There is something about December, how the light falls in the countryside, that invites quiet contemplation. The softness of the light imbues the rural landscape with a gentle tranquility, a romantic air.
The wildlife sounds grow softer too and going for a long, unhurried walk on the paths that line the dormant vineyards is a pleasure: listening to the melodious song of the robin, observing the flocks of starlings flit about the olive trees. Nature is incredibly peaceful in autumn.
Common starlings sitting in a bramble (photo by Ana Mínguez - @anacagur)
The farm work has concluded for the season, and during this quiet interlude, the countryside is one of the best places to find serenity and discover the immense value of a simple life. “Simplicity is the law of nature for men as well as for flowers,” wrote Thoreau.
Henry David Thoreau (Massachusetts, 1817–1862) was a naturalist, lecturer, and one of the most celebrated essayists in North American literature. In the autumn of 1845, he decided to leave behind his comfortable yet mundane existence in a small town in the northeastern United States (Concord, Massachusetts) to live in a simple cabin he built near Walden Pond.
Freed from his commitments and removed from everything unessential, Thoreau lived in solitude for more than two years. During this time, he meditated on the essentials of life in a wood cabin furnished with nothing but the most basic items (a simple bed, a chair, and a table), surrounded by nature and putting his thoughts in order.
This intimate, introspective, almost mystical experience would produce one of the masterpieces of world literature: Walden, Or, Life in the Woods is more than a book; it is a true hymn to the simple life.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear.”
Thoreau's Walden is considered one of the most beautiful paeans to the peacefulness of life in the country. It describes an existence based on a deep respect for nature and the serene contemplation of the natural surroundings to internalize everything they can teach us. And in this learning process, we regain a sense of hope and find an anchor in the essentials so that we can face even the most uncertain times with optimism.
Familia Torres vineyards in autumn
It is precisely at this time of year, before winter sets in, when the days get shorter and colder, that nature provides us with the best moments to slow down, relax, and experience the sense of fulfillment in nature that Thoreau described.
Few occasions offer the kind of serenity you'll encounter on a December evening in the countryside near rural villages, when the air is fragrant with the comforting aroma of wood smoke and a whiff of stable, and you hear, like an echo from the great beyond, the tremulous hoot of the tawny owl in the trees. In those moments of communing with our natural surroundings, we discover that the most important things in life aren't things.