It’s the place we all try to avoid reaching. That point in space and time where we just can’t stand anymore. We’ve been patient. Chins up, chests out. Brave faces fixed firmly on the bright side. And then all of a sudden it’s enough. We’re at the end of our tether.
Almost as soon as I put down a deposit on my new Eden, I sailed back to the UK to sell my van. And while I prepared her for a new owner, on the other side of the Bay of Biscay the slow cogs of Spanish property bureaucracy began to turn. Sometimes there is nothing to do but wait.
“It’s the holy pause as you enter into a marriage with the land,” one wise soul commented. What a perfect phrase, except despite my best intentions the pause hasn’t felt too holy. I’d almost say it felt damned at times. Days turned into weeks, and they turned into a month or more. Relentlessly, I tried to propel the many van-selling tasks into some sort of forward motion. They stuttered and spluttered, getting nowhere fast.
But in truth there was nowhere to go. Land deals are ambling affairs in Spain. Vans take time to sell. And even when you think otherwise, there is a proper and healthy moment for a bud to burst. And a tether to reach its end.
That’s what happened this week. Bam! The end of the rope was reached. I just couldn’t stand any more. The ‘civilised’ world with its petty rules, overcrowded roads, and myriad forms of mind torture and pollution. With its ugliness, its strip lighting and clanking supermarket trolleys. And the noise! The plastic! The crappy fabricated food! The empty babble of the TV news. The airless houses. The utterly pointless hustle. Is there anywhere you can walk and be guaranteed of solitude? Is there anywhere for a soul to breathe, and an imagination to have the space to take flight?
For the first time in many many years, I saw the dark tide of depression threatening. And I shuddered in its shadow. “Good grief! I must have re-joined the 'First' World," I thought.
Yet I’m one of the lucky (or particularly uncompromising) ones, sliding as I am past the tentacles of The System. It’s a temporary exile after all. But I don’t belong here. Like a large cat in a well-maintained zoo enclosure, I am well-fed, yet famished. I am comfortable yet suffering. When I read that the use of antidepressants in Anglo-Saxon countries hovers around the 10% mark, I’m amazed. Is that all? How do the other 90% cope? Alcohol? Sugar?
Yet it’s always at the point you think you can’t stand any more, that something happens. Tether’s End is a place we have to attain if we want absolute clarity on ourselves and the world we inhabit. It is the cry of our soul that refuses to patch over or make do. It’s the call of the wild.
As I peer through the darkness, the tip of something beautiful becomes visible. A branch of an ash tree. A red cabana roof. A stone-strewn slope rolling green and lush into the cleavage of a brook. My new land in northern Spain. How clearly she gleams in the pitch of the tunnel. And in an instant I grasp my lesson.
A property purchase is always tense, always fraught with self-doubt and misgiving. Have we chosen well? Have we read the signs properly? Is there some terrible secret we are yet to uncover? A nuclear power station over the hill, or some legal stranglehold we were unaware of? Back in Spain in February, I suffered a few sleepless nights before I committed to my rugged beauty. Because so much was at stake. Most of my money was invested in her, so I would have no easy way of changing my mind, should I want to. There were questions forever gnawing at me, and when one was satiated, another stuck its teeth in.
One important choice I had to make was whether to opt for a smaller plot that I could build a mud house on, or a large piece of land with a stone cabana lost in the wild. I chose the latter; a space just outside a national park with no neighbours and plenty of mountains. But the devil’s advocate inside me always wondered if I’d regret it.
Here at Tether’s End, all doubt evaporates. How loudly the ash tree calls to me from the other side of the Bay of Biscay. How perfectly wild and free the land is. How quiet and self-protecting. In my dark hours, she is speaking to me. Soothing me and supporting me. And if she’s speaking now, when I return she will surely sing.
The good thing about Tether’s End is that once you reach it, you know movement isn’t far behind. An immense tension builds when we strain against our ropes, and the friction forces action. Within days of hitting my nadir, I had bought a cheaper and smaller camper, sold my large van, and booked my ferry ticket to France.
The holy pause is over, and I’ve broken my tether. It’s time to go home.
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