Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Pilgrims, and why we keep going to the dump

I am neglecting you, blogsters, I know. But I´ve been been busy, mostly in good ways. Honest.

We still are waiting on all the doors for the house, and the counter-top granite, and the finishing-off crew. We need to be out of the Sahagun apartment May 7, so we decided not to wait around. We have started moving in! It´s a bigger job than it first appears.

We´ve made several trips to the dump in the last few days. It´s hard to believe, after more than a year we still are sifting through the decades of accumulated "oh, I´ll hang onto this, it might be handy someday" junk the last family left behind: unidentifiable rusted lumps of former farm machinery and furniture, file cabinets that were at some point run over by tractors, busted bricks, sacks of concrete that got wet and turned to stone, the hateful acres of dirty plastic that sheathed the house when we had no roof. Oh, and a shiny black lacquer and gold-chrome mirrored bar that glowed in the corner of the salon for a while after we moved in. It was a marvel of pimp aesthetic, but somehow it didn´t fit into our plans for the place. We couldn´t find a home for it, so it ended up at the dump. The magpies, hawks, storks, and goldfinches are even now admiring their reflections in its many mirrors. (We find the dump is an amazing place for bird-watching.)

Mixed in with the dirty junk in our house is a truckload of stuff, mostly books, we had shipped over from USA last year. A lot of that was crap, too, but important crap. (I only wish I´d shipped my rocking chair, but the shippers would likely have smashed it like they smashed the other furniture.) All of the above is liberally dusted with dust or dirt or adobe, from spending at least the past year in the barn or garage or despensa.

The things we want to use must be cleaned, carried inside, and assembled. The rest needs to have a place made for it. And meantime I am studying my Drivers Test lessons, and potting and planting the summer flowers. I busted my hump putting in two rows of different types of sunflowers along the ugly wall out back, and the next morning I found the chickens had dug them all up and eaten every one. Greedy old things.

It´s not all forced labor, no matter what Patrick says. We´ve taken a day off here and there. On Saturday we discovered a great hike just south of here, 10 kilometers that pass through three villages. It includes a holy well, a stone sarcophagus (Roman? Visigothic?) now being used as a watering trough, the brutal three-dog slaying of a foot-long hissing green lizard, a Via Crucis, two very fabulous and huge churches towering over their tiny neighborhoods, and a bodega village that´s reminiscent of a surreal spaghetti western. It was a great day´s walk, and it left us all beat... even the dogs were doggin´ it by the end. Excellent. (Here´s a pic taken at the hermitage at the end of the two-mile Way of the Cross... there´s a concrete cross every few hundred yards all along the dirt road leading to the church, which stands out in a wheat field on its own. It´s the second such phenomenon we´ve found within a 10-kilometer radius. Weird and wonderful.)

We are wearing ourselves out every day, and sleeping very well at night. But the best thing about the last few days has been the pilgrims.

Pilgrims are a "given" here in Moratinos. Their numbers vary as the seasons change, but if you glance out over the fields there´s a good chance you´ll see at least one or two of them any time of the year. They come from all over the world, and march through our village at almost exactly the halfway point on the Camino de Santiago.

There´s no good reason for them to stop in town. We have no bar or store or accommodation for them, a rather rare thing for a town on the trail.

But the Peaceable is here, and we are, too... more and more these days. And as we begin to furnish the house to welcome pilgrims, more pilgrims are finding their way to us.

Sunday, for instance, we started out actually looking for a specific pilgrim. His name is Willy from Köln, and he walked with me last June when I did the Camino Aragonese. He emailed and said he´d be through here about 9 a.m. Paddy took the dogs out that morning, found Willy from Köln on the trail, and brought him home for coffee and leinsahmen schwartzbrot. We had a nice visit, and I walked him back through town to where the Camino commences. We said goodbye, Willy thanked me for the Moratinos "sello" stamp we´d added to his pilgrim credential. He went on his way. A young man named Jürgen heard us speaking in German, and introduced himself, and said he´d like a stamp, too. So I took him home as well, and he came with us to church.

Afterward a little English lady came looking for us. Her name was Jocelyn Ricks, and she saw our listing in the Confraternity of St. James trail guide -- this is how lots of English pilgrims know we are here. We belong to the ever-growing group, and we´ve been hospitaleros at both of the pilgrim hostels they sponsor. Jocelyn was special in many ways. First, she is walking the Camino backward, from west to east. She hopes to make it all the way to Rome this year.

Jocelyn is a Camino pioneer. She did the big hike for the first time in 1982, when no one but scholars and historians had ever heard of the Camino de Santiago. She walked from Le Puy de Velay in France all the way to Santiago de Compostela in tennis shoes, with only two road maps and an art history book to guide her. She made it just fine. (Stick that in your GPS units, folks.)

And after she got back to Wolverhampton she and three other Camino scholars founded the Confraternity of St. James. Impresionante! And so we have hosted yet another camino celebrity in our humble abode! As I saw her out of town, on the eastern side this time, yet another pilgrim stopped to ask about the bodegas. He was from Australia, he said, and his name was Xavier Francis. I had my keys with me, so I showed him what a bodega looks like inside. He took dozens of photos, asked a hundred questions, and was a load of fun to chat with.

These are the people who drew us to this place. When you´re already giving them tea and first aid and route advice, it´s an easy next step to ask the really interesting or nice or injured ones if they want to stay for dinner, or for the night even.

And so we have put beds in the guest rooms. We cleared all the junk out of the despensa and put a bed in there, so a pilgrim traveling with a dog will have a place to sleep, or someone who just wants a nap in a cool place can have a lie-down. (Pilgs with dogs have a hard time finding places to stay.)

We have a nice place right here in a Camino town. And soon we can have pilgrims stay here with us, as well as family and friends. It´s like a dream come true, no?


Rebrites@yahoo.com said...

Note: I know the photo is sideways. It looks right-side-up on my screen, and the html code tells me it ought to be fine, but for some mysterious internet reason, Blogger posts it sideways.

It´s still a cool picture. And it kinda catches your eye this way, doesn´t it?

claire said...

Yes, it did catch my eye.
The fact you have a sello as well.
I simply can't wait to discover you, Paddy and the Peaceable. Several months before this happens, but it is worth waiting for.
Have a delightful day,