Thursday, 24 April 2008

The Romance of Ticks

A kind Irish lady writes to me. She longs for a simpler life, and apparently Spain is calling her name.

Having been in the same situation for a very long time, her feelings resonate with me. I appreciate her candor, and the fact that this longing for faraway places is widespread enough to support a growing genre of travel/expat non-fiction.

What struck me most was this line: "I long for simplicity and the joys that you mention... reveling in the sky, clouds, birdsong and the sheer joy of living of your dogs. It makes this world of mine seem so shallow and meaningless."

Gott in Himmel! Can I live up to this? So, it is to her, and all the similar people I hear from, that I dedicate today´s blog entry. It is a description of this morning: a particularly romantic, deep, and meaningful morning.

It really started last night, when a Dutch pilgrim showed up in town with yet another stray dog picked up outside Carrion de los Condes. This pup is evidently half German Shepherd and half something smaller. It seemed quite healthy and happy and energetic, even after hiking 25 kilometers.

We fed both man and beast, and kept the dog overnight at the Peaceable. Today we´ll take her (for she is a she) in to the vet to look for the ID microchip required of all EU canines. From there we will take her home, as three dogs is demasiado.

And so when we rolled in this morning, three happy hysterical leaping creatures greeted us at the gate. Una and Tim didn´t slay her overnight, which is good. And she didn´t do too much damage we could see... Although someone made a mess in the kitchen-to-be. A bigger dog, apparently. A little message for us.

We took a walk. Celestino is working on his bodega, and asked us to come back about noon to sample the olives and cheese he cured in there last year. Woah! A lunch date!

Back at the Peaceable I settled onto the porch with a saucer-ful of paint thinner and a fine-tooth comb and the puppy, who I am calling Mimi. I put a mask over my nose and mouth, as I am allergic to dogs up close. Then, with Paddy holding her close, I removed the dozens of lumpy brown and gray blood-sucking ticks attached to her ears, face, head, muzzle, arms, stomach, back, and tail. Ticks are really bad here in the spring, and we spend a good bit of time feeling-up our dogs. We often find disgusting blood-sucking creatures tucked into their coats, despite flea collars and anti-bug baths.

I am particularly good at this feeling-up. Last year, the neighbors brought their infested curs over here for a going-over. This is not something I have bragged to my mother about. I don´t think there is a prize committee out there searching for tick-pickers. But I have always had good hands, and dogs and cats, horses and sheep, chickens and ferrets always love it when I touch them. Ticks, no. The ticks go into the paint thinner, where I hope they DIE.

After her de-ticking I decided to give Mimi a bath. Bob sang, Paddy chopped up potatoes for an omelette to bring along to Celestino´s. I put the dog into the little bathtub. She didn´t like it. And I realized I didn´t have a cup or a bowl or anything to pour the water over her. She started trying to jump out. I yelled for Paddy, who was listening to Modern Jazz Quartet just then, turned WAY up. I had to yell and yell, which made the pup even more scared, so I had to hold onto her even harder.

That´s when the electricians came through the gate. They stepped over the dish of dead ticks in the entryway, pushed aside the leaping, barking Tim and Una, and put their heads into the bathroom long enough to say they needed me to tell them where to put everything. Paddy took over the dog. I went into the house with the men.

The omelette was still cooking on the stove.

I really do like the flavor of a very well-browned onion. The tortilla is still perfectly edible, but not company-worthy.

Things calmed down a little after that. I decided to plant the trumpet vine next to the well, so it can climb up over the well structure and bloom gloriously in August. For this I needed a shovel. And the shovels are out back by the chicken coop. I headed out. Una and Tim went with me. And the pup slipped through the door, too.

She was instantly plunged into the atavistic joy of making chickens run, the thrill of hearing a woman shout "Nononono!", the excitement of seeing if she could outrun Una AND grab a mouthful of hen at the same time. Paddy came pounding outside, and by then Blodwin was cornered in the sloebush, screaming horrible hen screams I hope I never hear again. Paddy gave me a look that would wither a Mongol, then hauled the puppy back through the house.

I pulled Blodwin out of the hedge, fearing the worst, feeling through her feathers for broken skin or bone or blood. I held her against me with both hands and spoke quietly to her. I couldn´t feel anything obviously out of order, except her little heart pattering along like a wristwatch. I looked into her gleaming dinosaur eye. And she pecked me.

I put her and her mates into the chicken hut and closed the door. They all are walking and squawking normally, aside from a few literally ruffled feathers. Blodwin is one lucky chicken. So far.

I never did get that shovel, dammit.

The needy electricians are still here, so Paddy went on his own to Celestino´s bodega. He took Mimi with him. Tim and Una decided not to be jealous. They are asleep on the sidewalk outside, where the bright sun bounces off the house and nicely toasts their hides. The laundry dries on the line. Bob exchanges jazz phrases with the sparrows and grackles, right up to the moment Paddy comes back. He´s got a pair of pilgrims with him. "They´re from Seattle," he says, "I thought you might want a look at them."

Dierdre, you´re right. It might be just as shallow and meaningless here as anywhere else, and probably much more gruesome and disgusting. But there´s an awful lot of added sweetness, too.

1 comment:

The Solitary Walker said...

Loved this funny-sweet description of the reality behind the romance, Rebekah!