Yesterday I fell down the rabbit hole. As I fell, I turned and twisted in slow motion, so that the world became unreal, and I wondered about White Rabbits and Mad Hatters at the end of my plunge. Of course, it was my over-active imagination, returning from the south of the island, leaving behind blue skies and sunshine, the final tunnel of the five which scythe through the mountains felt like the rabbit hole, but when I emerged it was to a changed world; it was to ghostly brume wandering the perpendicular landscape. Again I had the feeling that I’d arrived in an alternative universe.
Two months have gone by already. Whilst I am aware of the slower pace, the relaxed mindset, the tranquillity, it still seems impossible that I’ve been here for two months.
Sometimes I wonder if living in Hermigua is living in a bubble. I spoke to two people the other day, who told me thatthey have everything they need right here, and have no desire to be elsewhere.
One was an elderly lady, who stroked my arm, and told me that she had just walked from the cemetery to the church square (no mean feat for a lady of her years). I was sitting by my open window, enjoying the afternoon sun as I connected by smart phone to the outside world; lolling around in jeans and sweatshirt, whilst she was elegant in a colorful jacket and bright lipstick. She told me how happy she was to be living with her Saviour and his mother. Usually, words like that send a shudder through me, but her contentment was palpable, and I could feel only her serenity.
The other was the owner of a favorite bar. When I asked him if he didn’t need to get away from time to time, he told me that he loved his village and his work. Every day he has good conversations, the world, both the local, smaller world and the larger one, in the form of tourists, comes to him. And – he has his music, from Tchaikovsky to Springsteen his bar always rings with the sound of great music. I’m sitting in the bar now, as I write. At the bar the good old boys are arguing about the state of the island, outside some hikers just slumped into chairs, there are other people at computers (one with a very posh leather messenger bag), some hippies are lounging at another table…..you could say the world is here.
It’s far from the isolated place I imagined it to be, and yet there is this tranquillity, just as if it still was as remote as it once must have been. It’s hard not to wonder about magic in the air when you meet people like this, and they aren’t the only ones who’ve expressed similar feelings to me.
Just as in Ireland, the warmth of the people here has surprised me, almost everyone I meet when I’m out dog-walking has a friendly greeting, people have gone out of their way to help me or to stop what they’re doing to tell me about some aspect or other of island life, and I am perfectly at home walking into bars on my own.
A few days back the weather broke, there was some rain, green shoots sprouted all over the place within days, as they do. I’ve been observing a small finca a little way further down the valley. When I arrived the owner was harvesting maize, which he hung on the fence to dry. Then he could be seen cutting down the stalks, and preparing the soil for the next crop. Soon, there were neatly planted rows, of what I think are potatoes, which seem to be growing daily – as if they’d taken Alice’s potion, they grow before my eyes……did Lewis Carroll ever come here, I have to wonder?
Since the rain, most days have been a mixture of cloud and sunshine. The mists have pretty much obscured the peaks for now, but it doesn’t at all deter the parties of walkers I see every day. Rural tourism is alive and well and living in La Gomera, that’s for sure.
Unlike the folk I’ve been chatting to, though, I don’t doubt that a time would come when these mountains would close in on me. I hope it doesn’t happen before I’m ready to move on. Right now it feels as if I need to constantly drink in the green beauty of this place, store it away to be sure I never forget it, and I can’t, quite, get enough of it.
I’m now doing some harvesting of my own, stories are planted and sprouting and will soon, hopefully, be brought to life – but first I need to make my peace with Ireland. I will never get it out of my system. I will be going back. But for now I need to accept that it’s not where I am just now. This feeling is something new for me. I’m always happy to move on, much as I’ve loved a place, but I don’t want to spoil the now by yearning for unfinished business elsewhere…..and, if I am honest, could I cope with the chill Irish winters I wonder?