Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Time Between

It is a strange, in-between time. Summer is very much gone, but winter´s not here yet. The clocks changed over the weekend, which always seems to chop hours off both ends of the day. We´ve not adjusted. It feels like something should happen, but whatever it is, we did not write down the appointment, we forgot whom we should be expecting.

Maybe it´s the stripped-down patio. I cut back the roses, raked up all the underbrush, emptied the window-boxes, and swept out the walkways. It is severe out there, with little Murphy´s skitterings after leaves providing the only softening to the scene. A cold wind blows. The horizon is a purple bruise. The lingering afternoon patio lunches are history.

It could be Paddy´s disability. He limps when he moves, and he does not move over-much since he hurt his leg this weekend. I am shouldering more of the household work now, and not all of it is light and easy. I find myself snapping at Paddy, and his inability to close doors behind him, or switch off lights, or put things away when he´s finished.

My new drivers license card still has not arrived. The thought of trying to tackle that bureaucracy makes me want to weep.

The donkey (for now called “Lola,”) is a heavy load, heavier than I´d anticipated. In the mornings she must be walked, trained in “stop,” “trot,” “let´s go,” “stand.” The dogs come along, but they aren´t getting the attention they´re accustomed to. They run off, or trot home. They are so child-like – they don´t like change, they don´t like taking walks without Patrick, they don´t really know what to do with this great hulking animal in our midst. (Tim keeps well away from the donkey. Una is making friendly overtures.) Meantime, I am trying to book a veterinarian house-call, and find a farrier who will come and trim her feet. I need to get a neighbor to sell us hay and straw. (NOT give it to us!) I´ve cleared out space in the barn to store it, and tomorrow will likely spend an hour or so pitching hay... a real workout! (I wish the Camino would send us a strapping young Czech or two, in need of work. One with carpentry skills, or donkey experience.)

Lola is now installed out in the huerta, sleeping in the old garage, safely enclosed within the walls, and occasionally, startlingly, staring in at us through the windows... taking up where the chickens used to stand and peck at us from their side of the glass. Chicken TV, adapted for donkeys! Like the dogs, Lola has a thing about us using telephones. When we hit the "send" button on our mobiles, Una and Tim invariably begin barking, making it impossible to hear the person on the other end. And now we can add a braying, honking donkey to the mix!

The house smells heavily today of woodsmoke, a scent I will forever associate with the rural poverty of Western Pennsylvania in the mid-1970s. As a teenager I lived through the depression and desperation so aptly captured in “The Deer Hunter” movie. So many people then resorted to burning wood to heat their homes, and many of them had inefficient, smoky stoves and chimneys. The school bus on a damp morning was a heady mix of Luv´s Baby Soft cologne, Brut aftershave, wet wool, and a sour pall of woodsmoke-soaked hair, hats, coats, and clothes.

About 30 years and 2,000 miles away from all that we started a fire today in our ultra-efficient woodstove, but left the chimney damper closed too far. The smoke streamed out the top of the stove, and before I could get the windows and doors opened up the house was filled with the scent of Teenage Wasteland. I hope it´s not forever. I did not much enjoy those years.

The men are inside their barns and sheds today, working on their tractors. Others are in their bodegas, seperating the stems, seeds and grape-peels from the fermenting juice, starting up this year´s run of moonshine or rough wine. The pathway outside the bodegas is smeared with visceral reddish-purple where they´ve thrown out the grape-waste, but it looks like a crime scene.

The pilgrim numbers are dropping fast.

And ironically, wonderfully, the dun-colored fields are turning green as the new seeds sprout. When all the world is shutting down to gray and black, our ground goes lime-green! We watch through the winter as the green changes shades and the grain slowly grows.

Winter is the season I like least. But green is my favorite color.


PL said...

Ah, but think of where you were and circumstances a year ago this time, eh? The coming winter and you shall be warmly and safely ensconced in your own finca.

Though those short days and long nights are tough. Could be worse, you could have set up shop on that pilgrimage route in Norway. ;)

- Nev

Rebrites@yahoo.com said...

Norway? No way.
...not that I wouldn´t like to VISIT, but to live up that far? No. Lake Erie was as close to the North Pole as I ever want to live!

You´re right about comparing to last year...our little living area is toasty warm with a wood-fire, with dogs sacked out on the floor and other critters staring wistfully through the windows. Too bad the computer and internet connection are still ensconced in the old, unheated kitchen! Brrrrr.

northern stars said...

what a wonderful post...i feel like i am there! i'd love to join you one day as a character on donkey tv. or at least help you around with some haybaling. alas, baby keeping and trying to work have me quite busy in madrid. one day, i'll make it up to moratinos though!
happy donkey days and a big wish for a speedy recovery for paddy!

northern stars said...

um...why did my comment come up listed as "northern stars"? what is that? why is commenting so confusing to me!

Anonymous said...

i give up on trying to get my own name as the comment...just sign me: candy lee in madrid!

Anonymous said...

Was your teenage life THAT horrible? I don't remember feeling "poverty stricken".