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26 June 2007

We Have All We Need

We found her aside the road chopping firewood, and when we started talking to her she took us to her house. There we met her husband. The living room was like I never had seen before. The fire was right in the middle of the room on the floor; there was no mantelpiece, nor was there a chimney. The ceiling just went up and ended in a small hole in the roof. So you could say that the room was a fireplace in and of itself. Everything in the room was black. Black from the smoke and tar that comes from fire. You can't see them in these photos, but in the Domestic Landscapes series you see the iron chain on which they hang the cooking pot. It is attached to a beam that can be swung away.There was absolutely nothing in the house that they didn't need to live their lives. When asked if they were lacking anything the man stood up, walked to the chabot in the back of the room (see the photo on my website by clicking here), opened it and said: "We have everything we need." Inside we saw a piece of homemade bread, homemade cheese, homemade chorizo, homemade olive oil and homemade wine. "And besides that," he said, "we have each other," and he sat next to her to be photographed.

My guess is that they are way up in their eighties or even nineties and they have lived all their lives in that smoky house. They were each as strong as an ox.I have met many people like them, living high up in the mountains and taking care of themselves until they die. They very often do not even exactly know their own age. The thing is that they would not be registered until they were old enough to make the journey to the city to be registered. Both their parents and they themselves never learned to read or write; they often think that they must have been five or six years of age when they were registered. So the official documents are always five or six years off-track. It also shows that smoke isn't the big killer in areas like that.

(My guess is that stress is much more dangerous to people than smoke.)


luke said...

i'm an american living in bangkok for the last two years ... actually right now i'm in southern india for 3 months to continue my studies.

living in countries with a strong belief in karma, it has always impressed me with the way people learn to be happy with life, not striving for more all the time.

years ago i worked in software in the san fransisco area. we always worked to make more money, so that we would have more money to spend. in thailand, i've met so many people who make hadly any money, but seem really happy and content with it all. instead of making themselves crazy in this lifetime to get more and more, there is this belief that you should be happy with your karma in this lifetime, be a good person and in the next lifetime things will get easier.

hmmm, i'm rambing a bit here, i've written a lot about it on my blog and illustrated with loads of shots of medium format film at http://blog.luke.org.

really, beautiful pictures btw, especially the one on the http://www.bertteunissen.com site

Ronald said...

Extraordinary story you tell about these old people, living alongside the hectic times we live in...in all quiet and peace..Just caring for their daily livelyhood and each other.
Unaware of the so called needs of the modern world...All they need is their homemade food, wine, and love!
Although they must inhale the bad fumes of their fireplace for decades, they became old and tawny, strong and full of wits...
Beautiful photography on you website!

Bert Teunissen said...

Hi Luke & Ronald,
Thanks for posting your comments: yes, well, will we ever learn? I can still remember when I was a young boy and angry at the world because of all the indiffrence and ignorance around me. I was going to make a difference and would do it all different. I still like to think that I do, but in the mean time I sometimes wonder...