Sunday, 16 April 2017

A Gathering of the Minds

Getting the Job Done 

Everyone came to town for Holy Week, so the Asociacion Cultural gathered itself together.
It was decided somewhere among the grand families of the Plaza Mayor that we'd meet after the Stations of the Cross. And so, thus focused on our many transgressions, as well as the  suffering and death of our Savior and his Mum, we ruled against meeting in the back of the church.
It's too echoey in there. Impossible to make out who is talking, especially when everybody talks at the same time. Which is just about always.
I was the founding president of the Asociacion, but I stepped down last year after two seasons of Big Fun and cultural disconnects. We started some good things, mistakes were made, and a few people sneer and roll their eyes every time my name is mentioned. But that's the price you pay. You can tell a pioneer by the tomahawks sticking out of his head.
So we gathered outside Vitoriana's house, on the corner of the plaza. Some of us sat right down on the pavement, or stood dangerously near to Leandra's prize tulips. Lucy, the new president, presided.
"What do we want to do for this summer? Another Semana Cultural?"
"Yeah! Last year was fun. Let's do that again!"
"Let's do what again? Which part was fun?"
"The movie night. Let's get that giant screen in here again!"
"That giant screen was a pain. Try keeping the kids away from that."
"We had to drive back and forth to Villada to pick it up and return it. And we had to put it up and take it down."
"And we had to sign a million papers to borrow it," I added.
"Let's do like they did here in the old days, when someone brought a projector and a movie. Hang up a sheet on that wall over there, and project it on that."
"Forget the sheet. The wall is whitewashed."
"Where would the electricity come from?"
"Extension cord. We have those. Jesus!"
"Don't be that way."
"What movies will we show? The movies last year were lame."
"Those are details. We can work that out later. Let's decide what else..."
"Let's do another tortilla contest!"
"Let's do desserts instead this time. We already did tortillas. We know whose is best now."
"But that will spoil everyone's dinner."
"How about we have a flan contest. Flan, and orijuelas. We all know how..."
"So how about tapas?" I said. "Appetizers? Pinchos?"
"Yeah! Let's do pinchos! Everyone loves those!"
"Yeah! Pinchos, and desserts."
"Let's have a proper prize, like 50 Euros. We'd get some people over from San Nicolas then, attract attention from outside,"
"Fifty euros? How about a nice bottle of wine?"
"San Nicolas? The heck with San Nicolas! What do they have to do with this?"
"And let's have a camp-out for the kids, over in the grove."
"We were going to do that last year, but the moms were afraid to let the kids stay out there."
"No, the mothers weren't afraid. The kids were afraid."
"No we weren't! It rained! You wouldn't let us because it rained!"
"OK then. Let's also have an excursion. We can tour the Sunflower Seed Factory in Villada!"
"We can get a bus and go to Astorga, and tour around and have Cocido Maragato!"
"Astorga's too far! What's in Astorga?"
"Everyone will have to pay his own way. The Asociacion can't pay for it."
"Well, of course!"
"And we ought to do something cultural. Like a workshop, or a dance group or something."
"How about we make up some adobes? Mud and straw don't cost anything."
"Yeah! We have brick molds!"
"Sounds pretty messy. Who's going to lead that? Who knows anything about adobe?"
"Rebekah does. She goes to those workshops every year. "
"Rebekah can do it. Can't you?"
"Yes," I said. "We'll make slurry, and all you guys can render the inside walls of my bodega!"
(Slave labor, hooray!)
"So we have all these things to do! What fun!" Lucy said.
"And flowers. Shall we plant flowers again this year? Can I spend 50 euros on flowers for the plaza?" I asked. "It's almost May, almost time to plant."
"Not so many this year. Not enough of us are here all summer. Milagros ended up watering them herself every day," came the slap-down I've been expecting for months.
"Also, sometime in the summer let's think about a wine-tasting night. Everyone bring a bottle from the region where they live -- Vittoria, Burgos, Coruna, Gran Canaria -- and we'll line them all up and taste them and see what we think,"I suggested.
"We can do that with the pinchos! We can do pairings!" said one well-educated cousin.
"No, I mean this as something separate from the Semana Cultural. Not a contest," I tried.
"We can bring the wine, and create a pincho to match,"she insisted.
"What, wine with flan? What the hell? This contest is getting out of hand!"
"Whatever. We'll see. This is just the start."
We were there, we were opinionated, but we got some things figured. We were Angelines, Florin, Leandra, Carlos, Ines, Raul, Cristi, Olaya, Timia, Luci, Milagros, Conchi, Ester, Other Carlos, Judit, Raquel, and me.
Plenty enough to get some culture done.
We have four months to work on it.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Two Basques Called Antxon

Winter came and went.
I went, too. I went deep into a translating "El Gran Caminante," a seminal Camino memoir by Antxon 'Bolitx' Gabarain, into English. It took a lot longer than I anticipated. Yesterday, five months after I started, "A Walk to the End of the World" was finally polished, and sent off to the production guys.
I've been a professional writer for years and years, and an editor for a lot of that time. Translating is something else altogether. It's like poetry, in that it demands a ton of technical skill and a degree of integrity I don't normally have to draw on. It's scary, because I like to do a really good job. My Spanish skills are mediocre, but I'm a whiz at English. I've studied and studied, but I am still not sure I know what I'm doing. There are some mistakes in there, no doubt. I hope they're not too embarrassing.
During this epic I made friends with two Basques named Antxon.
Antxon Gonzalez is the man who asked me to translate this book. He's a big guy, a retired executive, speaks a little English. He drove all the way down here from the coast, armed with homemade txakoli wine and a box of shortbread and a pretty good publishing deal.
I was feeling fed-up and depressed with my own book. I needed a wintertime project. I had a glancing acquaintance with "El Gran Caminante," which came out a couple of years ago on the Spanish market and did quite well, especially for a book without a standard distribution deal.
I told Antxon I'm not a translator. He told me I should try. I was the only person who could.
So I did.
The other Basque named Antxon is also known as 'Bolitx.' (No one can tell me what "Bolitx" means.) This Antxon wrote the book. It's a first-person narrative of his 2008 Camino pilgrimage, starting at his front door in Zumaia, in the Basque Country, passing down a disused pilgrim trail and joining "the Mighty Camino Frances" in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. It continues on to Santiago and Finisterre, and along the way he tells about growing up in Navarre and Bizkaia, family legends, ghost trains, his grandfather's adventure as a 19th century immigrant to California. Cool stuff I've never seen anywhere else.  
I have seen a slew of amateur pilgrim memoirs, and they are, with a couple of exceptions, pretty dreary reading. Antxon's is the first one I've read in Spanish. Yes, it is self-indulgent and yes, he does go on about his blisters and his spectacularly authentic pilgrimage. He has issues with women, and Asians, and foreign food. But he has a remarkable knack for description, especially in the bars, restaurants, and albergues along the Way. He does dialog well, he sets a scene and lets the players tell the tale. He's a natural writer, a sharp observer, unschooled but fluid and cogent.
He tells you what it all means, in a way that's not preachy.
Antxon the author
And he's funny. Even after reading the same passages five or six times in two languages, he still makes me laugh out loud. I got to know him pretty well this Winter. He looked over my shoulder sometimes, worried that I get it right. Or at least his spirit did.
Antxon the author finished writing "El Gran Caminante" in 2012, three days before he died of ALS. He was 41 years old.
Anxton the publisher is his father.
The translation will be available soon via Amazon or other online retailers. Most of the proceeds go to educate his young daughters.
So now I am a translator. I did my best. I had to call on expert help when flummoxed:  two old guys in Boadilla talking trash about the town floozy were beyond my powers of comprehension. Good thing I count a renowned Hispanicist among my friends. Antxon's granny was "the best Mus player in Navarre," and his description of a fast-paced match of Mus in Rabanal del Camino meant a Son of Seville now living in Virginia went and learned to play the card game himself, just so I could get it right.
It was a fun project. A nice break. Antxon the Dad seems very happy.
Now, after I chill a little while, I will move on to something else.
I kinda miss my own kind of writing.

Oh, I went, too, to the USA. For two months.
While I was there, a child was born. A red-headed girl called Cora. I became a grandmother.
Maybe I will write about that, too. Once I get my head around it.


Sunday, 9 October 2016

Water for San Anton...and a cool book for you!

They're here at last, and ready to head out the door: "San Anton: A Little History" is a creative project a year in the making, designed to raise funds for a much-needed water supply for the scruffy little albergue.

It's a funky, magical place, San Anton. For five months a year, rough-and-ready pilgrims sleep in 12 Army-issue bunks set in among the old entryway, they eat a meal together and pay whatever they can afford for the no-electricity, no hot water, no-wifi experience.

But who lived there before the pilgrims arrived? Who built this ruined Gothic place in the middle of a field, and why did fall to ruin? Who was San Anton, and what's up with the pig?

The answers are here in a tasteful, artistic hand-size format that's easily posted and ideal for gift-giving. "A Little History" is the only English-language, easy-to-read history of the mysterious ruins that span the Camino de Santiago just before Castrojeriz.

I wrote the text last winter with historian and author Robert Mullen, a San Anton hospitalero in 2015 and a noted author and historian who lives in Scotland.

San Francisco artist and printmaker Melissa West was inspired by her camino to turn out spectacular series of linoleum and woodblock prints. She's got a sharp graphic eye and a real sense of humour, too -- she illustrated "Little History" gratis, because this is a good cause!

And almost nothing comes out of Peaceable Press without the steady hand of Kim Narenkevicius. Kim coordinated the graphics and production of this booklet, oversaw the print run, and delivered up 500 copies in time for the Christmas season shopping frenzy.

Once the printer is paid, the proceeds will help cover a new fresh-water system at Albergue San Anton -- we will not longer be at the mercy of a 500-year-old cistern and the guy next door who shuts it down when he's feeling ugly. So be generous! Help us get some reliable water, and we'll send you a cool little book!

These go for 5 Euros apiece at Albergue San Anton. I'll ship them to you from here, for minimum donation of 7 Euro, or 6 British pounds, or $7.50 US apiece, postage-paid. Use the PayPal button up to the right here, and put your shipping information in the PayPal "shipping address" box... and Bob's your uncle!  

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Black Dog

I was afraid this would happen. For years and years, at the bottom of all my busy-ness, my drive for change and thirst for adventures, was this fundamental fear.
I knew that someday the black dog would catch up to me.
That despite all my grand plans and sometimes-successful executions, I'd have to sit down and be still and open the door and let Depression move in with me for a while.
Clinical Depression, a mental illness, has been a part of my life since about age 10. It comes and goes every few years. I've gotten to know its modus operandi. It comes on very slowly. I can delay it for a good long time -- I am a "high-performing depressive," after all. I fend it off with projects, commitments, do-gooding, achieving.
I knew it was coming last year, when I still felt bright and able. I decided to write the book then, while I was sharp and energetic, before it was too late. I wrote "Holy Year," and co-wrote "San Anton: A Little History." I re-wrote them, I found an illustrator for the latter, a designer, a way to print them and get them here to Spain. (Now I need to market these boys!)

I didn't feel any great elation at my creative achievements. I was glad to get them finished in time.
I moved about. I walked from Samos to Santiago with George, I walked from Santo Domingo de Silos to Burgos with Laurie, I walked from Ferrol to Santiago with Jim. I went with Patrick to England, to a garden party at the mill-house where Keats wrote "The Eve of St. Agnes." These were excellent things to do. I wondered as I did them, why I was there. That is symptomatic.
Things I love to do stop being fun.  
The Camino Chaplaincy ran long and hard this year on the Meseta. I met and worked together with some fine ministers, and some pilgrims really did benefit. But my own private greedy reason ran along under it all: the Mass keeps the darkness away, keeps my spirits in the right place, reminds me to forgive, be forgiven, to trust God no matter what.
Because I also took the new book, the best thing I ever wrote, and I pulled every string I had dangling, and sent it out to all my shiniest prospects for agency and publishing. Some made encouraging noises. I sent it out also to people I had no connection with, people whose history showed they like this sort of thing. I talked with smart people, connected-up people, sharp people. I let myself hope. I trusted in the story, I trusted God. I trust God.
But I am out of energy, and interest, and ideas now.
None of the prospects is taking my calls or emails any more.
I try to ignore that, try to get on with other, more pressing things. Patrick had a medical emergency, a detached retina in his eye, which required emergency surgery. Once that was under control, he developed bronchitis. The doctors don't want to be bothered with "just a cough."
Last week, at the fiesta, I stopped being president of the Asociacion.
Two days ago in Burgos we dropped-off the last of the chaplaincy priests for this season.
Albergue Monasterio San Anton de Castrojeriz closes for the season at the end of September.
Likewise, Albergue Villa de Grado closes at the end of October.
I will be left alone with much less to do, with winter coming on.
There's still plenty here to keep me busy. But not occupied.
So now you know I really am not such a great saint. I do a lot of my doing just as a way to keep myself from falling into a funk.
But here it is, and here I am.
I will sit still for a little while, entertain the Black Dog, and hope he does not stay around too long.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Trees, Bees, and a little Batshit

"Batshit Crazy" seems to describe much of what's going on in the world these days. (You gotta love English, it's so colorful!) While true suffering, shock, and history happen elsewhere, we continue in our smallness, doing the things we like, for and with the people we love.

Here in Moratinos a division of the Asociacion Cultural is busy crocheting and knitting sweaters for the trees in the plaza mayor. In North America this is called "yarn bombing." I don't get it. It seems a little crazy to me (not to the point of batshit) but nobody asked me. Someone suggested I sit down and knit, too, seeing as I am a girl, but that is beyond my abilities. My fingers don't do that.

The trees are bright and fun and probably very cozy, and more sweaters appear every day. The ladies are pleased, the pilgrims snap photos.
And on the ground around those trees, in a space where once lived a ragged flowerbed, we now have an orderly semi-circle of (someday) flowering shrubs, surrounded by weed-snuffing landscape fabric, covered in an abundance of river stones. Reyes and Flor, handy people, plotted and planted over several weekends, with labor drafted from among the ranks.
Again, I couldn't envision in advance what they were planning, but nobody asked me. But it's taking shape now, and it's surprisingly nice in a janky, sweet Moratinos kind of way.

the rock garden, visible from overhead aircraft
We planted 50 Euros' worth of flowers in pots all around the plaza, and now individual householders are putting bushes and flowers out on their window-sills, too. It's gratifying.

And I didn't do a whole lot of the heavy lifting. I just yammered for a year and a half and finally drove us all to the plant nursery to get things rolling. We meet after church next Sunday to divvy up the work of watering all these plants. Poor Milagros is the only one from the Barrio Abajo who is here every day of the week, and she can't do it all alone.

The church is open now every morning so pilgrims can stop in and say their prayers and wonder where all the magnificent artwork has gone. Moratinos is one of the few pilgrimage churches that doesn't have any awe-inspiring artwork. It's always been a humble, hardscrabble place. Our church ain't much, I tell the tourists, but it's well-loved. You can feel that in there, if you slow down a minute and let yourself breathe.

The other natural wonder of recent days has nothing to do with the plaza or Asociacion. It has to do with bees. A big swarm of honey bees arrived at Peaceable on Friday evening, and set up house in the disused chimney above the salon. It was wonderful and awful. Half the house hummed and roared, the air above the patio was dark with movement; the salon, too, started filling up with bees. thank goodness we had no pilgrims that day!
Happily, we have Eric here in town. Eric, also known as Eddie, is Moratinos' youngest resident, a member of the hardworking Flor/Reyes/Segundino clan. He is also a bee-keeping enthusiast. He rolled up the drive with a bee-box, a fetching hat-veil-gloves ensemble, and an even more fetching jar of organic lemony-scented bee bait. He set it up in the weed-choked alleyway our batshit-crazy mayor refuses to mow, not far from the chimney.

We set a fire in the salon fireplace. That fireplace is useless, most of the smoke pours back into the room. Still, enough went up the chimney for long enough to convince the bees that maybe that wasn't their best choice for a home.  

The box is still out there, three days later, busy with bees. We're letting them settle in before Eddie moves the box to a more isolated place. I think they're happy now -- the patio is bee-free, the alley hums quietly with life. I wish I could keep the bees, because I love them, and because they chose to live here with us. They're a blessing, a sign of good fortune. But I am allergic to a lot of things, and I don't want to tempt fate. And wax and honey are sticky. My fingers don't do that.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Uphill all the Way!

Fuel Stop! (click on any photo to get a better look) 

I've written several blogs in the past weeks, but they all stayed right here in my head.
I took some photos, though, and you know those are worth a thousand times more than words. This is a splendid spring, flower-wise. This was taken at a ghost village near Castrojeriz:

Monasterio San Anton is open, the camino trail is booming, but the albergue isn't full. Why? I think because San Anton was so successful last year, and the wrong people noticed. We now have a guy parked out front with a fake San Anton sello, telling passing pilgrims the place is closed, charging some of them a euro for a stamp, then trying to sell them Tau crosses! Oh, and the guy renting the house next door, when not touting himself as a "massage therapist," says he's opening a bar there. Wonderful! I wonder where his water supply will come from.
the camino near Quintanilla de las Vinas, Burgos.

Last week I met my friend Laurie in Santo Domingo de Silos, a medieval monastery town known for its chanting Benedictine brothers. We walked 22 km. from there to Covarrubias, another precious half-timbered mountain town, and then 15 more km. up into the hills, following the Camino de San Olav, a tourist initiative enthusiastically created a few years ago, now left to semi-abandonment. We had a great time. I suffered only mild heat exhaustion and delirium, ate and drank and slept well. (I don't usually walk more than 25 km. in a day!) We rolled into Burgos three days later.

We saw dinosaur tracks, Spain's second-oldest church (Visigothic), a Roman cemetery, a couple of Romanesque little jewel-box churches, a 19th-century amateur church interior that was an amazingly glowing bright turquoise, and a ghastly new "hermitage" and bell-tower that resemble a cardboard box alongside a coal tipple. Oh, and thousands of birds, wildflowers, owls, eagles, hawks, buzzards, cuckoos, and a toad. And a snake, which was dead.  

that glowing turquoise!
Laurie walks like a boss. She's a good ten years older than I am, but she can stride through 40 kilometers and finish up in time for dinner. (She won't stop for lunch. I leaned heavily on bananas for survival.) But Laurie stops for  museums, beers, or a Roman fountain routed through recycled sarcophagi. Her Spanish is good and enthusiastic, so people happily set aside their chores and open up the shut-down museum or clock tower or hermitage for us to rummage around in.

a watery tomb 
With Laurie I don't have to map out the day, or set the pace, or ask for the keys. She has a GPS unit. I just roll along in her wake, smelling the wild thyme, listening to the wind in the trees, remembering the occasional local saint's legend. It's good for my head, to not be in charge. Laurie asks good questions, and can answer a good few, too.

My favorite part of this trip came at the end of the second day, a long, long afternoon's hike. I had already lacerated my arms and legs in an overgrown creekside briar-patch, and up ahead stood a sheer cliff, topped with a church. Mondubar de San Ciprian, our stopping place, was on the other side. The GPS wanted to send us a good 4 km. out of the way, to skirt around it. We decided the people of the town below had to get up to church somehow. There had to be a trail. We started climbing.

Not far up, we ran out of trail. We looked around, considered our options, felt the 20% grade, maybe mumbled a bad word or two. And then she appeared.

Steaming up from the town below came a stout little woman in a straw boater hat. Her name was Eugenia, she was out for her afternoon airing, she said. Just happened to be passing along that sheer cliff-face. And sure, she'd show us how to get to Modubar. Easy! Just follow me!

She chattered all the way up, told us about life in Los Ausines -- a town that's really three little pueblos dotted around the bottom of  that mountain. Her barrio is the biggest, with ten year-round residents, she said. A doctor, a nurse, the works -- life's not bad there, except in winter. I saw no path. I didn't converse. I tried to keep up. Even Laurie lagged a little. We finally made it, breathless, to the top.

The views were fabulous. In the valley below at least 400 sheep were on their way home. We could've gone along the valley, Eugenia said, but it's a good thing we didn't, because those sheepdogs would've got us!

We toiled along the ridge, crossed the pass, said goodbye to Eugenia and found the friendly B & B in Modubar. The next morning was a breezy 19-km. stroll into Burgos, where we sat along the Espalon and ate gigantic American hamburgers!

I retrieved my car and drove myself  home. Laurie's hike continues. I am enjoying a couple of days at Peaceable, where Patrick and I are ALONE in the house... the first time in months!      

Wednesday, 25 May 2016


cleaning the chalice from Terradillos: Fun With Chemistry! 

It's half-past midnight on a Tuesday morning. I am way behind on the blog, but I won't even try to catch you up.

The hostel and albergue are packed with pilgrims, but we've gotten away with just a priest from New Zealand in the front end, a German upstairs, and dogs and cats everywhere else.

Springtime is a whirlwind here, and this year I over-booked myself severely. I like to think things are working themselves out now, but only time will tell. June will tell, maybe. I am working out on the edge of my ability to keep track, or at least where I feel I am competent.

Here's where things are:

First, Paddy. An eye specialist in Palencia injected Prednisone straight into Pad's eyeball. Eeeugh! But after a day or so Paddy picked up a paperback, and Boy Howdy! He can READ! Newspapers, internet pages, magazines, novels, wow! Not for a long time, and not tiny print, but hey... when you've gone without really reading for a while, this is a wonderful treat. Glory be.

Viva technology, and anabolic steroids, and socialized medicine! Paddy can see so much better, and it doesn't cost us a dime. Life is bright here in the Commie Socialist Darkness.

Then comes Albergue Monasterio de San Anton de Castrojeriz. (I am in charge of staffing this very rustic pilgrim shelter with volunteers.) Everybody loves San Anton. I have tons of hospitaleros who want to serve there, but they keep changing their minds and plans, their health is dodgy (dammit, can't you think about ME and MY plans before you have a stroke??) they're scared or unsure-of or allergic-to the cold nights or cold water or the darkness or the owl that lives on the roof...OMG OMG OMG! O Thank God I have Leonie and Anne, two excellent, no-nonsense, steady, merry souls from the Netherlands there these two weeks. June at San Anton is a ragbag of ten-day, seven-day, patched-together schedules, a legacy of San Anton's checkered, hippie-dippy past. Thank goodness Ollie still is here, he can fill in the gaps with perfect confidence, competence, good humor, and six languages.

And then there's "San Anton: A Little History." This is an artsy limited-edition booklet that Peaceable Publications is putting out, with illustrations by the illustrious California printmaker Melissa West, graphics by the legendary Kim Narenkevicius, with research, text, and editing by me and Scottish historian Robert Mullen. All of us worked for free. Proceeds will go to feed San Anton pilgrims... once the thing is ready to hit the streets, I'll make a big splash and make sure all of you get at least one, for a small consideration. Production is done. We're just waiting now on the printer, and someone to carry them over here to Spain. Anyone?

Albergue Villa de Grado, the new FICS albergue on the Camino Primivo in Asturias province, opens on 1 June! Staffing that place is a real challenge, probably because it's an unknown quantity. Still, so far, every shift has at least one stout-hearted volunteer assigned... with a few already signed-on for 2017!  Leonie and Anne will serve there, too -- you may hear great things from them soon, marvelous plans are afoot with these two!

I am a pioneer, a founder, a vision person -- I am not cut out for maintaining, staffing, juggling details. I am too absent-minded and noodle-brained, I can build you a stable and put horses in it, but I cannot keep track of the bridles and bits and the shit. Or so I think.
Somehow, though, I keep finding myself doing it, for free... or for the love of God.

Milagros and Flor, jardineras extraordinarias
Last weekend a Canadian pilgrim came here to get her head together after a crash-and-burn camino. She came along in the car when me and Milagros and Flor went to the greenhouse out at San Cebrian to buy flowers for the plaza mayor. I think she was overwhelmed by all the language and pollen and  the non-camino Spain, at least for the day. She was very quiet, but she knew about plants, which was very handy. We bought masses of flowers, fifty Euros worth, and potted or planted them all over the following few days, and scattered them around town, where they now look very small and puny indeed. It is a small beginning, but it makes me feel nice. In August my term is up as presidenta. Someone else can take charge of the Asociacion Cultural. It is right and just.

Me and the Canadian pilgrim re-dug and re-set the labyrinth. Hard work, but righteous. It's like ringing the church bells -- visitors love doing it. They don't often get these opportunities.
Women's work is never done

Meantime, the Camino Chaplaincy Meseta Ministry 2016 session started up, with the Rev. Patrick Brophy, a Marist priest from New Zealand, doing the honors at Terradillos and Moratinos. He's a sweetie, this one, very tall and soft-spoken, and timely -- because the wildflowers are blooming and the fields are lush and the pope has made 2016 a Year of Mercy, the pilgrim trail is these days utterly choked with pilgrims. We're packing them at at the pilgrim Masses, crowding 20 or 30 people around the altar every evening in Terradillos. Today the founder, a legendary Scot named John Rafferty, came over from Santiago on the train, bearing for us a beautiful porcelain chalice and paten for our Masses -- from Sargadelos, a spectacular porcelain producer in Galicia.
I am cleaning-up and tightening to bolts in the old silver chalice we've been using in Terradillos. It lists to starboard. I may use some of the Peaceable contribution fund to take it to a jeweler for a proper repair job, a small thank-you to the parish in Terradillos.

Father Patrick is staying in the new apartment on the front end of Peaceable, aka "the priest hole," or sometimes "the lurkum." We get occasional pilgrims in our salon still; two weeks ago this entire section of the camino hit gridlock -- Peaceable hosted nine pilgrims, with people dossed-down on sofas, chairs, and mattresses on the floor -- just like old times.    

Yesterday I had a toe-to-toe shouting fight with the mayor, a real first for me. He is a small man, apparently with no understanding of public service, or even rudimentary people skills. I asked about a dangerous tangle of steel in the kiddie playground, and he blew up in my face. I took the high road, but yeah, it was ugly and petty. I didn't call him any names. I didn't lose my temper. I didn't even lapse into English! But yeah, I raised my voice. I may not have won, but I burned that mofo to the ground.

Everyone who reads the new book marvels at it, calls it splendid, the best thing they've read that I ever wrote. I only wish one of them was a literary agent or even a sharp book publisher.

"Holy Year" is now in the hands of two New York agents, one in DC, and a publisher in London. None has made any response since the first exchange or two, but all are friends of friends or associates somehow... apparently the only way to go. The market is apparently flooded with amateur camino diaries, serious journalistic interviews of compostela pioneers, and turgid pilgrim memoirs. But this isn't any of those things. It is as unique as we are.  If they'd only look, they'd see. It really is that good.

And so you see I am over-subscribed. I do this subconsciously, as therapy. If I keep myself very busy doing good things, I will not be overwhelmed by depression, an illness that brings me to full stop if I let it take hold.

And so we shall see.  
And so we are busy, with more busy to come.
And so I ask you to pray for me, so I can keep up with it all.