, and we scurry about organising hay for them.
I stop for a moment and look out to the landscape, relishing the magic of working methodically in snow and I am overwhelmed by the utter newness of things, of a clean and silent world, un-marked in every way.
Our Portugal is on the edge: bordered on one side by the indescribable lure of lively Spaniards and on the other, the comfort and softness of the Portuguese. The land is green, spilling into hidden valleys. It is dusty, backed by breathtaking rock faces. It is hot; it is cool, but it is always balm to the soul.
I felt it clearly the other night on horseback as we galloped freely, reins loose, the rhythm of the animal beneath me all at once tender yet powerful. Submersed in the beauty of this landscape I was reluctant to be drawn away to anywhere else; the desire to stay put was strong. We rode around mountains, through valleys and across streams, pausing for water in a village alive with guitarra and accordion; I felt as if I had stepped back into a long ago book.
To be invited to ride with our friends in the evening, saddling up on a piece of silent land in Spain, dismounting in the darkened hills of Portugal (the usual way of horse rotation as it is here) was a treat – four hours of bliss – and I just wanted to keep on going. With the horses I feel I have rediscovered something from long ago, perhaps with an even stronger connection than ever before and yet, I came here this time knowing that we would soon be leaving our home; passing it on to others.
The pull of personal circumstances, the ultimate wrongness of our land due to situation and also the desire to maybe, just maybe, one day have horses ourselves… mean it is time to move on and despite a slight heaviness of heart, I feel also an immense excitement in knowing that fear of the unknown will never hold us back and that the richness of what we find as we wander is always a worthy element in the makeup of our life.
We do not know where we will come to rest again, sink our hands back into soil, continue our dreams of self-reliance. We do not know if it will once again be Portugal or if somewhere else will reach out to us, but we know that our hearts will find it when they need to and that it will be the right place and the right time to discover something beautiful.
We worked our boats through the lock in opposite directions but in that relatively brief exchange she reminded me – this woman – that life is short; so very short. So affected by our conversation was I, that tears pricked my eyes as I continued walking the towpath, working my boat through the last two locks.
In those few moments we had that rare immediate connection and she spoke about her daughter dying just weeks earlier, about the grief and yet how she had also been reminded of LIFE. I talked to her about how sometimes I get scared as to if we’re making the right choices; that I worry about what others think of our nomadic, sporadic, seemingly shambolic lifestyle. That sometimes I lie in bed at night wondering if we should just settle down.
Her parting words were to tell me to keep living: to change, evolve, take chances… to give up, try again and most importantly: not give a shit about what anyone else may say, think or believe because it’s our journey; our life, and there are no rules.