A day at the mill

By Paulo Coelho

At the moment my life is a symphony made up of three different movements: “many people,” “some people,” and “hardly anybody.” Each of these movements lasts about four months a year; they often come together during the same month, but they never get mixed up.

“Many people” are those moments when I am in touch with the public, editors and journalists. “Some people” happens when I go to Brazil, meet my old friends, walk along Copacabana beach, attend the occasional social event, but as a rule I stay at home.

But today I just want to dwell a little on the “hardly anybody” movement. Night has already descended on this small town of 200 people in the Pyrenees whose name I would rather keep a secret and where I recently bought an old mill transformed into a house. I wake up every morning to the roosters crowing, have my breakfast and go out for a walk among the cows and lambs and through the fields of wheat and hay. I contemplate the mountains and – unlike the “many people” movement – never try to think who I am. I have no answers, no questions, I live entirely for the present moment, in the understanding that the year has four seasons (yes, it may seem so obvious, but sometimes we forget that), and I transform myself like the landscape all around me.

At this moment I have no great interest in what is going on in Iraq, or Syria, or Afghanistan: like any other person who lives in the countryside, the most important news is the weather. Everyone who lives in this small village knows if it is going to rain, turn cold, or be very windy, because all that has a direct effect on their lives, their plans, their crops. I pass a farmer tending his field, we exchange a “good morning,” discuss the weather forecast and then go about what we were doing – he at his plough, I on my long walk.

I head back home, check the mail-box, the local newspaper informs me that there is a dance in the next village, a lecture in a bar in Tarbes – the big city with all of its 40,000 inhabitants (the firemen had been called out because a garbage bin had caught on fire during the night). The topic that is mobilizing the region involves a group accused of cutting down the plane trees that had caused the death of a young man riding his motorbike on a country road; this piece of news fills a whole page and several days of reporting about the “secret command” that is bent on revenging the death of the young biker by destroying the trees.

I lie down beside the brook that runs through my mill.

I rise and go to practice kyudo, the form of meditation with the bow and arrow that occupies me for an hour. It’s already lunchtime: I have a light meal and then notice a strange object in one of the rooms of the old building, with a screen and a keyboard, all connected – wonder of wonders – with a super-speed DSL line. I know that as soon as I press a button on that machine, the world will come to me.

I resist as long as I am able but then the moment is reached when my finger touches the “on” button and here I go again connected to the world, newspaper columns, books, interviews requests (I decided no to give more than 3 interviews a year),the news from Iraq and Afghanistan, requests, the message that the airline ticket will be arriving tomorrow, decisions to put off, and decisions to take.

For a few hours I work, because that is what I chose to do, because that is my personal legend, because a warrior of the light is aware of his duties and responsibilities. But in the “hardly anybody” movement, everything that appears on the computer screen is very distant, just as the mill seems to be a dream when I am in the “many people” or “some people” movements.

The sun starts to hide itself away, the button is turned to “off”, the world goes back to being just fields, the scent of the herbs, the mooing of the cows and the shepherd’s voice bringing his flock home to the shed at the side of the mill.

I wonder how I can move about in two such different worlds in the space of a single day: the answer escapes me, yet I know this brings me great pleasure and it makes me happy while I write down these lines.

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