The Quiet of the Land

BY Lisa Lindblad

August 21, 2010

I spend some of my favorite days in a rural village in Uruguay.  I have written about the special magic of Garzon before – how it manages to retain its ages-old pace of life while surviving well in the 21st century.  There is nothing ‘cute’ and ‘old fashioned’ about the pueblo; it has an honesty and integrity that is completely unselfconscious.  Its 200 locals are straightforward and  warm in greeting and conversation. It’s a relaxing place to be, for each tends to his own garden, both literally and figuratively, and coexistence is without any tension, any edge.

While Garzonians are welcoming and good neighbors to have, it is in, and through, the animals  that I find my moments of sheer bliss.  A young gaucho, beret set at a jaunty angle, back ramrod straight, riding his horse out to the hills; sheep grazing in the open fields, thick with wool; macho mutts patrolling the streets, an eye out for their advantage, be it in the form of a young lady or a free meal;  cats (who definitely get the short end of the stick), cows, roosters, pigs, and  the bird life which is well celebrated by ornithologists, all weave in and out of my life with unexpected visits, the gift of a tableau through the window, a soundtrack to the day and night.

At my feet lies a young, mute cat I have named Maxine.  Somehow she knows when I am in residence, arriving on Sandburg’s “little cat feet…(she) sits looking on silent haunches and then moves on.”  I have become strangely attached to her; our needs are perfectly balanced:  I feed her a portion of my food and she gives me a portion of her trust and affection.  And then we leave each other until the next time, hoping, at least on my side,  that I shall meet her again.

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John Derian Goes West