In the latest edition of the Country Life Vlog, a rooster crows to life, dew glistens on a rose petal, and two puppies frolic in the green grass of May. The video then cuts to Aziza, the matriarch, as she walks outside her cottage on the farm that her family calls home.
This could be the opening scene for any of the 100 or so videos that the Country Life Vlog, aka K?nd Hayat?, has posted on its popular YouTube channel. Each video features Aziza, her husband, and, occasionally, other members of the family as they prepare a meal.
The series takes place in Azerbaijan, in the fertile valley below the Caucasus Mountains, and typically features Azerbaijani and Turkic fare, including lamb stews, cabbage dolma, kabobs, and baklava. There are also vignettes of farm life and farm work, including picking herbs, harvesting vegetables, building a greenhouse, and stacking firewood.
Country Life Vlog videos are mainly silent. Usually, the only sounds you hear are the sounds of work—chopping wood, flopping a fish down on a plank and deftly cleaning it, tapping a metal spoon on a cooking pot—and the sounds of nature—chirping birds, a hissing cat, a whimpering dog that just got a swat from the cat. Almost all of the cooking is done over an open flame in a huge cauldron-like pot.
The filming is extremely professional. I understand that Aziza’s son, a former professional chef, started filming his family and village life as a way to introduce Azerbaijani cooking and village life to a wider audience. Since posting the first video in late 2019, the channel has attracted nearly 4 million subscribers.
Videos about rural living are a phenomenon on YouTube, but it never occurred to me to look for them. A few weeks ago, I had never heard of the Country Life Vlog. YouTube shifted it into the mix after several episodes of The Pasta Grannies and Mark Wiens in Pakistan, the algorithm guessing correctly that our family enjoyed cooking and travel shows.
The silence of the series was a revelation. It starts simply and without context, just a quiet window into a rural family’s farm life. You want to keep watching because of the silence. No host. No voiceover. No unnecessary soundtrack. Thanks to the Country Life Vlog, I’ve become more mindful of the world outside my window and more attuned to the beautiful sound of silence.
On a recent twilight walk in the woods with my dog, bored with the songs shuffling into my playlist, I shut everything off and listened. A few robins and cardinals were tweeting. High above, a woodpecker was knocking on a tree.
The air felt electric with the hum of nothing. I was vibing on the connection I felt to nature. The sounds of the everyday were calming, not dull reminders of the ennui I’ve felt since we moved to the suburbs.
Earlier in the evening, as we drove home from an early dinner, it was the top of the hour and time for the news. The kids were in the back of the car as the anchor began the newscast, his voice so familiar that I felt comfort in it. Then I remembered the news I had read a few hours earlier.
Nineteen schoolchildren and two teachers had been killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that day. Another day, another school, another gunman, another massacre. The tragic cycle of American life resumes with no end in sight.
Silence. I had to turn down the newscast. But the kids already knew what was up. Still, I didn’t want to listen to the grim news as a family. I wanted to protect my sons from the news, just as I wanted to protect them from everything else bad in the world.
“Who wants to watch some more Azerbaijani farm life videos tonight?” I asked. My eyes were wild and my question was hollow as I tried to fill the now-silent space with a completely different topic.
“I’m surprised you sound so upbeat,” said their dad.
“I’m just trying to compartmentalize.”
I don’t remember what we all did the rest of the night. We retreated to our different corners and found our own ways to ignore or cope with the news.
My attempt to compartmentalize began to unravel pretty quickly. Anger turned to grief turned to even deeper grief. My oldest is currently 15—the same age as the children who were killed in a similar mass shooting in Sandy Hook, CT, nearly a decade before.
No one feels as bad as those poor families that have had to deal with the unthinkable. But given my kids’ ages and the ages of the schoolchildren, I feel their wretched pain vicariously.
That could have been my kid. It still could be my kid if we don’t find a way to get rid of the guns.
We have to get rid of the guns.
There are so many different kinds of silence.
There is the silence that comforts us and the silence that calms us. There is the silence of turning down the radio or television to avoid the news of the day and the awkward silence that follows when you are trying, futilely, to change the subject.
I think about how those kids had to be silent so the gunman wouldn’t look for them. I think about how their silence was punctured with yelling and the sound of gunfire. I think about the silence that the “lucky” students had to endure, quietly, between the screams of their classmates down the hall. I think about the silence in the houses of the slain children and how much their parents would give anything to hear their voices again. I think about how the moments of silence at yet another memorial to the victims of gun violence will do nothing to bring those kids or those teachers back.
Then, I think about the silence of complicity. The silence of politicians, particularly those that fail to vote or refuse to vote on legislation that could save our kids and our fellow citizens in their schools, in their homes, inside their grocery stores and movie theaters and nightclubs and churches.
Silence can save a life. But also Silence = Death.
The silence and solace I found in watching the Country Life Vlog is a silence that honors this flawed and fleeting life in a profoundly moving way, a silence that makes me appreciate the world without reminding me of the horrible reality just beyond my door in this broken country I call home.
But we must find a way to stop being silent. We have to stop turning the radio down and emotionally checking out. Enough was enough when Columbine happened.
America is killing itself and the Republican Party is looking the other way, ideologically complicit in one tragedy after another.Texas shooting: America is killing itself, as the Republican Party looks the other way