I’m woken by a cow lowing. It sounds like it’s in my bathroom.
I roll out of my warm bed, step out of our stone cottage, to face the morning.
It’s minus four outside, a water bottle’s frozen solid on the front stoep.
But it’s dawn, it will warm soon – the peaks of the Drakensberg above have already been lit with flames of sunshine.
The grass is winter-dry, and the cow in question is nuzzling leaves of a little bush in the garden, outside our bedroom wall.
Coffee warms freezing hands – as my son and I take delight in the morning’s first light.
And there is accompaniment: we are serenaded by a chorus of cooing doves in the willow trees above.
It is truly a most perfect Sunday morning, in a little village named Rhodes, at the foot of the mountains of Lesotho.
It takes a while, doesn’t it, to get into that new rhythm, the gentler heartbeat of life in the countryside.
How simple life becomes, in the rhythm of adventure. Simple, pure and deliberate.
I love this word, “deliberate”.
Sipping our coffee, in the freezing cold of this exquisite winter morning, I’m reminded of two quotes.
First, Paulo Coelho explains in Like the Flowing River, Thoughts and Reflections: “In Japan, I took part in a tea ceremony. You go into a small room, tea is served, and that’s it really, except that everything is done with so much ritual and ceremony that a banal daily event is transformed into a moment of communion with the universe.
“The tea master, Okakura Kak-uzo, explains what happens:
“Tea ceremony is a way of worshipping the beautiful and the simple.
“All one’s efforts are concentrated on trying to achieve perfection through the imperfect gestures of daily life. Its beauty consists in the respect with which it is performed.
“If a mere cup of tea can bring us closer to God, we should watch out for all the other dozens of opportunities that each ordinary day offers us.”
Second, I remember this, by Henry David Thoreau, in Walden (or, Life in the Woods): “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; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms,” Thoreau wrote.
Today, on the dirt roads just beneath The Mountain Kingdom, we will live deliberately.
We will soar into the mountains in our Land Rover – high in the sky, 2 500m above sea level.
I’ll be watching my son behind the wheel, navigating narrow bridges over gurgling snow-melt, sheer drop-offs and teams of Basotho ponies, being driven up into The Mountain Kingdom by fit, strong men clad in warm blankets.
The earth will be red-brown. The mountains crisp white. Snow fell last night. It was minus-eight degrees Celsius.
Oh, the air up there!
We’ll be breathing in a part of ourselves we may have lost in the daily madness of life.