Our despensa is a cave-like little storage room right by the front gate. We used to sleep in there, back before the Peaceable was liveable, back when Chickens Roamed the House.
The meter-thick despensa wall was crumbling down. That is not an unthinkable, seeing as sometime in the last 100 years or so there was a door there, a door into the barn. But this crumbliness was different. I brushed at it with my hands one day, to uncover what kind of structure was beneath the adobe... an upright, vertical stronger than the mud that covered it. I rubbed at it, til I hit a flat stony hardness. I clawed it with my nails.
And underneath? Mosaic. White tiles. Roman? I had to see! Nine kilometers from here are the remains of a sprawling Roman villa, noted mostly for the fantastic mosaics that make up the floors. I called for Paddy, called for him to bring a scrub brush or a broom, to come and see this!
...And that´s when he woke me up. It was the most vivid dream I´ve had since we moved here. I don´t think you have to be a Freudian analyst to figure out what it signifies. Dreams aren´t supposed to be taken literally, but I later laid a mosaic dolphin design into the concrete step outside the despensa door, to remind me of that word of encouragement from the Unconscious.
So today, for real, a chasm opened up in the earth beneath our back yard, right next to the chicken coop.
I noticed a small depression there last week, before I left for Madrid. And this afternoon it was a manhole-sized, irregular black spot on the surface. I went out there and looked.
It´s a gaping maw. A yawning chasm. A big old honkin´hole. It goes straight down a good two meters and then turns right. It keeps going at least for a little way, toward the woodshed, but you can´t see anything beyond the bend. It´s not wet at the bottom, just damp.
Is it a sinkhole, like the ones in Florida? Are we looking at underground subsidence that´s going to swallow our woodpile, chicken girls, and apple trees? Is there an underground river undermining our house, or an abandoned mine? Will it cost thousands to shore up the yard? Who do we call? How do we find out? Is this common around here? What IS this hole? It looks manmade, and the debris that´s fallen in -- mostly broken roof tiles -- was definitely placed there with a purpose. This place has been occupied by humans for longer than any one can remember. Parts of the house are made from bricks of Arab manufacture... So can the hole be some kind of Arab aljibe water cistern? Or maybe it´s a medieval well? Should we be standing so close to the edge?
I´ll admit it, romantic that I am, that thoughts of buried treasure danced through my mind. Hoards of Roman or Visigothic coins do sometimes come to light in situations just like this one. (The Roman villa was discovered when the farmer bought a new tractor that plowed the land deeper than his mules ever could...and up came a mosaic of Neptune. So much for that year´s crop!) I spent some hours last week at the national archaeological museum, where hoards from long-ago cultures were displayed in glorious profusion. I wonder what became of the farmers and hunters and hikers who made these discoveries. Did they ever get to keep anything? How often do people find things in holes in the yard, and cover them up again, knowing the government may well show up and seize the whole place once word gets out... or thieves come creeping in at night.
We discussed all this over lunch. It was a blast, considering.
The only thing we could think to do was have Estebanito, the mayor, have a look. If we need an engineer or archaeologist or a load of concrete, he´ll know where to find them. We went downtown to tell the tale of the Hole. ("Sinkhole" does not appear in our Spanish-English dictionary.) No Esteban. But José, his brother, was bopping around in his fine green mono. He seemed happy to have such an exciting diversion added to his day. He came right over.
He pushed at the edge with his toe. He poked a fence-pole down inside, and saw it almost disappear into the depths. Yes, it is manmade, he said. Yes, it´s old. And no, he doesn´t know what it is, but it´s not a well. Not that high up in the yard.
"Maybe it was a sort of bodega, for keeping things cool. Maybe it was a grain silo -- there are some of those around still," he said. "You ought to look deeper. Maybe it´s from the wars. Maybe they hid their guns down there? Or maybe... other things!" His eyebrows shot up. I could see ghastly visions of skulls and bones dancing there in his head. (Unfortunately, there are probably twice as many unmarked graves around here as there are Roman mosaics.) José shrugged and headed on out to Sahagún. "It´s no danger. Just don´t let the dogs fall in there," he said.
I love these Milagro Boys. They may not always be right, but they always have good, sensible answers.
So Paddy put an old door over the cavern. Tomorrow, if it doesn´t rain and we can find a flashlight, we will figure out a safe way to explore further our Mine of Mysteries. If there is pirate treasure in there, or we break through to a fabulous cavern full of glittering stalagmites, or we learn the hard way where the sewage runoff from Terradillos collects, you all will be the first to know.
Oh, Madrid was marvelous. I spent a long weekend there with my best girlfriend Jeanne, looking at museums and shopping the January sales and eating tapas. I would tell you all about it, but it´s not polite to brag.
I guess we´ve been out here a while, when the biggest news I have for you is a long discourse on a hole.