Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Hunkered In

The sky keeps changing colors, the wind roars all night and morning. Sometime overnight it pulled the chicken-hut door off its hinges and smashed it to kindling.
We are down to one aged hen. The orange cats sit with her on the woodpile, keeping her company.   
Moratinos hunkers down. The water in the furrows turns to ice, the dogs delight the sudden slide underfoot. I have to take them out each morning, even when the wind is knocking me sideways, tearing aluminum strips off the highway bridge and flinging them down the autopista. There are almost no cars or trucks on the autopista. It’s dangerous to drive, wind here, snow to the north, the passes over the mountains are closed.  A man was killed up there yesterday, putting on his tire-chains at Pajares. A car slid on the ice and into him, hit his head, knocked him dead.  
The roaring goes on
for hours and days, it shoves smoke back down the chimney, it takes down the rotten trees along the road to San Martin. Our house is drafty. The furnace goes and goes, but the halls are chilly. We keep the doors closed. Breezes blow under the sills and around the edges, through the little holes in the electrical outlets. The chimneys moan. 
Boris the canary sings on. We play Chopin nocturnes.
We spend our days apart. Paddy sleeps. Ollie is down at the hostal bar, there is noplace else to go in Moratinos in January. The cats and I sit on the sofa near the pellet stove, hidden behind two lines of drying laundry. Last night’s pilgrim was shocked that we hang laundry in our living room. “My wife would never permit that,” the Slovakian man said.  
“We are not bourgeois,” I told him. “We don’t have a dryer. The laundry dries in here where the stove is.”  
The laundry smells clean.  
It’s started to snow.  It won’t last.  The sun shines bright, but the sky is grey as gunmetal.
The chimney thunders. Another pilg is on his way, a Swede, or maybe a Finn, or a Dane. 

Thursday, 26 December 2019

God's on Calle Ontanon

The pilgrim's name was Carly, or some approximation thereof. She was from China, from Hangzhou, a city south of Shanghai. She is a corporate recruiter, traveling the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail alone, in December, with no Spanish language skills and little English. She’d dropped her mobile phone in a puddle. Every day she was cut off a little more from everything she knew.   
Carly stayed at our house Christmas eve.  
She walked from Carrion de los Condes, arrived at dusk, washed and napped and had some tea, and went with us at 8 p.m. to the neighbors’ house for roast lamb. (Our neighbors have the hospitality gene. And who’s going to turn away a stranger on Christmas eve?)
Carly sat quietly among the merry group, politely tried a taste of everything we offered, occasionally touched my arm to ask is this cucumber, or squash?  She was tired. I thought she was having trouble tracking the Spanish conversation, so I translated parts of it. None of us knew any of the Chinese languages. Nary a word.
Then someone asked Carly the inevitable pilgrim question:  Why are you walking the Camino? And why alone, in December? 
Carly answered in halting, unsure English. She warmed to the language as she went on. We sat, rapt, as she told us why.  (Ollie and I translated to Spanish for our hosts.)
“December is when I can escape my job. And December is when nobody else is on the trail. I want to walk alone. I tried to find a Chinese person to walk with me, but no one had heard of this place or this walk.”  
“In China it is all study, study, study when you are young, and work, work, work when you’re adult. There is no time for forming yourself. There’s never any attention for why you are doing all of this, what it means. There is nothing to make you know you mean something in this world. There is no teaching about God.”   
“So I am walking to find what I am. I want to find God. I understand this is a religious pilgrimage, so I come here to find him. Or her. To find about religion.”
Everyone looked at each other.
“But China is home to some of the most ancient and elegant religions of the world,” I said. “Confucius. The Tao. The Buddha?”  Carly shook her head. It was like she’d never heard of them.
“We have a family religion,” she said. “Ancestors. And there are Christians in China, in my city. Two kinds of churches, one with Jesus, and one with Mary. I don’t know the difference.”
“So… are you Christian?” someone asked.
“I love Jesus,” she said plainly. “But I don’t know about him, or the church. That is why I came.”  
Everyone sat quietly for a moment.
“He is here,” she said. “God is here.”  
"God is everywhere," Maria Valle said. 
Carly and I left the party soon after that. We talked on the way home about camino churches and Mary and Jesus. Clearly religious buzzwords like “salvation” and “righteousness” and “savior” were of no use to her. Scripture was meaningless. She was context-free, a tabula rasa, a hungry soul that had, somehow, found an anchor in the wide sea of secular China.
The churches along the Way are locked up in this off-season December. There’s no Chinese Bible within 100 miles of here. I didn’t know what to tell Carly, how to help her grow in her simple faith. I wasn’t sure if I should. She was doing pretty well on her own.  
“I don’t need books and buildings and priests. I am finding him. He is here.” She waved her hands in the dark, to pull Calle Ontanon, Palencia, the highway and the starry sky into the equation. “In the quiet. God is everywhere.”    
“And here,” I said, touching her shoulder. “In you. The reason we are smiling. The reason you came here to walk. You have the spirit of the Christ.”  
The walk from MariValle’s house is not very long. Carly was exhausted. She went straight to bed when we got home.
She left in the morning before I woke.
If you pray, please put in a word for her.  

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Who's Afraid of the Dark?

this morning on the Meseta

Well OK, I got a little dark yesterday.

It IS the Winter Solstice today, after all. It’s OK. It’s only natural.

Winter Solstice. I looked it up, and read maxims and meditations about the Earth’s axis, the “shortest day of the year,” farmers, crops, light, and of course Druids. (Druids and Templars apparently did everything that’s mystical or hip.) Everybody was really strong on the lights, candles, the twinkling brightness, hope against the blackness of the long, long night.

But then again, I thought, what’s so bad about the dark? Isn’t it just as real and normal as light? Don’t plenty of good, fruitful things happen in the dark? Don’t seeds sprout out of the darkness of the soil?
I commiserated with a friend, like me trying to analyze our anger at the way things are going nowadays in our countries. I told her to go someplace very quiet, shut the door, and let herself poke around at the base of her anger – what is it she is clinging to that no longer fits, that’s not real, that’s frustrating her?
She stopped me. Isn’t it sinful, wallowing in that darkness, letting those feelings take over? Isn’t it kinda… dangerous? Shouldn’t you always strive for the light, the brightness, the music?

I thought about that for a minute. I said No.

Babies are formed in darkness, and it doesn’t do them any harm.  We are formed of both light and darkness, equal parts – light and shadow.  If you never let yourself “go dark,” you will never find out what’s down there waiting for you. It might be a dragon. It might be Prince Charming. It might be the brainstorm that’s gonna change your life forever. It’s all You. But if you’re always busy with light, bright sweetness and chatter, you’re never going to pull that powerful stuff out of your Shadow and learn to use it.
the labyrinth under the trees, in Fall 
I walked in the rain out to our little labyrinth, on the Camino between Moratinos and Terradillos de los Templarios. The Ditch Pigs crew reset its stones in November, it stands out along the path, but most pilgrims never notice it. I walked the circle in, and then the circle out, praying aloud for my family, projects, country, town, health, and friends. I do that every Solstice, and every Equinox, four times every year. It keeps my inner calendar set. It reminds me of where I am in time, on the Earth, in a medium-size spiral galaxy of stars. How small I am, how tiny my life is.

How little it means, darkness and light, evil and good, seasons and solstices. We all are little solar systems in our own heads, full of daylight and dark, good and evil, intellect and idiocy.   
We gotta be patient with our darkness, and not fear our long nights and dark sides. God lives in the dark, too. That’s where she came from.        

Damp and Darksome

a summer storm in Promised Land, described in FFOG opening chapter

Rain roars on the roof and muddies the gutters. It stays dark all day. Outdoors smells nice in the mornings, but the rivers and rills and ditches are flooding. We kinda enjoy the excitement until our socks get wet.
The book is out, finally. It's doing OK, considering how slowly deliveries are moving. After all the rush and work, it's anticlimactic. I am low.   
I bought new winter gloves, and lost the left one immediately. Always the left glove. My left hand is cold all the time. 
I miss my children, and my mom. I miss a few things about Christmas.
I ordered a new English-speaking computer, and it was swallowed up somewhere between UPS and Spanish Customs. I had to cancel the order. My old computer, this old trusty HP from 2014, is almost dead. I have a shiny red Dell, but it doesn't speak English. And even after 13 years of full-on life in Spain, I still do not have fluency enough to drive a computer in Spanish.
Evil people have taken over in England and the USA. No one seems to know how to stop them.
I am on a wait-list for an operation to remove my gall bladder. Maybe after the operation I will not be so splenetic. We shall see. Meantime, it hurts a lot. I wish it was over. I hope I can get the operation before Brexit takes away my health coverage. Life is complicated.
Christmas is almost here. Pilgrims are coming. Very wet pilgrims. 
It's raining so much the sewers are backing up. Our upstairs toilet doesn't want to flush. When the wind blows, water comes in beneath the front door. 
The dogs are healthy. They sing trios every morning in the barn to wake us up. I walk them to the Promised Land, and they vanish into holes at the rabbit warren. They are having the time of their lives, undermining the fence that keeps them off the fatal four-lane Autopista beyond. 
At home, the living room is draped in cats. They are making Paddy unwell. 
I had new photos for this blog, but the server rejects them. No can do. 
We have a little plastic Christmas tree, and I have a few gifts to put underneath it.
Maria Valle and Joaquin invited us to dinner Christmas Eve.
So even with all the sad-making circumstance, we'll be OK.
The sun will come back.
It always has, so far. 

Saturday, 14 December 2019

"Furnace" is Lit Up!

The stars are lining up. I drove to Rabanal del Camino on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadelupe, patroness of the Americas. (I am American-born, so she’s my girl.) Somewhere up above that terrific rain and windstorm was a full moon in Gemini, the last of the year 2019 — a great time to launch something new, I am told. (I usually leave the witches and fortune-telling and evil-eyes to the Basques and Gallegos and gypsies, but the coincidences lately are reaching Camino proportions!)

And so here we are in the warm lounge of The Stone Boat Inn, where Kim and I are launching A FURNACE FULL OF GOD, the memoir I have been writing for many, many years. Right now it is a trade paperback book of 246 pages, clear and bright, funny and profound, colorful and stark, it will make you laugh, it will surely make you cry (that was my specialty, back in my newspaper feature-writing days). There’s also a spankin’ new website that will collect all the blogs, non-profits, webs, etc. under a single umbrella.
If you have followed “Big Fun in a Tiny Pueblo” blog lo these many years, you may recognize some of these stories. “Furnace Full of God” is the story of Peaceable Kingdom, our house on the Camino, the pilgrims who stay there with us, the Holy Year 2010, and what happened that year to Moratinos, our tiny pueblo. It is spiritual, but not religious. It is deeply felt, but not mawkish. It is professionally written and edited, and beautifully designed and illustrated. I am very proud of what it’s become.
And now it’s become, here at Kim’s little Kingdom. The Camino even sent us Graham, an Australian pilgrim who’s a retired editor, and a curry chef! to keep the wheels turning and to act as witness, and to open the champagne bottle…

I know I am pushing the limit for Christmas giving, but if you order direct from Amazon, there’s still time! Order here for the first-edition paperback. Signed copies will be available from the shop at Casa Ivar in Santiago de Compostela as soon as possible. Kindle and e-reader editions will be available within a week, honest! And because you are already a Peaceable supporter, here’s a little Christmas bonus for you, a taste of what’s inside the Furnace: Chapter 17.
Woo Hoo!

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Spain is in the House

On FaceBook I sometimes post what country is “in the house,” and often the followers enjoy a glimpse of life on the international pilgrim trail.  Today it is Spain.

The pilgrim arrived this afternoon, a taciturn Valenciano with pale skin and worn-down boots. His name is Pop. His Spanish has an odd French twist to it. He did not take off his hat, or say much more than hello. He had a cup of tea, and ate up the cookies I sat down alongside. He was gruff.

He greeted Paddy with a “You clearly speak no Spanish at all.”  Paddy surprised him with a reasonably fluent response, but nothing much more was said. Ollie shot me a look that said, “how rude!”  

We get the occasional Spaniard in winter, and they often decide to not stay here, especially if they are traveling solo. We try to make them welcome, but we clearly are too foreign for them, our house and company a bit too intimate for comfort. I thought Pop might move along, too, but he was clearly exhausted.

We let him get on with his shower and nap. Ollie made spaghetti Bolognese. I found some good wine in the little kitchen, left over from Thanksgiving.  Pop showed up for dinner.

He was transformed. Once he got his ear around our accents and some food in his belly, we chatted about Paddy’s painting studio, this week’s visit to a museum in La Rioja, the arts in Spain. And we learned that Pop is a professional puppeteer who travels from festival to festival doing “micro-theater,” 10-minute dramas performed on a stage the size of a bread box, using teeny-tiny marionettes. The audience watches through little peep-holes. He calls it a “Pop Show.” It originated in Brazil, he said, and it’s definitely adults-only entertainment.

And so our worlds expanded. We learned of an art form we’d never seen or heard of before.
Pop got a hot meal and some company after a long day on a lonely stretch of Camino.  He went to bed early, smiling a big gap-tooth smile.
I don’t like flags, or nations, or the concept of countries and states and tribes. I think those ideas have served their purpose, and are becoming obstacles now to our evolution. It’s time we stopped celebrating the things that divide us, and focus on what we have in common.

But it IS fun to scan through the pilgrim registry books here at Peaceable and Villa de Grado and see where all our pilgrims come from, what place made them what they are.

Tonight it’s Valencia, over east, along the Mediterranean coast.

Spain is in the house, along with Germany, England, and the US of A.  

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Coming Right UP

No, I am not dead.  I have spent the last few months dedicating my energies to Peaceable Projects Inc., the US-based charity we founded two years ago.  I've edited three books with author Mitch Weiss, and just this very day released this to the whole world and a few thousand email contacts:   

Back in America it's Thanksgiving Day.
The Ditch Pigs Camino Cleanup is out on the road somewhere between Vilares del Orbigo and San Justo de la Vega, picking up trash in the rain.
Meantime, me and Kim are hogging two "office tables" in the bar at Hotel Asturplaza in Astorga, Spain, using their internet and friendly food and drink service...
"A Furnace Full of God" is now registered, barcoded, and posted on Amazon!
This memoir is the product of years of work: writing, editing, designing, drawing, and just plain living, by me (Rebekah Scott) and Kim, aka Stone Boat Midwifery, who made it all look so good.
(I think this makes us digital nomads!)
We still need to look over the final author copy before we make it public, and then we will post the final link and let you know ... and you'll have them in time for Christmas giving.