My arms and feet are covered in bruises, scrapes, and an insane number of mosquito bites, but I am so happy I don’t even care. And I can’t even remember the last time I felt this free and unconstrained.
Just over a week ago I arrived in Calafou to stay, but sometimes it feels as though I have always been here, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now. I spent the first days sorting, cleaning, shifting, sorting, cleaning, turning this space, where Patrick has been living for the past two years, into my space. And I feel continually surprised that it is actually working. This is my space now, and it feels like me – not my whole history, but just me now.
When I had done as much as I could do by myself, my astonishingly energetic neighbor came in to give me a hand. We got stuck for a while trying to find a way to make the initially unstable shelves stand up straight and stable on the crooked floor, but in the end we were almost competing to see who could come up with the most “creative” solution. The shelves are standing quite reliably in my cozy new workroom now, providing space for computer books above and sewing supplies below.
Along the way my neighbor showed me where to deposit various things I don’t need and find other things I might need instead. Wandering through the various spaces of the colony with him, it struck me that Calafou really is a paradise for people like me, who can’t bear to throw things away that look like they “might be useful” at some point. This place is filled with things that “might be useful”. That feels inspiring, motivating, and it keeps my imagination working at full speed. It occurred to me the other day that I could make a little shelf for the back of the door, where the cats could sit and keep an eye on everything through the window when the door is closed. And then I realized that if I come up with a feasible plan for this shelf, I know where to find pieces of wood to build it and where to find tools to mount it. Suddenly anything is possible! My first project, though, has been to make nice curtains for that large window in the door, and between Calafou and the little ferreteria in the village up the hill, I managed to obtain everything I needed to make new curtains in my lovely workroom.
In the meantime, I have also been added to the relevant communication channels for the community, so with the help of DeepL I can now be informed about where more hands are needed. Some people seem to find my enthusiasm for cleaning rather amusing, but I have been having a wonderful time helping to prepare the guest house for a large group arriving soon from Toulouse.
The biggest hurdle, of course, is my inability to speak Spanish. I find I understand more and more every day, and it fascinates me to just sit and listen to conversations, even though I can only just barely follow them and miss a lot of details, and to observe the different personalities of the people speaking. Even people who barely speak English kindly make an effort to communicate with me, and everyone is very encouraging whenever I try to string a few words together that might possibly be intelligible at some level. I’m working on it, but learning to speak Spanish will obviously be a long and ongoing process.
As a result of this, however, I also can’t talk about myself, and I am surprised at how much of a relief that feels like. Without a story, without all the baggage of my whole history, I am just Aileen, just getting on with things and trying to participate in the community with actions rather than words. This feels like a new experience, an unexpected experience, but one that I am deeply grateful for.
Every day is filled with new discoveries of how things work, where to put things, where to find things, along with getting to know new people in a completely new way.
Just being in Calafou is good.