Its 8pm on a Monday night, I am sitting on the sofa near the fire and am writing this, to be really honest with you, only because the power and internet went off. I had this full day planned – three client calls, finishing off a website, planning the next, squeezing in a quick lunch and a hot bath somehow. But the pace of country life is different and much less predictable, which offers plenty of spontaneous opportunities to reflect on life and write down feelings.
I came here in late February, with my dog, a small suitcase and a lot of books on my e-reader. Portugal had called me for some years, but I never felt brave enough to really distance myself from urban life so much. I have spend the last year in Berlin after four years in Brighton, so it was a huge shift with an uncertain outcome. I had initially booked this house for two month – its dirt cheap so to say, less than I would pay for a tiny single room in Brighton, but I am getting a whole two bedroom house on a mountain with no neighbours in sight. My dog and I could sleep in separate beds if we ever had a relationship crisis or we could play hide and seek if he had a little more mental capacity for such complex pass-times. There are oak trees, olive trees and dogs roaming the mountain all around us. I have a balcony to spend afternoons reading in the sun, wearing just pants and sunscreen as no one can see me. Sometimes when I wake up I am literally above the clouds before they lift up from the valley and I can hear the river running when I fall asleep. I don`t know what else to ask the universe for.
I feel less restless, calmer and much clearer on what I want for my future. It feels like this time here is peeling layers away at twice the speed that Berlin would have with all its distractions. I miss queers sometime, sitting in ugly bars drinking gross drinks and chatting about gender identity and politics. I can romanticise that now, even if I often found it hard at the time. Being the hardcore introvert that I am I feel overstimulated so easily and it often takes me ages to process events that others seem to just shrug off. I loved this piece about queer time and how it can feel so different, like a moving through circles of re-imagination or as Lila described it like a self-declared snow day.
What I also notice is that its eye-opening to experience oneself away from any source of approval or rejection for an extended period of time. This isn`t about flirting so much – its about the subtle messages we are bombarded with in cities all the time. Ads on what to wear, family gatherings questioning our relationship status, pizza deliveries to brush our hair for. No one cares here and so I haven`t worn make up in weeks. I pick clothes purely based on how they feel on my skin, what colors I feel like or how warm the day is. Not that there is that much choice, I came with three black leggings, four t-shirts and two jumpers. So I am thinking about what it means to not dress for the male gaze in different ways and I realise that I have never been above it all, that even in my queer bubble, I have way too often made efforts for the masculine off centre gaze rather than for myself. I projected my fears and insecurities all over the place and here and now is the place to work on them, I hope.
There aren`t many mirrors here, so I am getting to know my body in new ways after breast reduction surgery which I had just a few weeks before coming here. Feeling your body outdoors, subjected to the elements rather than other humans feels different, more tactile and sweet. There are no eyes on me, just sun, rain and fierce wind. Sometimes I hug trees and it feels really good.
I have gained some practical skills as well – things I never considered important, but stuff that literally saves my butt here. When I first arrived it was 11pm, I was tired from travelling and went straight to bed. When I woke up in the morning it was freezing beyond belief and I had no idea how to get the fire going in an efficient, long-lasting fashion. I messaged my mum in panic, as if there was anything she could have done. The feeling of success and warm feet after five attempts was priceless, let me tell you. I now bring wood in every other day, which makes me feel butch and strong. I ration it and think about how to tend the flames – both for my gender and for my warmth. This led me to think about many other aspects of my consumption – the landfill bags that fill up way too quickly, the mountain spring water that comes through the tap, the gas that heats my shower. I would have always said that I care for the planet, but the impact my actions have has never seemed so intimate and obvious to me.
Its cloudy today, so there isn`t even much moon light to see now, but we`ll have another walk before bed anyway. We know the path up to our favorite spot by heart and we stumble along the winding foot path in any weather. Once we get there, we can see the whole valley, the little far away lights and the outlines of other mountains. I want to stay longer, extend this experience for as long as possible. I think I can hold off coming back till May, maybe even June. And I find myself looking at land to buy, thinking about houses to build and about making magic happen to fund it all. There are so many aspects of ordinary life that seems so pointless in the distance – living in square houses when you could have a round one; getting a mortgage when it ties you to work you might not enjoy; going to parties when you´d rather read a book.
I am grateful that I get to Be Here Now (sorry, but only tree huggers will get this reference), that I can try this on before committing myself. Sometimes I sit in the afternoon sun and feel like this is probably the best I can do with the body and the mind that I have, for what I want in this life and how I want to spend my time. When I think about the houses in England I could never afford, I know that I am compromising, but it does not feel bitter at all. For the first time in my life I feel like I am not owing anything. I got a degree and funded it myself, I donated eggs and helped start a family, I started a business and paid my dues. It feels counter-intuitive if you consider mainstream thought to be intuition (which it isn`t), but maybe I could just spend the next 50 years as I please and not follow the outline of childhood – adolescence – education – career – marriage – child rearing – death? Maybe I can just enjoy being a single woman and measure time differently?