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– Happy New Year

January 14, 2013

monkey and sofia blog happy new year headermonkey and sofia blog happy new year

Christmas, New Year, then Los Reyes Magos – the Spanish celebration of exchanging gifts.  It’s been a long break.  So long in fact that it’s actually hard to remember what our life was like before all the usual day-to-day activities were suspended.  Holidays or, as they are known here, fiestas are eagerly anticipated.  And that’s not because they are rare events, one glance at the calendar will reveal a holiday almost every month, but I am beginning to understand that there is something very important here about these breaks.  Quite apart from the relaxation of having a day or more off, it seems that local people actually feel more like themselves when they aren’t at work.  Here the business of living is valued, just being with family and friends needs no explanation this is the way life should be lived.  Going to work is a necessary evil but not one which anyone spends much time indulging.  As for ambition, it’s not really something I’ve come across here at all.  Maybe it’s a symptom of living in our tiny, rural corner.  Just looking at the map of Spain shows us literally clinging on to the bottom left hand corner, geographically disconnected from the rest of the country.  Maybe there are people in faraway cities ambitiously planning their futures, hoping to be someone different by the time the next New Year comes along, perhaps even knowing where they want to be in five years time.  But here, we celebrated the arrival of 2013 with new friends at a party in the pueblo.  The clock struck midnight and, as is the tradition, everyone ate one grape for each chime to ensure a year of good luck.  Earlier in the evening we had all written our New Year wishes on pieces of paper and then folded them up to stay secret until next New Year’s Eve when we will see how many of our wishes came true.  Rather nice to have wishes I thought, as if how things turn out is divined by a power other than ourselves, very different from making New Year’s resolutions; all those promises to try harder, be better, improve ourselves, set new goals.  New Year wishes are left to resolve themselves, hopefully in our favour.

Maybe the difference between English and Spanish New Year hopes has something to do with what we perceive as our purpose.  What are we here for?  Are we supposed to be striving for something or does that notion come from an external force?  Who knows?  I can understand hopes and wishes though, after all, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t hanker after something, but are we just here to have or acquire things or could our wishes be about how to actually feel things better? Could we, for example, aspire to improve our senses?

I was wondering about all this the other day as I watched a flock of vultures floating in the sky.  They were really high up, lifting and dropping, turning and rising on air currents.  It was a warm, bright day, the sky as blue as it is possible to be, an unreal children’s sky colour and I thought about the birds.  I know that they come from a special bird reserve about 25 kilometres away where in recent years they have been reintroduced.  But why did those birds come to our bit of sky on that day?  Was it the first bit of hillside they came across after the flat pains where they live?  Have they decided to nest here?  Is there more food?  Who knows?  We can hardly understand our own actions let alone the motives of other creatures.  Maybe that’s what makes their behaviour so attractive, as if the decisions which wild creatures make are so pure and impulsive.  No agonising or planning and with no obvious outcomes.  Watching the birds as they were gliding I felt as if they’d got it right.  They were just being purely in that moment, right then.  Not storing up their wishes for next year.  Us humans always need a whole fabric of planning, wanting, waiting, aspiring.  I guess that’s all in response to the complex lives we lead, even when we’re trying to keep it simple sometimes it’s just not that easy.

But now I’ve had my revelation watching the birds, I’m going to try and keep them in my mind’s eye.  Something to reflect on when I’m feeling cornered and maybe that image will help bring things back to the real, simple business of living.

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