Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sunshine + Spare Time + Stones

Enough of life, death, and dogs´ ballocks. We´ve spent the last few dreary days hunkered down by the fire contemplating Being and Nothingness. Today the sun came out, and we decided it´s time to get back to Big Fun.

In the bright morning we took the dogs and a walking stick and hiked out to Villa Oreja, maybe a mile east along the Camino. Paddy and Una (both still limping a bit) sat down on one of the benches for a rest.

You might know Villa Oreja by now. It´s just a couple of benches and an irrigation well nowadays, a layby along the Camino between Moratinos and Terradillos. The tiny Rio Templarios babbles by, and tall trees shade the scene. Back a thousand years or so there was supposedly a monastery there, full of wicked monks. A local Good vs. Evil legend attached to the place, and is still played-out there (with plenty of liquid lubrication) every summer on St. John´s Eve. (I blogged about it before – put in “Templars” in the Lijit search box over to the right here. It´ll come up.)

Two summers ago our English forerunners in Moratinos, James and Marianne, put coffee and bickies and a donations box out in the early mornings at Villa Oreja, for the pilgs to enjoy. The innkeeper in St. Nicolas, who claims divine right to all money spent by pilgrims hereabouts, thought their little breakfast service was a threat to public health. He called in the authorities and shut them down.

Anyway, Villa Oreja has a vibe all its own. It´s quiet and pastoral and inviting, and it´s dead on the Camino. We like it. While Paddy and Una sat, Tim went down to the creek to hunt crawdads. I took Paddy´s walking stick, and started scratching in the dirt. A cross, with a dot in each quadrant. Then a hook up and to the right, to make the cross into a letter f. And from there, a loop over top. I learned it in a book, this drawing. It´s easy, ancient, and elegant. It turns into a classic Cretan design, with roots going back 3,000 years.

And thus, dear readers, is how our first Labyrinth got started.

I dragged the stick behind me to ensure the paths were wide enough to walk. We picked up rocks, and laid them along the lines.

We didn´t have enough rocks, so I later went out the the Promised Land in the car and scavenged what felt like a ton or two. After lunch we went back to Villa Oreja and worked until the little job was done. It didn´t take too long. We´re pleased with the outcome.

Why´d we make a Labyrinth? I don´t really know. I like outdoor designy-things that slip easily into the environment: simple fountains, bridges, pathways, grottos, rockeries.
We both love old things, ideas with a long, misty history. People have been building labyrinths in meadows and cathedrals and gardens all over the world for eons, for reasons that aren´t really clear.

Labyrinths (as opposed to mazes) have a reputation for deepening peoples´ spiritual practice, and I´m all for that. Many pilgrims are spiritual people. I hope they use the labyrinth at Villa Oreja. (Yes, I am aware that a labyrinth along an actual pilgrimage route is a tautology. But only if you consider a labyrinth to be a pilgrimage in miniature... Like medieval Christians did.) Most of those who pass by Villa Oreja will not even notice the rocks on the ground. If they do, maybe they´ll find them appealing, or interesting, or pretty, or even fun. (If they are 13-year-old boys, or evil innkeepers, they will probably enjoy a few joyful moments pitching them all into the creek!)

God knows what the neighbors will think, if they even notice. There´s nothing out there to identify us as authors, except our eccentric reputation...and now this blog! If they ask us what that rock thing is, and why we put it there, I am not sure my Castellano is up to the task of explaining it.

All I can say is the sun was shining. The benches and well-head and trees at Villa Oreja seemed to form an open embrace for a nice triple circle of stones.
We had time and energy. I knew how to draw the design. We had plenty of rocks. We enjoyed ourselves. And doesn´t it look kinda nice?


Libby said...

This brings back memories of the yard at our house in Perrysburg, where you tried to create a labyrinth from tall grass, but had to cut it all down because those tyrannical, suburban municipality people weren't down with the idea. It was nice to look at from the garage roof.
I miss you.
-Libby said...

.that wasn´t a labyrinth. It was a yin/yang symbol. And it was a blast. I am glad you had such a strange childhood.

...and just what were you doing up on the roof, young lady??

Kathy said...

I can't believe it took me this long to actually write a comment, especially since I read your blog every day even when it's the same as the day before....

Labyrinths and all, I miss you guys dearly and deeply regret I didn't spend more time there this time through Spain on pilgrimage. We built the same labyrinths on the beach at Finisterra...

Be well, dear friends,

dlr477 said...

The labyrinth looks great. Congratulations. I remember the little spot very well from the day we arrived at Moratinos. Maxine and I were pretty bagged from a long day and needed a spot to sit for 10 minutes before walking the last little bit and knocking on your door so we sat there, enjoyed the bench, the shade and
a drink of water. We would have loved the labyrinth.

Virginia said...

One of the duties and privileges of housesitting (and koi wrangling) this property in sunny Santa Fe, is that there is a labrynth! Th owners constructed a lovely path among the cactus and high desert growth. Many of the stone have inspirational words carved into them...It is lovely to walk the labrynth as the sun creeps up over the mountains.

In Sunny Santa Fe

Michael Barham said...

Awesome, a place for holy lingering! We ordinands walked a labyrinth at our retreat with the the bishop last week, and it was great to have that opportuniy to do so in a beautiful camp setting. One of my deepest transcendent experiences was lingering in the center of a labyrinth after my walk on the camino.

Michael Barham said...

I'm glad you have offered this to your community, those who live around you, and those who will walk your way!