Zoom in on Bulgaria, the middle of the Balkan mountains, tiny village with 300 permanent residents, one bus service to the closest town every three days. Locals dress in old style village clothes and get by on agriculture, farming and animals they raise. Dramatic mountain views, smell of hay and sounds of bells from the herds.
Baba Stefanka has been a part of this picture forever... Her house originally built in "Turkish times" (Bulgaria was under Ottoman empire until 1878) doesn't have a door bell, you just need to shout her name and you will see her sun-burnt face pop from around the corner. She remembers the day me, my parents and probably my grandparents were borne. We used to buy fresh eggs ("fresh"= straight out of the chicken's XXX) and milk from her cow, when I was spending the summers at my grandparents country house down the dirt road from where she lives. I was the city kid fascinated by her sheep, chickens, pigs and making lame attempts to milk the cow. She speaks a dialect I often don't understand, but I always felt we communicated somehow beyond language.
She can talk for hours about the animals, the rain this season, who died last in the village, how her peppers are coming about this year and her stash of pig lard in the basement, which she is always happy to share. She has never seen a gym in her life, yet she never fails to impress with her running-up-the-hill skills as she is herding her goats, sheeps and cows. I don't remember her ever being sick or complain about anything.
She is always curious about my life in "the" America and loves getting her picture taken because it will be posted on "the" internet. Every time I see her I can't help but get recharged with a sense of grounding, gratitude and with a decent dose of shame about the vanities of life in the world where I come from. She reminds me how simple life is, yet so rich and meaningful.
I actually wonder if she has ever had a minute in her life to worry about the meaning of life, what happiness is or what your purpose on earth is. She just is, she just lives.