The beautiful property of Yeonathan and Vered Neta sits, nestled next to a barranco (ravine) at close to 1,400 meters above sea level, on the slopes of Tenerife’s ancient volcanic network. They are surrounded by experimental foliage they planted, dozens of varieties of fruit, nut, herb, and vegetable in a large endeavor to discover what does well in the arid, volcanic soil. Their vegetable garden is organized in separate terraces in the traditional, steep barranco style of the Canarys. When the rare rain comes, the terraced barranco is good for trapping as much water as possible before it all dries up. As Yeonathan proudly gave me the grand tour of his budding perma-culture project, handing me fresh figs and clusters of grapes to sample, I knew that my time here would be well served with his brand of the “good life”, which he encouraged me to embrace fully and to expand upon as far as what the good life means to me personally. After almost a month of being here, I have a pretty good idea of what that is.
Yeonathan and Vered’s idea of the good life is getting out of the “rat race” and off the grid… going solar, generally leaving an ultra low, environmental footprint, and enjoying the personal accomplishment of growing and producing most of their own food. Above all, they surround themselves with friends, old and new, giving back what they’ve learned through their own extensive travels, and sharing with a younger generation of travellers their vision of healthy and happy. Casa Alegria is their own Eden, and as an exchange for the new generation of travelers to stay here, they help Yeonathan and Vered to make their Eden more and more beautiful.
The first thing they talked to me about was their new tree house. An architect and a series of builder/carpenters had begun construction more than a year ago, and what they showed me upon my arrival, was nothing short of inspiring. Inside and out, the tree house was a small haven of comfort and love. All Yeonathan and Vered knew was that they wanted some sort of rainbow motif. If you have read my Norwegian blog from a month ago, of where I was prior to Tenerife, you might be seeing the same developing theme that I did… in fact, rainbows are far more prominent on the islands than they are in Norway. The many photos I took of the arcing spectral hues are just the ones in which I had a camera on hand, which was less than half.
I dove into my work with a hunger that I hardly recognized anymore. Sunday nights no longer carried with them a sense of dread for the coming week. I was excited to wake up in the morning. I was excited to greet my fellow workers and my hosts everyday. Laughter became infectious, hugs replaced handshakes, and I just could not stop smiling.
As I became used to living and working and eating every meal with my new friends, I began assigning a different color to each roommate and each host. After all, I was blending colors in my sleep. This was not on the same level as sensing someone’s aura, or some other new-wave hippie ideal. I was simply sharing and undeniable connection. In fact, I feel much more open to potential connections going forward.
I’ve barely mentioned food thus far, and that is just not acceptable. I have never eaten so well in my life, and get this… there was no meat. There was fish and egg, but nothing else. To those of you who know me, I am no vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy a wide array of cuisine, and that was all I needed. Nothing but fresh, organically-grown produce and local food was provided for us twenty four-seven, but 2:00 lunch everyday was for sitting down with everyone for a meal specifically prepared with love. Even before Chef Lia from Arizona showed up, I was extremely satisfied, but then every lunch became a five-star experience. I did not know that polenta, pumpkin, or caramelized onions (love) could taste so good.
Saturdays were for the beach in Medano. I was suddenly a little kid again, splashing in the waves, chasing the soccer ball or frisbee, laughing until I almost drowned. It was not the perfect skyline, or the black sand beaches, or la Montana Roja, a long- defunct volcano, jutting out into the ocean that made me feel this way. It was not the constant, soothing wind that lured professional kite surfers from all over the world. All of that certainly helped, but it was the people I was with. I will never forget them.
Fridays and an odd Wednesday night were for hiking up to Vilaflor, the highest village in Spain where our good friend, Ishmael lived. Ishmael is a local whom was hired by Vered and Yeonathan to oversee the terracing of their barranco. I can’t say enough how much of a pleasure it was to work with this man. Few can claim the ingenuity, the generosity, and the gentle spirit that is Ishmael. It seemed that whenever we wanted, his “shop” was opened up to us. In the center of lovely Vilaflor, sat Ishmael’s shop, a big cave of a garage with every imaginable tool and contraption cluttered in every corner and on every surface. On a big table in the center of the shop, everyone would help to prep a feast. I never would have thought how he could so simply prepare food that tasted the way it did. When you were with Ishmael, you did things the way he did them, and you were better for it.
As my stay drew to a close, I hurried to finish every painting project I had originally set out for myself. They were many, stirred on and inspired by my fellow workers. Everyone had played a collaborative effort in most of these projects. So much love had been put into every color that the many rainbows had afforded. I could not imagine leaving the island without finishing one single brushstroke.
The rainbow, it seems has become a part of my life now. It can signify or represent many different things to many different people. For my new friends Flo and Nick, it embodies a huge gathering of diverse yet like-minded souls, sharing what little they have as they embrace whatever beautiful stretch of nature they happen upon. For me, it has always been a symbol of a divine promise kept… a promise that I fear could soon be broken. For future generations, the threat of wide-spread, coastal flooding is becoming a distinct possibility brought on again by the greed and evil that men do. The rainbow now reminds me how precious, how diverse, how beautiful life is. I have a very clear idea of what the “Good Life” means to me. Do what you love, love the people who love you, and love yourself no matter who or what stands in your way. All of this is at our fingertips. It has all been provided for us on this little blue and green ball. We just need to respect and care for it. More than ever, I am committed to protecting our life-giving mother… this beautiful yet fragile bio-sphere, encompassing every color of the rainbow.