The Spanish countryside unfolds before me, vibrant greens, golden hills and that blue twilight sky that forever sears itself into memory.
Holding a glass of chilled white wine in my hand, I lean against the ancient stone wall of Pedraza, taking it all in.
It’s July 4th, Independence Day. Only, I’m thousands of miles from the fireworks.
However, the walled medieval city of Pedraza has its own fire on this sultry summer evening.
My afternoon/evening tour with WineBus has made its last stop in this medieval city for a special event: La Noche de las Velas, a candle festival which only happens the first two Saturdays of July every year.
Tonight, inside the castle an orchestra is set to perform. But, that’s not what sold me on this city. It was the 10,000 sparkling tea light candles dotting the stone walks, hanging from wrought iron bars, dangling from balconies.
This sleepy little village, with less than 500 inhabitants and only one entrance (which used to be closed at night, preventing anyone from entering or exiting the town barring an emergency), is alive tonight with Spaniards and tourists-in-the-know. We’re all here for the same thing — to witness the twinkling candles as they illuminate the town.
As night slowly falls (and super late, mind you, since the sunsets here don’t even start until well after 9 p.m.), Pedraza glows a gorgeous tungsten as the modern lights turn off.
Around us, people begin to make their way to the performance while my friend and I opt for simply wandering the centuries-old cobblestone streets. Tonight, for me, it is all about being in the moment.
For months, I have struggled with my inner dialog. The mind that just doesn’t know when to shut up. In an attempt to quiet my worst enemy, I started reading The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenmentwhich is all about being mindful and teaching readers how to be present versus in their heads.
And, this night, I truly begin to understand how it works.
The candles dotting the town pull me into the moment.
They awaken me. As their flames dance in the air, my mind is quiet.
A peace and stillness settles over me as I wander, simply taking in the beauty and serenity of the Spanish night.
When we depart and head back the 150km to Madrid, I stare out the window, wide-eyed. It’s well past midnight, but the countryside is lit up, too. This time, it’s courtesy of the full moon. It dances with us as we drive through the night, darting behind mountains and back out again, casting its full glow on the land below.
Where normally I would sit and look out the window, lost in my own thoughts, tonight, the only thing I think is how incredibly lucky I am. The light from the outside world, igniting the light inside me.