Today I'm delighted to introduce the first in a series of seasonal posts by Cheryl, a writer and advocate of simple living currently living with her family in a beautiful Romanian village. For more, head over to her blog and inspiring website.
Once upon a time, in a far-away land, there was a little village surrounded by orchards and fields dotted with ochre haystacks, full of women and men meaningfully wandering through the fenceless landscape, carrying handwoven baskets on their backs in the sun, in the rain and in the snow.
And this winter, in our fairy-tale village of Breb, Romania, this real place on Earth which our family calls home, the recent cold and snowy months have been dreamlike, in the most frozen and wintry sense.
Temperatures have dipped to -20°C for nights on end, pipes have frozen and flowing water has turned the streets into thick glaciers, providing entertainment for the young sledgers who race downhill, screaming with laughter at high speed all the way. But to walk on such ice, to visit a neighbour, or go downhill to the village shop is a matter of slipping, sliding and by some skillful act of balance – not falling down.
Here, the cold comes with simple beauty. The ice flowers that grow overnight, present themselves in the morning light. The foothills are covered with white, glistening magic. The smell of burning fir and alder fills the air as the smoke billows from small chimneys attached to wooden homes. As we step outside, we inhale life and death as we become part of this ethereal landscape. The smoke is a reminder of the trees that are harvested in the foothills of the Gutâi Mountains, the very thing that keeps us warm and alive.
In winter, it seems that wood is harvested every day, felled by chainsaws and brought down from the hills by horse and sleigh, the exception being Sunday when no work is allowed. I put another log on the fire with hope deep in my heart that come warmer weather, in another season, I will see seedlings being planted on these very hills, for if they were to be thinned to the point of lace work, what would these traditional wooden houses be born of instead? Concrete and bits of styrofoam hopefully will not overtake this romantic existence, but like the loss of craftsmanship, only time will tell.
In a place where looms outnumber the weavers, we can brazenly dream that the old ways will not be lost in favour of greed…
So, as we deeply slumber under heavy, handmade woollen blankets, woven from the fibres of the Țurcana sheep, we dare consider the reverie of spring – trees filled with flowers in the billions, and of birds chirping their sweet songs. Adventure awaits higher up the forested hills, near the peat bogs of Morărenilor Lake, on the Creasta Cocoșului (Rooster’s Crest) and in walking barefoot among gentle blades of green while foraging for all that disappears in winter.
To live simply among the seasons has never been so enchanting, or so full of mirth.
Cheryl is a freelance writer and blogger, dedicated to minimalism, sustainable simplicity and green living. Three times an expat, she is now living with her small family in northern Romania where the amount of haystacks greatly outnumber the villagers – Maramureș is a unique place where technology and craftsmanship collide. Discover her thoughts and photography at Handcrafted Travellers. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.