I received a wonderful piece of news last week. Some good friends of mine have finally managed to sell everything they own, and are buying a boat in La Gomera. They have no further plans.
They’ll be there in time to claim residency, before the Brexit fiasco hits and leaves the rest of us stranded.
I could not be happier for them, and it put me on a high which lasted all day. Because after an extremely tough, challenging and uncertain few years , their dreams are finally coming true: They are back in charge of their own destiny. Sometimes out of the deepest darkness shines a ray of light and if you focus on it long enough it can turn into a dazzling brilliance. I just KNOW they are doing the right thing, and it has given me so much hope.
So, I love La Gomera. I fell for its charms two years ago when I was researching possible painting holiday destinations and I knew after a few short days that it was perfect for purpose. Yet the heart is a fickle thing and when I sailed on to La Palma, I fell in love with that, also. In a different way. I could live in either place. Or somewhere else, similar. Or different. It’s not so much the place I envy (although for the record, I do think La Gomera is almost perfect); it’s that they have a choice.
A long while ago, in what feels like a previous lifetime, my then partner said to me: ‘ You’ll never be happy, because no matter where you are, you always want to be somewhere else’. Although I had never quite seen it that way, I had to admit he was right. I was always looking over the horizon, wondering what might be out there. Never able to say ‘this is for ever’. Once the the statement had escaped, and it had been accepted, there was no taking it back. While we didn’t acknowledge it straight away, it spelled the end of our relationship: Not because either of us failed to recognise its truth, or saw no way around it, but because he failed to fully understand its significance as a trait I have no control over.
What I failed to realise then, and on numerous occasions since, was that it’s not necessarily the ‘place’ that’s wrong, that’s somehow lacking, or missing. I love travelling, exploring and moving around, so much so that I believe I have a nomad or gypsy ancestry. But it’s not that I’m always looking for a better place. I’m looking for the freedom to choose a better (or different) place.
It does not mean I don’t love where I am.
It does not mean I think there’s somewhere better.
It doesn’t even mean I’ll never settle down somewhere and feel as if I’ve finally come home.
It means I crave the freedom to move on, if that is what I choose.
Being locked down here in Assynt, unable to travel or even plan to travel, all dreams on hold, has taught me two very important things:
One, that I love this place with a passion from deep down in my soul. I love its harshness, and its softness. I love the constantly-changing light and colours and all its seasons (except winter. I struggle to love winter). When I lived in Morocco, just imagining the smell of bog myrtle and peat brought me to actual tears. Morocco was not ‘my place’ and I was homesick….so much so that I chose to come back and create my current reality.
These last few months, with the time to re-explore all my favourite corners as well as discovering some new ones right on my doorstep, have proved to me once again that there is nowhere on Earth more beautiful . We were so very lucky to experience it at its deserted finest, when nature claimed it back.
Yet just as a child must grow and eventually venture out from a loving home, I feel ready. I have been here a very long time. I have loved it in (most of) its moods for more than half my life.
Two, that the meaning of happiness, for me, is freedom. Now that my friends have found a way to follow their dreams, so must I.
Life is short and not guaranteed. I have just returned from the funeral of a very dear friend, younger than me. I am done with working for other people for peanuts: That is not the way forward. It is a trap which most fall into and precious few escape from. I must find a way to follow my destiny, which is blowing in the wind.
If the wind one day blows me back to this most precious of lands then so be it, but it will be on my own terms . It will be a conscious choice, not an accident, and I will tell of adventures in far off lands; perhaps of tears shed over the smell of peat.