I’m currently living in Southern Mexico in a rural area outside of a larger city. This morning, I was walking down “the hill” (in Florida, we would definitely call it a mountain, but they call it a hill here), just taking in the scenery. We don’t have a car here, so life definitely moves a lot more slowly and deliberately when you can’t just spontaneously hop in the car whenever you need something. There are parts of that I really like and want to find a way to continue when I return to the US in November. One of them being the slower pace of life. I don’t think I can put that in my suitcase, but I’d like to try.
As I walked with mountains all around me, the deep greens of the trees, brightly colored flowers, blue sky, warm sun and gentle breezes blowing down from the mountain, I just took it all in.
The road I was walking on is rough at its best, with speed bumps, potholes and mud that’s flowing down from last night’s torrential down pours. The roads develop deep crevices where the water flows down in the hard rains. We joke around a lot about how they’re organic speedbumps, which are plentiful here, even on the more primitive roads as well as the highways. But the area I’m in is clean and safe. And actually very, very friendly.
As I was walking down the hill, I started paying attention to the sounds.
It’s funny how slowing down creates the space for such things. As an aside, this is why it takes forever to get anywhere with little kids because they’re soaking it all in. But I am a lot like a little kid here, including the way I speak. (My husband said that I look like a little kid when I speak Spanish because I use a lot of gestures and I’m very animated about whatever story I’m telling. I replied that I have only a few simple words to use to convey a story, so I need to use the gestures and facial expressions to help convey what my limited Spanish vocabulary cannot.)
So in my kid-like way, I was listening and taking in the experience with all of my senses.
I could hear the wind.
I could hear lots of animals – dogs, cats, chickens, goats, and donkeys – all moving around.
I could hear the sounds of people talking in their houses right next to the road.
I could hear children laughing and playing games outside and inside.
I could hear the sounds of music, both people playing instruments and what was probably a radio.
I could hear the sounds of people working – preparing food, tilling the land, cleaning up after the rains last night.
And then it hit me.
I could hear the sounds of people talking in their houses and this was different. (Our brains like to notice when things are different. It doesn’t have to be good or bad.)
I realized that if I were walking down a street through a neighborhood in the United States, I probably wouldn’t hear much of anything. Maybe the hum of air conditioners. The wind blowing through the trees. Possibly kids in a pool swimming. (I live in Florida where lots of families have swimming pools.)
In the US, the houses would be sealed instead of open to the air, so there would be little sound unless the windows were open.
The houses where I’m living here in Mexico aren’t sealed. Given, the climate is great for this kind of open home without the need for heat or air conditioning. But it was more than that.
Even in the wonderful time of the year when the windows are open where I live in the US, I wouldn’t hear these sounds.
I might hear these sounds at the beach or at a park. Maybe. But really, those are different sounds.
The sounds on the hill are the sounds of life.
The sounds of connection.
The sounds of people working together.
Of everyday ways that people connect.
I find that those sounds of life are often missing from my own house. It’s easy to get distracted by electronics.
We can easily get sucked into Facebook or video games.
It’s easy, as someone who works from home, to end up on my computer or phone again, answering emails or working on a project.
And then it’s easy to get sucked into the care of the house and realize at the end of the day that I was busy all day, but not connected.
Most of the people who live on this hill cannot afford electronics, so they’re doing what we, as humans, have done for most of time.
But this isn’t a blog post about returning to the dark ages of pre-technology. We don’t have to give up modern conveniences or return to the early 1900’s.
Just pay attention to the sounds of life in your own home.
Does it sound more like it did for me when I was walking down the “hill” or is it a little too quiet? If technology is getting in the way, consider taking connection breaks where all the technology is turned off. Ask yourself what you can add to help your family connect.
Find ways to connect like human beings have been connecting for most of time. These ways cost little or no money, but encourage us to connect with one another in ways that will hopefully feel good to the whole family.
See how these ideas feel to you:
Learn an instrument and let your kids see you practicing.
Encourage your kids to learn an instrument.
Take up gardening.
Meet your neighbors.
Play with an animal.
Play a game – either a board game or something more physical like hide-and-seek.
Do the laundry together.
Turn on some music and dance together.
What are the sounds of life in your own home? What else do you do to encourage the sounds of love, life, and laughter in your family? Tell me about them. I’d love to hear!