Thursday, 4 October 2007

The Promised Land

The sun is out, at least for a while. Paddy´s cutting up vegetables for soup, making the air sting with onion.
I took the dogs walking this morning to The Promised Land.

I may have written before about The Promised Land. It´s a great miles-wide khaki-colored swath of fields and vineyards on the other side of our two highways. It´s only a few hundred meters from our house, but it feels like another country altogether. There aren´t many roads. The only towns are miles away, and all you can see are the church towers. Sometimes there´s a tractor, but no people, ever. No telephone poles, no buildings, no lights or phones or cars. And no pilgrims at all. It is easy to see the landscape there in abstract -- the longer I live in Spain, the easier it is to see why Surrealism took root here. The landscape is full of abstraction.

It´s lonely and wild. The roads are made of powder-fine dust, soft underfoot when it´s dry and goodgy when it´s muddy, and all speckled with the tracks of animals. There are definitely foxes and least weasels, mice and raptors, prey and predators. Here and there are little patches of bones, fur, and feathers where The Circle Of Life closed down on someone. The neighbors say there´s a flock of Avutarda living over there, a rare turkey-like bird. And wolves. This is the side of the highway with the mountains in plain sight. Sometimes people even see full-size weasels here, and deer -- mountain critters, come down to the plain.

The dogs took great delight in flushing flocks of quail from the hedgerows. Una leapt into the air and pirhouetted and yipped with delight, and Tim ran back and forth as if asking them to do that explosion thing again. They both got horribly dirty. It was a nice workout for all of us, a good four-mile hike for me and a complete full-body workout for them.

Paddy and I talked about roofs, getting a roofer in here before winter to re-do the chicken hut and the barns. It´s so hard to know whether to go forward with other things, or wait til the legal situation works out with the main house... Waiting does not seem to bother him. It makes me crazy, just sitting still while the water pours in and soaks the adobe and the timbers.

Speaking of which... I opened up the big suitcase full of winter woollens, the one that took the downpour earlier this week. The news isn´t bad as I thought. For some reason I´d put my big winter ski coat in there first, and put all the delicate things in after, and zipped up the coat around them. Glory be, I did something right! The coat is damp and musty, but the things inside seem just fine. We have a strange assortment of things hanging on the clothesline now.

Our new laundry machine will arrive on Tuesday. We bought this uniquely European appliance yesterday: a combination washer and dryer. We probably did not shop around enough, but both Paddy and I found the shopping experience excruciating. We are turning into hermits, without a doubt. We already live in a cave and speak in monosyllables. The only real obstacles are our fondness for museums, blogging, books, and international cuisine.

Even as our house project has stalled, our neighbors Marianne and James are scurrying on theirs. She is Irish, he is English, they met three years ago on the Camino They are the original Moratinos foreign pioneers, they came here and bought a ruined farm compound right at the point where the camino enters the town. They want to have an albergue, (an overnight refuge for pilgrims), but have run into innumberable obstacles on their way... including familiar tropes like disappearing builders, materializing cracks and leaks, high ideals and long winters... even the proprietor of the pilgrim hostel in San Nicolas, who´s harrassed them with legal complaints to slow their progress and keep all the pilgrim business for himself. They have two completely lovely toddlers named Poppy and Finn. They live in a rented piso in a town 20 km. away, so they don´t get to integrate into Moratinos like we can. Still, they keep coming back, making periodic progress on a very daunting task.

James is especially charming, and the house project, using old-fashioned adobe and appealing colors and imaginative arches and brickwork, draws pilgrims like honey. They sometimes volunteer to lend a hand, and you never know who you might see out in the yard, scrubbing old tiles or flinging adobe cob up on the walls. (that´s where Anselmo´s been working the past few weeks.) Theirs is a real communal kind of vibe. In the last couple of months it´s taken off, with interior plasterwork and a general outdoor cleanup, wiring and plumbing and carpentry and all kinds of things going in. It´s exciting to see it progress. It may be habitable by next spring. (They´re going to Ireland to spend the winter, on a cottage on the beach. Romantic, no?)

So we know building a place here is do-able, even if it turns into a monumental ´do it yourself.´ Even if we are not 32 years old, and charming enough to recruit a corps of international volunteers... Seeing how their place has stalled-out a few times but kept coming back, it makes me think our place, too, will see progress again.

The waiting is the hardest part. But this IS the Camino, you know. And some solution always comes up, usually at the last minute, with or without us worrying and fretting over it. The Promised Land, after all, is just over the road.

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