Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Second Thoughts and Second Chances

It´s not all been bowels and hospitals around here.

WEDS: I think the week of Not Knowing must´ve taken a toll on me after all. This morning I brought Paddy to the Peaceable, then turned back around and returned to Sahagun and went back to bed. For SEVEN HOURS. Yikes!

Spring is sprung, so there´s plenty more happening. First, the swallows are back! We saw their first aerodynamic feats of 2008 out on the mushroom field Monday morning. Soon they will be making pests of themselves, building messy mud nests in the church entryway and dive-bombing dogs who get too close.

The painters are painting happily away inside the house now, putting up the colors we chose. Of course we now are having second thoughts about that slate-green shade, but hey. We´ll have lots of time to change it if we really don´t like it later on.

All but two light fittings are now bought, and we´ve secured an electrician to install them all. (I´m having a few second thoughts about these, too.) The Milagro Boys came with their front-end loader and a truck and made the Big Trash Mountain out back disappear... and the "cleanup man" then dumped a big new pile out there after they left, in complete defiance of what I´d told him to do. (I told his boss. But the trash was still out there today, so I cleaned it up myself.)

Lots of this is going on. The skirting-board on the stairs is made of black tiles left over from the bathroom downstairs, and the radiator pipes are now painted to match the rooms. After we´d told them no, don´t do that. Maybe they really don´t understand what we say to them. Or it´s more convenient for them to pretend so. Therefore, it will not be The House of My Dreams. It may be a Spanish Building Contractor´s House of Convenience. But it´s ours, and we will live here soon.
And then we´ll have to find something else to occupy our minds and our time.

Like getting my Spanish driver´s license. On Monday I signed up for the Drivers Ed School in Sahagun, a money-minting operation in close collusion with the Spanish police force. Because my drivers license is from a non-European Union country it doesn´t matter that I´ve been driving (almost) accident-free for decades, I have to take the written and practical driving tests all over again here. Which means I have to sign up for the lectures, books, and hours driving side-by-side with an instructor in a specially-fitted-up car. And THEN take the exams, which are notable among Spaniards for their trick questions. (I´m told I can take the written exam in English, but the official translation is so bad you might as well take it in Spanish anyway.)

I decided to swallow my pique and just get on with it. It´s great Spanish vocabulary practice, and when I finally do nail it my insurance rates will go down.
(the day continued in the same odd minor-key way. I was glad to go back to sleep.)

Because today, when I woke up: Ta-daaa! Back to normal. Normal is very good.

I am told by Wise People that now that we´ve "dodged a bullet" life will be a bit sweeter for a few days. I have to agree. Whether or not it has to do with ordnance or Springtime, or the kindness of strangers is another question. It really does seem like we are beneficiaries of extraordinary little generosities. Fuji apples, for instance. Mr. or Ms. Fuji, I thank you for the best apples I can get around here. And a package, posted from Santander by an Irish pilgrim I have never met who is now on the road. A box full of goodies I cannot find here! Can´t wait till she arrives... cinnamon rolls all ´round!
Then there are swallows. And The Book of Psalms.

This I must tell you of. Back in 2001 when I walked the Camino I met an extraordinary woman named Marie. She was from the Boston (Massachusetts USA) area, and she and her friend Sophronia were an answer to my prayers. (which were something like "Please, God, if you don´t send me someone who is NOT French to walk with I am bailing outta this pilgrimage deal NOW.") Soph and Marie were friends from years before, and I walked with them for just short of a week. Soph was the more talkative and effusive one, and Marie? She was the quiet one, the mystic, and the one who had just the cure for just the kind of ache I felt in my knees just then. While Soph gave me a "talking cure" for my ongoing crisis in raising an adolescent genius, Marie did a "laying on of hands," rubbing my shoulder, touching my elbow, letting me know she was there as I talked and walked it all out with these strangers. Marie and Soph knew all kinds of wonderful old hymns and Psalms, and we sang our way from Azofra right into Burgos.

I kept in touch with Sophronia, who actually wrote me into a book that was published a couple of years later. Marie stayed quiet. I knew she was there, though. I knew. And this week, in a note from Sophronia, I learned Marie last Friday passed quietly from this life, victim of a fast-moving cancer. She was 61.

In our despensa is a niche where we installed a rather crude carving of The Virgin. For Marie´s sake I lit a candle and stood it in the niche. I did a Catholic thing, too, just then. We were about to leave for Paddy´s exam. I asked Marie to take my prayers to the Lord. And I prayed for her eternal rest. I sang a psalm for her: my fave. Number 119.

"Oh Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth.
When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers
The moon and the stars that you have set in place
What is Man, that you are mindful of him?
The Son of Man, that you care for Him?
You made him a little lower than the Heavenly Beings
But crowned him with glory and honor."

Damned if that candle isn´t still burning in there, four days later!

Today, for me, is the first real day of spring. I really feel myself on the Camino today, as we discovered yet another waymarked alternative Camino path, this one between Ledigos and Terradillos de Templarios. This place just keeps offering up more and more loveliness, even though we´ve been here for many months.

Work continues apace at The Alamo, and at the Peaceable. Yesterday evening, because the highway department is coming through town next week, the Milagro Boys came over and asked us about clearing up the street outside the Alamo... James had left a crate-load of flagstones out there, and a heap of sand, and some pallets, and potted plants and whatnot. We went over and helped heap sand into the front-end loader and generally blanderize the front of the place. Now it is legal. And now WE have several dozen halfway- and very-dead potted plants standing in front of OUR house!

So we found bigger pots to put them in, and found god-knows-what-quality dirt to fill them up with, and we then transplanted the larger living ones into some unused plastic feed buckets we had stowed out back. Big work. We thought of planting them in a long trench out back, but when/if Marianne comes back, maybe she´ll want to take them back with her to Ireland. This way they are mobile.

I am not sure what these plants are. I think at least one is a berry bush, and a couple of others, (rather dead, I fear) are grape vines. We gave them another chance. Seeing as this is Easter season, we can hope for a resurrection.

The sun blazes away, and we ate our bangers and mash out in the patio today with the poor, starving dogs looking longingly at us the whole time. Soon we´ll have pilgrims here too, slipping scraps to them under the table.


Anonymous said...

I'm sooooooooo looking forward to being one of those pilgrims in the Autumn. I'm glad to read your news about Paddy, I remember my brother moving his young family to France and learning rather more than he wished in the way of French medical vocab.


Gareth Thomas said...

Hi Rebekah,

I hope to be one of those pilgrims, slipping scarps to the dogs under the table! Just over a month to go now before departure walking from London. I like your blog!


Anonymous said...

Hi Reb!
I too had to take the driver examination in Spain 4 years ago, even enroll in one those Academias de conducir, after all these years of driving. Apparently the USA and Spanish government don't accept each other driving licenses. Curiously enough in Spain they do accept driving licenses from Ecuador and exchange them for an Spanish one. Apparently in Ecuador you can buy them for very little money. Oh well! it's one of those things. Maybe a short trip to Ecuador will be the way to go. ;-)

Good luck with those tests. They are not easy and certainly not obvious.

Tino said...

Hmmm. I always kinda wanted to see Ecuador. Too bad I already signed up for the academia!

Anonymous said...

I'm reading through your posts. We're walking Le Puy in October. This post made me cry into my morning toast. Your writing is lovely.