Eagles, Kites and Freedom

I asked my friend Mike, ‘What do you call it when you have a blog and you think you should be writing it regularly but aren’t and you feel bad about it?’

And he replied, ‘I think that’s just called being a blogger these days’.

Hmmmm.

This post is in rebellion to my inactivity and his spot-on answer! We had driven up to the side of a mountain between Madrid and Avila and were staring across a vast open space of pine trees towards the gentle, hazy, wave-lines of the Sierra de Gredos range in the distance. Like in the photo Mike took above. Below us lay a finca, a ranch, where the trees where cleared a little and lime-green grassland surrounded a lone farmhouse like the sea.

We sat up there for two hours, just chatting, eating sandwiches, doing nothing. Looking at that vast open space, that slowly works away at opening up a similar vastness in your mind. Later we drove to another spot nearby, another version of the same view, but with a pine forest right at our backs. We watched black vultures, eagles and kites with his binoculars and spotting scope. I realised that no amount of even the best nature writing can beat the meditative feeling of watching such magnificent birds in flight, out in the fresh air.

Well, Madrid heads back into a strange semi-lockdown tonight, or soon… it’s hard to work out what’s going on. We’ll be able to move around our own neighbourhood, or maybe the whole city, and get out of the center if work or school-runs demand, plus go to bars, terraces and restaurants if we so wish – they’ll be open at 50% capacity.

But no more mountains for a while it seems. That’s OK, between our summer holiday in the Pyrenees and September trips up to the Sierra de Madrid, I’ve had more mountains in the last few months that I’ve ever had in my life. Now it’s time to sit quietly for a while, something I find very hard to do, but think will do me the world of good.

Young children are said to need firm limits from parents, about what they can do, where they can go, how they can behave, otherwise the world seems way too limitless, dizzyingly so, and it can drive them a bit crazy to feel so boundless. Limits keep them calm. I heard a talk by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh describing how monastic precepts, which often tell new monks and nuns what they now can’t do – like drinking alcohol, or wearing make up – actually give them more freedom. If you know you can’t drink, you are more free, as you don’t have to think about drinking or not drinking all the time. No cosmetics – free from having to worry about that anymore. So I’m looking for the freedom in these latest limitations. I think there is a lot to be found.

And the chimney has been swept, ready for autumn fires. We have plenty of art supplies, lots of books. Time to be happy and keep still for a while.

But I’ll miss hanging around on the sides of mountains with Mike while we sit this one out.

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