I’ve been in Bulgaria for a couple of months now. I’m staying with Kimberly and John – two friends who moved out here about five years ago. Their home is called Wabi Sabi – a Japanese phrase that sees authenticity and beauty in imperfection.
Wabi Sabi is on a hillside. It takes about 10 minutes of some fairly steep climbing to get from the bottom gate to the tree-lined top. Somewhere roughly in the middle is Kimberly and John’s white washed wattle and daub house, and next to it their lovingly nourished and abundant vegetable garden.
Right now, we’re enjoying courgettes, carrots, beetroot, the first crop of tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and lots of herbs. Yesterday John gave me a young runner bean to snack on, which I ate within a minute of it being picked from the plant. Tender, sweet and very tasty.
Kimberly is a phenomenal cook. I’ve enjoyed some of the best meals of my life here. As much as the ingredients, it’s the time and love that she puts into everything that makes it so damn good. We eat incredible salads nearly every day. Then there’s the gazpacho, the ‘bob’ soup, the pesto, the simple tomato pasta, the beetroot hummus, the dahl and flatbreads, the shakshuka and … oh, just so much goodness. The day before yesterday, we were treated to a beetroot and cranberry cake, topped with strudel, icing, flaked almonds and tiny purple borage flowers. My goodness it was heart-meltingly good.
My tent moves once a week to stop the grass dying underneath, but is always to be found on one of four or five flattish spots within a stone’s throw of the house. With two carpets, a table, a trunk for my clothes and a very comfortable double mattress to sleep on, this is camping Wabi Sabi style. I’ve only been scared a couple of times in the night: once when I felt like my bed was moving (we thought there was maybe a mole underneath, but the mystery is still officially unsolved); and the first time a cat jumped on the tent. I go to sleep to the chirping of crickets and wake to the chirping of birds.
This place is full of life. Yesterday, I was on my back pretending to do yoga while actually empathising with a lazy flying bug circling above me. Suddenly, a huge dragonfly – the size of my hand – buzzed out from somewhere and snapped up his dinner. Higher up, three eagles were cawing, circling and dive-bombing each other – we think they’re a young family, getting their practice in. Eagles are actually a real life threat at Wabi Sabi: one took a dive for Otic (the smallest cat) last week, and yesterday one tried to make off with the black chicken until John ran it off.
And as for what I’m actually doing out here… we’re building a treehouse, of course. I’ll write all about it the next time a thunderstorm stops us working on it.