Sunday, 22 July 2007

Sunflowers, Dust, and 'Sketty

I am thinking of things besides writing projects, at least this Sabbath Day. A summer breeze is blowing hard across the Meseta, filling the sky with fake-looking clouds. We took our big long Sunday hike this afternoon, over a web of farm tracks that criss-crosses miles and miles of this area. There's been no rain for weeks, and the tractors have pounded the surface underfoot into golden-brown, powder-fine dust a quarter-inch deep. The trails appear and disappear between tiny towns with names like Villelga, Villalon, Villada, Escobar de Campos, San Martin de los Fuentes, and Grajal de Campos ("grail of the fields.") These "pueblins," or hamlets, crop up every three or four miles, with nothing in between but fields laid over a rolling landscape. You can see for miles... or kilometers.

Because monster industrial farms haven't taken over here, the landscape isn't boring like Kansas or Iowa. The plots are only two or three acres big and there's a wide variety of things growing in them, giving that patchwork look that's so pleasing. The cut hay lies in yellow stripes, the alfalfa is still deep green, oats wallow and wave under the wind, and newly turned fields are dark brown corrugations. In June there were fields painted solid red with poppies, and now in July there are acres of violent yellow sunflowers, all facing the same direction. (when you walk past it always seems like someone is watching you. Really.)

Here and there we saw a combine harvester or a pickup truck. But for most of the hike we were the only figures visible. Still, the guys in the tractors see all. I expect to be quizzed within the next couple of days by the neighbors about why we chose to walk out among those fields out toward Escobar, so far from town for a Sunday afternoon.

It would be easy to get lost if you didn't have some kind of bearing. The fields and hills look alike, and even the distant towns all have similar church towers, grain elevators, poplar trees and an orchard or two strung out along the rio. Smart people would take a compass. We take Una Dog, who so far has always found her way home. And I have a sharp eye for details and a good sense of direction, at least out on the campo. (Cities and highways are another story.)

We ended up in St. Nicolas de Real Camino, and went backward along the Camino de Santiago to get home to Moratinos. On the way we stopped and spoke to two pilgrims, a woman on foot and a man on a bike, both of them keen to find the next place with an available bed and a filling meal. We marveled at how international the camino is, the four of us chatting there in some kind of Spanish: an Italian, an Englishman, an Argentine and an Americana.

Pilgrims are very focused people. They remind me of how absorbed I become when I have a goal in sight, how I miss out on so much that's standing just over that hill to the left or that mountain to the north. Focus is good, unless it isn't. We are fortunate, living here. We can enjoy the pilgrims and the Camino, and also take time to ramble in the fields and pathways that parallel and cross and the Way. The Camino is such a rich experience. But Spain is out there, too, outside the lines.

I hope it rains tonight. I want to see how well our new roof works, before they start putting in drywall and other non-waterproof things. Oh, and my first mosaic, a little hand-sized plaque with a nice stylized cross, has turned out just dandy!

As for the writing project: Yes, I am writing something crazy. Unfortunately it requires me to immerse myself in memories, diary entries, blogs, and just plain academic-type research; some of it fun, some of it not nice at all. I've had a couple of "smack upside the head" moments of realization, the "wow, why didn't I recognize that?" stuff I am sure happens to people who think they know what they're looking at when it's staring them in the face... when they don't! Things are coming together now, but slowly. And all the re-thinking of things I'd put aside is actually working its way into my dreams at night!

It's fascinating to note that our town has only about 25 people living in it, and good 10 percent are truly "not all there." Should we be drinking the tap water, I wonder?

I thought about just shelving the story idea, but no. This is just too damn compelling to let go, even if it does get me down. There's been some really good writing done around here in the past year, and more is happening all the time. (My audience has shrunk somewhat, but I thank you, dear blog readers, for checking me in!)

Ryan's made 'sketty with mushrooms (from our mushroom field) and toasted pine nuts and walnuts! No time to blog! (It's going to be hard to let this boy go back to Cleveland!)

1 comment:

Kris said...

Well your "sketty" sounds yummy!

I really like this posting. My goal is not to be so focused on Santiago but enjoying each step and experience I have. I expect to be in Moratinos some time in mid-June, I would love to stop by if you still accept pilgrims.