Monday, 31 December 2007

The Year That Were

Like everyone else on this spinning planet, I am using the last hours of this year to look back and wonder what the heck happened here! LOTS happened this year, it may have been the most eventful year of all 45 in my collection. It´s been really educational, and heartbreaking, and amazing, and expensive. And it´s put some claws onto my already-blossoming crows´feet. But I kept good notes all the way through, so I figure 2007 is a good start to The Book that still has no resolution.

I did some summing-ups. Some are very sketchy and incomplete. Others I will leave out, to protect the innocent. But here goes:

Fifty-two people signed our guest book. A lot more got by without signing in. 32 countries were represented, the strangest being Oman, and the most common, the United Kingdom countries of England, Wales, and Scotland. Yes, we do tend to attract English-speakers. Must be those ties to the USA and UK confraternities, or maybe our listing in the UK guidebook? Or maybe it is the neighbors. PIlgrims who ask for something are often pointed in our direction, especially if they ¨look English.¨

Despite all that, we are known locally as ¨Los Americanos,¨ even with Paddy being so ghastly English. Anyway, lots of those visitors, to be fair, were not just random pilgrims. Many were people we knew before: fellow hospitaleros from Rabanal del Camino or Miraz, (like Frank from Scotland, or the Wallsgroves from Wales, or Marianne The Swiss), or folks we walked with on our caminos, like Dick from Holland, or Immacolada from Italy, coming by to check out the mess we´re in. Others are people who stopped here for coffee early on, and came back! Some of them stayed for weeks even, to help out ... including Sebastian from Belgium, (in the picture, smoking) Anselmo from Valencia, and The Czech Boys. I thank them all, very very much.

Others were Family. Libby and Ryan, you´ve read about ad nauseum... both from the depths of Ohio, both incredibly helpful and full of insights and refreshing laughter and good cookin´, when they weren´t out there pounding the path. Such helpful people can fetch up here anytime!

There are other people who we were glad to see the backs of, but I won´t go so much into that. You might recognize them.

We have actually made some progress at The Peaceable Kingdom. We do have a good, level roof, and new floors and walls upstairs, at VAST expense. We´ve found a new contractor who´s already delivered windows. We´ve integrated somewhat into our community, and Paddy and I are still on speaking terms with one another. What more could you ask for?

Except maybe a new dog. Paddy says the day he went out walking with Una, and came back with Tim as well, was his single best day´s walking he did this year. Is that lovely, or what? (and then there are The Chicken Girls...)

I did some other BEST and WORST thinkings...

Best Nap of the Year: Was at the Refugio in Arres, back in June, when I walked the Camino Aragonés. I walked a good 30 kilometers that day, including a hike up and back down a horrific mountain. In the rain. God did I NAP!

Best Wine Discovery: the wines of Toro, Zamora, right here in Castilla-Leon. So far my favorite is Colegiata de Fariña. Around here it goes for about 5 Euro a bottle. I don´t know if it´s exported. Amazing wine, like drinkable perfume.

Best Meal of the Year: was 29 November at Chez Toinette, a neighborhood bistro in the 9th arrondisement of Paris. An undiscovered gem of a place with a menu that changes every day. I had scallops braised in coconut milk, which sounds awful but was absolutely divine. And fresh cheese and berries for dessert. And Armagnac. I think this little restaurant may be the key to world peace. If you go to Paris, do not miss it. But don´t tell everybody, OK, or you´ll ruin it! (I was treated by my best bud Jeanne. I´d roasted the Thanksgiving turkey a few days before at her place.)

Someday soon I will learn to make fresh cheese. It´s sorta like ricotta. Maybe after we get a goat.

Best Mail: A tie of several ways. My Aunt Esther sent me a real old-fashioned chatty hand-written letter telling me all about Thanksgiving in rural Western Pennsylvania, my cousin´s chemo treatments, the llamas, the horses, the weather. A thing of beauty. Another was from Kathy Gower, one of my greatest upholders... she sends books, fabulous books! My sister Beth sends Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which has saved my sanity a time or two. My mother sent an entire overseas shipment of my Stuff from America in February... much of which has now vanished into the barn somewhere. And the Junta de Castilla-Leon, God bless their black little hearts, sent me notice in February that I had been approved for Legal Residence in Spain. WooHoo!

Best Nature Moment: Seeing a funnel cloud outside Calzadilla de la Cueza this spring. Terrifying and wonderful. ... but then there were the poppies in June, everywhere.

The best architectural moment: Touring around over the roofs of the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela at sundown with my dear bud George from William and Mary, and his merry crew. He gave me a quick mid-summer vacation that really rallied my spirits, and showed me parts of Santiago I never would have seen otherwise.

Best Day´s Work: Installing the baldosas on the floor of our despensa, singing songs with Patrick the Czech. The baldosas (old funky floor tiles) came from a crumbling barn owned by Edu, our neighbor. Patrick the Czech helped me lay them, very unskillfully, into concrete. We taught one another ´Salomon,´a Czech anthem, and ´By the Mark,´an American hymn. Someday the floor will be GREAT. I think Patrick the Czech may be a mystic boddhisatva, traveling this world and teaching people things they need to learn.

Best outcome: The front of our bodega, shored-up and whitewashed and generally made much more respectable, with help from Dick from Holland. We scored major points with the neighbors on this one. The other really proud outcome was the latest issue of "American Pilgrim" magazine, which I did some heavy work on and loved. I am very proud of how that turned out. I hope it was not a swan song!

Coldest moment: Was the coldest WEEK! The second week of January, at the pilgrim refuge at Eunate, up in Navarre. I volunteered to help reopen the place. There was no heat. I have never been so cold, not since Halloween 1967 in Denver, Colo. So much for "sunny Spain!"

Best View: Was way the heck up in the Pyrenees Mountains... there was no town to peg it to. My buds Edie and Kathy from California let me drive them all over Catalunya and into Andorra in June, and we toiled all the way up to a tiny resort town atop a mountain. From a layby on the way down the peaks were magnificent. Who knew the Pyrenees were so thick and tall and serried? Amazing! And what great company!

The Best Welcome: Every morning, when we drive from Sahagun to Moratinos, and open the front gate. The dogs go crazy with joy, as if we´ve been away for months.

I won´t go into my Most Scary, Most Boring, Most Strange, Most Stupid, Most Horrifying or Most Heroic moments, as they are depressing or the Statute of Limitations is not yet expired on them. Suffice to say this has been one amazing year... and having 7,000-plus hits on my blog in less than 6 months (even if a lot of them were probably just spammers looking for mugs) makes me feel a LOT less isolated out here!

I do hope some of you will show your faces this new year. Maybe we will have a place for you to stay by the time you arrive. Bring your allergy medicine... and the sharpest cheddar cheese you can find!

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