This fusion of moments and personal observations are mainly animated by the beauty of the natural world found in the countryside and the magical connection it creates with the life of a human, from childhood to grown up years and in the present.
Old trees roaming, cracking and gesticulating with their branches in a slow dance, become nothing more than the entire world of a few cheerfully-chirping birds. I look up and squeeze my sunray blinded eyes, with the most childlike grin on my face. There was this longing in my flesh and bones for being here, covered in the green and the light of my grandmother’s orchard. And I remembered.
Being a child in the countryside
There was a time when my parents would bring me to the countryside in the summer break, to stay with my grandparents. So many memories still breathe life in my mind when I visit these places. I’ve learned a lot back then about nature’s cycles and how every season dictates a certain pace and style of living. Of course, with the mind and understanding of a child.
The responsibilities people would face every given day, as far as I knew, would mostly have to do with harvesting and caring for their lands, in some of which I also took part.
I must say that this is something which, unfortunately, many kids these days, raised in the city and the digital era, have no or little notion of, have (almost) never experienced and stay, for most of their growing up years, in the not-knowing. Kids that have no idea of what it’s like to play far away from screens and video games, from concrete walls and pavements, but in the middle of corn and wheat fields, running on meadows and eating fruit straight from the tree.
With that in mind, I hope I will be able to give my future kids this magical world that’s only found in the countryside, learning the lessons of nature, time and patience. But in the meantime, I’m still willing to keep attending this “school” as a student.
The legacy my inner child has given me
I was always somewhat curious about nature and how plants, trees and entire vegetable crops go through their growth process. I can say it has only become an even more poignant interest as I was going through my own maturing and transformation over time.
In my most recent years, coming to these places, throughout every season, but mostly in spring and summer, has become a chance for contemplation, recharge and more conscious learning. I always look forward to taking my precious time in nature, observing the landscape and the live paintings that form in front of my eyes.
Now, as the summer is confidently settling in, stepping away for a few moments in a day from the whirlpool of people’s voices and endless conversations helps me find some peace among the sunkissed trees and be surrounded by wildflowers and other magnificent plants.
I often feel like I’m entering a foreign land, where all these creatures of nature speak a language I’m barely guessing. Ah, the energy I’m gifted with by all of them is so rich and alive!
The walnut tree
Since my vacation days in the countryside from when I was a kid, I’ve traveled through years and years of watching these trees grow old, especially this great walnut tree that I used to consider the chief-guardian of my childhood summer nights. This one embodied many roles during the lifetime we’ve come across together.
From a giver of life, home to the birds and a well-enjoyed shade in the summer heat, to a scary, old, tall fairy tale character. This one particular role came to life mostly in the nights of faraway winds, which I remember were moving its heavy crown left and right, left and right, and the walnut tree would guard upon the other trees with its imposing silhouette line, drawn against the light of the moon.
This is a scene I now look back to and try to attach new-found knowledge about how trees communicate between each other and how they protect the land with their roots, their branches, their movements. Can you fathom the fascination of such a wondrous thing?
Good nights in the countryside
The deep silence you find in the countryside at night gathers all notions of time and space this world has ever known and sends them into stars’ reach, until fresh of dawn.
I can’t even tell how the hours of a day pass, for summers around these places hold Time as a wise counselor to the ones who care for lands and gardens, but a kind and hospitable stranger to those who’ve come around only to escape the city.
The sleep is deeper and sweeter, despite the regular loud conversation between dogs from every house on the street that starts as soon as the dark sinks in. It’s like these fellas have been waiting all day to exchange their opinions over various politics that only they understand.
Crickets take out their violins and start playing their moonlight sonatas, accompanied by the clapping of leaves, in the wind’s special rhythm. Sometimes, I find myself awake in the midst of this nightly show. What a privilege to be in this moment.
When you look at the dark sky, you start noticing myriads of stars blinking in a way that reminds you of piano keys touched by the soft touches of a musical master.
There’s no doubt about the generosity of nature and the countryside, gifting those who journey around here a whole spectacle of moments, so fluidly put one after another, that one can’t stop but wonder and wander. It only takes one droplet of curiosity to start noticing it all.
The people and their stories
Looking out into the horizon from my parents’ hillside orchard, somewhere a bit farther from the house and closer to the woods, I find myself making mental notes of these memories and observations.
And in the midst of all that remembrance, I realize how that horizon so carefully assembles all living gains and sorrows that the people in this village have made a legacy of over time. The tops of their homes with some stories to tell and some stories to die with. The shape of God’s house overviewing the village, along with all the prayers and the tears these people mutter every given hour, when the bells count the time.
I’ve thought, with acceptance, about not being able to fully understand the country life from just the few bits and pieces I get to gather when I find my way there. It’s surely more than a meditative place to be, a slowing down world for the urbanists that have once spent their summers here.
It’s definitely far from a life of supposed easiness and calm, as I, like many other part-time country-lifers, am inclined to experience. There are worries of different kinds around here too, people come in many forms, just like their problems and insufficiencies.
However, there are times when I stay still on the porch of our house and it seems like there’s a certain invisible trace the people in the street leave as they slowly walk by. Either their habitual “good day” or their hand salutation, or their unhurried pace of carrying their many years ahead, or their youthful laughter and strong step, these are all marks of presence and life happening in this place.
Even when you see them working in their gardens or around the house, the motion of their busy hands and bodies could sometimes mimic the movement of a child drawing on paper. There’s a certain steady rhythm, with short glitches of excitement and hurriedness, probably triggered by the brief acknowledgement of Time and the consciousness of its passing.
Older people in the countryside often tend to say: “Time does not forgive, nor forget.”
Still, when I think of how nature confidently goes through its cyclic life, on and on and on, accepting its course, with all its challenges, and making the most of it, in such magnificent ways, that time-related saying doesn’t seem scary at all, not anymore.
The idea of “pastels” in the title was inspired by the lyrical form with the same name, mostly known in Romanian poetry back in the 19th century, specifically in the lyrical work of poet Vasile Alecsandri (1821-1890).
A pastel is a form of poetry that expresses the author’s feelings, observations and thoughts, through very picturesque and artistic descriptions of natural landscapes.