September 2020

After a couple of turbulent weeks, we found an opportunity to send out another news letter.

A couple of days ago, Pablo’s birthday turned out to be the perfect excuse for a small excursion. We spent the day at the river in Campo, a town which was on our route last year. At last, a day of doing nothing at all, bathing in the river, stealing some sleep on the sunny shore.

At night we moved to Ainsa to have dinner in the pizzeria where James and Pablo worked last year. Ainsa is small village, located on top of a hill, and a place that is connected to a lot of good memories for us. The small, medieval plaza; a soothing hum of people, everybody dressed up in their best evening clothes. The liberating sunset after a hot day, ice cold Voll Damm and Tronzadora. Ainsa’s old town consists of nothing but a few streets and a castle, every house in the old town built in the traditional way. This year we see the village through different eyes. Having gathered some basic building experience, we marvel at the stone arches, the elegant details in the window frames and the impeccable flatness of the stone floors. We know we are beginners, but the unspoken determination lingers between us not to rest until our hands master some of the craftsmanship Ainsa was built on.

Ainsa from the East, drawn by Moritz

For the first time this year we slipped into a conversation about Puyuelo. Last year that would happen every couple of days. Everything was so new and thrilling, we could hardly believe to have found a place that matched all our criteria, and couldn’t get bored about discussing the fertile present our future could grow in. Now, we all realized, things are different. Life in Puyuelo has become more normal, as the village becomes a home. We have been so busy that we contemplate less on what that implies. And that is exactly what the night at the pizzeria did to us. All of a sudden we took some distance from Puyuelo, stepped aside, fully relaxed, out of the daily routine, observing ourselves as if from a birds’ eye perspective. We all feel something inside us has changed. Last year we left home hoping to buy a plot of land in the mountains, while suddenly we find ourselves having occupied an abandoned village. The question that comes to mind is normal; all of us have heard it many times: aren’t you afraid you will lose this place one day because of not owning it?

The vegetable garden, seen from above. Around it is the fence we built to protect us from cows,
wild boar and other game

Strangely enough, the doubts and fears that question brought up last year dwindled away. The idea of putting so much energy in a place we don’t own seemed ridiculous back then. We chose Puyuelo because we fell in love with it. Because it offers us the life we are looking for at this moment. We sometimes jokingly call it Puyuelo University. A place that allows us to set up experiments we could have hardly dreamed of, that gives us the necessary freedom and means to acquire all the skills one needs to survive on his own feet. Whatever happens in the future, nobody will take away these days of freedom, nobody will steal the skills we acquire here.

Above that, we realized we are working with joy in honor of this village itself, or for the people who might come after us if we would ever leave. Not owning Puyuelo has turned out to take away a lot of our sorrows. The future is open. Like in a relationship, we foolishly hope that this will last forever, while very well knowing that it will probably not, and that that will be fine as well, that we will take up our backpacks, heavier than they were when all of this began, and walk to the next chapter of this adventure we call life. The trust that is slowly seeping into us here is that of the mountains: solid and peaceful, unshaken by what is to come.

What helps is the unconditional support we have found so far. All the people we know here, encourage what we do. In the central part of Spain, on 50 per cent of the country’s surface, live about 15 per cent of all its inhabitants. The past is disappearing here, hundreds of abandoned villages crumbling under the fist of time, slowly swallowed by nature again.

Patio in the neighboring village of San Felices, drawn by Moritz

It is hard to imagine for somebody from Germany or Belgium what it must feel like to see your own past disappear. To witness how a peninsula that flourished for centuries now slowly silences, as its remaining population centralizes in cities or bigger towns. Whether it’s guests from the neighboring hotel, bikers or people from the villages nearby, up to now we have received nothing but moral support, which is of course an enormous relief.

Our house, eagerly waiting to be finished

For the next two months, we will fully focus on finishing the renovation of our house. By the end of October we have to have it somehow closed if we want to stay here. Fortunately we have friends coming over in September to help us out. With the end of august, the race has now officially started. Building a façade, closing the windows, laying floors, fixing the roof, mucho trabajo!

After ten days of floor building, Pablo and James hit the bottom of their enthusiasm. Their new friend Laszlo (short for Lazarillo) wonders about the human obsession with straight lines

As a last note on this news letter we want to invite you to our dialogue. Since everything we do here is still very new to us, this is very much a learning process. If you, while reading what we send out, come up with questions, doubts or remarks, we will be very happy to read them in any language and format, and will do our best to come back on them in the future.

Accompanied by the sound of a guitar that has found its way to Puyuelo through our friend Saco, we send you all a warm hug from the mountains.

Pablo, James, Moritz and Felix (and the helping hands of Saco, Marieke, and Seba),

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