Monday, 25 January 2010

Breaded and Fried

I am feeling low these days. Very January.

I wondered if it was the Black Dog of Depression skulking near. I wondered if it was me being Of a Certain Age. I wondered, dear God, if I ought to just knuckle under and let depression happen, let it pass in its own time. I pondered medicine, and wondered how available seratonin uptake inhibitors are here in Socialized Medicine Land.

I still can see the rolling beauty of the fields in the morning, and I can touch the head of Lulu, one of the galgo girls, and feel her heart opening toward me. I can watch the same beautiful dog lope up the trail ahead of me in her comical but oh-so-efficient high-strung stride, and I can marvel at her engineering.

I can. But I don´t really. It´s all at a remove, as if I am experiencing all these delightful things with a thick coat of insulation between my senses and the world. In slang Spanish, a slow-witted person is empanada. Breaded. Coated in crumbs. And that´s how I feel these days: deep-fried, but lacking in crunch. No tooth, no flavor. Bland.

Not good when you´re staying up til 3 a.m. writing a book about it all. That, too, has lost its savor. The threads are not jumping into the weft these days, the deliciousness isn´t happening for me. I am finding all kinds of things to distract myself from writing -- the wonderful little wave of donativos is one.

A couple of weeks ago, peeved at the parvenue pilgrims, I sat in church and stewed while Don Santiago preached on the Wedding Feast of Cana, where Jesus turned water to wine. I told God he (she) ought to do something like that for us. 

"Show me your providence," I think I said.

Well: that same afternoon a nascent confraternity of English pilgrims offered to ally themselves with the Peaceable. The blog happened, then the PayPal button, both of which gained most gratifying responses. The Italians came, and will (at some point) pay us an actual rent for their use of the Salon and kitchen. Most touching of all was what I found inside the front gate when we returned from Mass yesterday: a note, written on a page torn out of a pilgrim guide. "Thank you for what you do for pilgrims. Sorry we missed you," it said. There were 30 Euros folded inside. No name.

God doesn´t sign her name too often. She´s very Tao that way. She does the job, and walks away and lets the results do the talking. She blows me away when she does stuff like this.

I am spoiled rotten, really. The days go by quickly, perhaps because the sun doesn´t rise until about 9, and most of the town stays in bed, too. Kim keeps the place beautiful. Paddy chops wood and fries lamb chops and plays with dogs. Me? I don´t have to do much at all. I´m supposed to be writing a book.

Instead I dream of buying yet another little place and fixing it up for a writing den, like Mark Twain had. I check the news, the stock markets, the latest on Angelina Jolie and Golden Globe Fashion Disasters. I waste time, and I feel ashamed of myself. Editors ask me to write articles for their publications -- something I used to have to hustle for. I think at first, "how cool!". And then the thought of researching it, and writing it up? Naah.

I don´t want to bake zucchini bread. I don´t want to plan the garden. I don´t want to read a novel in Spanish, or a newspaper in English, even. I just want to sleep. A definite danger signal, that.

Still. Patrick and I went to Sahagun this evening and bought feed for chickens, dogs, and cats, and take-your-chances 1.20-Euro green wine overruns fresh from the vineyards of La Rioja. We stopped at La Barrunta on the way home for a gin and tonic. We held hands. Raul the Waiter was playing a horrible shoot-em-up live-action video game on the big-screen TV. It was obscene -- a carnage scenerio in a third-world setting. So many people actually LIVE in that world, and we the comfortable middle class co-opt their daily horro for our lightweight entertainment. That kind of indignant feeling was a very good sign indeed. I am still alive, I thought. At least my self-righteousness is still kicking around!

I thought some more.

Of course I feel emapanada. The Italians are here. We introduced them to almost the entire village after Mass on Sunday, and they are over there even now, beavering away with measurements and notebooks. They are building a pilgrim albergue for 50 people, with a dining room and bar. Moratinos, in all its thousand-plus years of history, has never seen the like.

We are speaking Spanish a good part of the day now -- we even speak in Spanish to one another. We are on our way to England at the end of the week, where we will shift around some resources and learn what kind of new things are coming our way on that front. I was voted into the Archiconfradia del Apostol Santiago in Santiago de Compostela just before Christmas, an alliance that may bring new and very Spanish opportunities our way... or at least an opportunity for me to dress up in a cloak and sash and parade around like a grandee.

I think much about citizenship. I love the United States of America, my home country, but in recent years it´s followed a long, slippery slope away from all the lovely things that made it unique and beautiful. It now has thrown away its grand chance at making a sweeping, historical change toward treating all its citizens as equals, deserving of basic health care. It´s not my America any more. I may have to become a Spaniard soon, even though I am a long, long way from being Spanish. My home is gone, sold off to the multinational corporations by corrupt politicos. My heart hurts.   

In other words, back here in the Tiny Pueblo: The times are changing. We´re in for a big sweeping year of transition. The little normalcy we´ve known may well be in the past now, and who knows what the future holds? We are right here on the blunt end of it. No wonder I feel like I´m living at arm´s length. My spirit is developing a protective layer, maybe. It knows, from three years of experience, this may be a rough ride.

Life here is never, ever routine.Whatever rhythm we may develop over a week or two of nothing happening is soon upset by someone or something new. We love chaos, or at least we developed a taste for it back in our newspaper days. We have lots of that now, and lots more on its way.

The hardest part is the writing. It demands that I resurrect and relive times past, some of them very unpleasant, some of them glorious. All of it is recent and fresh and bright, easily written-about. But it´s also gone. It´s behind us. Maybe my practice of Living in the Present Moment is backfiring on me now, because these memories and stories are so completely tiresome now... I understand that readers might find all those adventures a really gripping read. I have the ability to do this. I may even have connections enough to get a book published.

Like my old, wise sweetheart Ed used to tell me: I just need to get over myself and get on with it. It´s not about how Me and My Feelings. It´s about getting the job done.

So, sign off the big, bloviating blog and stop blowing off, Reb. Get to work!


Pilgrims Patch said...

You are in our prayers. Peterborough Pilgrims.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you 50/50. All I need is a 10' x 12'. You can write while I sleep.

I will corrupt all the dogs. But make some damn fine guitars. Camino's never seen that either.

This country's gone. Your exit strategy was much better than mine.
Spend a litle more on good coffee, set the alarm a little earlier every day, and quit whining. Spring's coming !


Sil said...

Congrats on making it into the exclusive Brotherhood!
Besides being a vegetarian, I don't like Empanada - flat, heavy and stodgy looking, stuffed with - what?
I do sympathise with you Reb, if you are feeling like that!
But you are defintiely not an empanada. You are much too 'épatants el Bulli' for that!
It could be the winter. Long grey days affect people like that.
Sitting in front of a monitor does it too.
Dealing with all of us peregrinos is taxing!
If you don't actually have a deadline its hard to work on a manuscript every day.
Go with the season. When spring comes and the new albergue is ready in town, you'll have less interruptions and more time for you.

Johanna said...

If it wasn't so cold (yeah, I know, -13 is no reason to stay inside compared to the temperatures you told me about wherever you used to live once) I would get a plane down to Spain and come and give you a hug, because hugs are good and you sound like you need some! I'm sending you lots of virtual ones, ok? And you have to get Paddy and Kim to give you lots of them too, because they're like a cure-all-miracle thing. Mhm.

A friend of mine would say get over it, but I say go with it until you get really, really sick of it and then everything will fix itself. The sun is always shining somehwere and there's always a reason to be happy. And if there ever isn't, then just be happy without a reason. And walk. It always helps.

That's all I have to offer, sadly.

Johanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
k.n. said...

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

David Whyte
 (from Songs for Coming Home)

Reb, find comfort in the gifts around you, strange as they might seem. write through it all. is 'to the vision of far off things, seen for the silence they hold'.


Libby said...

It could be worse. You could be suffering the winter blues in Toledo, Ohio.

winnipeg said...

Vitamin D - 1000IU per day. In winter in the northern hemisphere the sun is at too acute an angle to produce vitamin D in exposed skin (and it's too cold to expose skin anyway) In the meantime, get as much sunshine on your face that you can - don't wear sunglasses. When the sun comes further up on the horizon you will begin to feel better. Honest !

claire said...

The only way is through, wisely says my older daughter who learned a lot giving birth.
I definitely can see you in a cape, with a special Confraternity hat. Woo-hoo...
Sending you tropical sunshine.

Tracy Saunders. said...

Yet another post which has me thinking. It's all very well for "the rest of us" to think about our dream of working with pilgrims, but we don't have your day to day reality and it must be truly exhausting. In many ways the Camino has changed and not everyone is there for a "life changing pilgrim experience" (and no doubt that is asking a bit much. Someone on the Forum recently talked about "Glastonbury Pilgrims"; someone else I know recently caled the Camino a "Spiritual Theme Park" which I thought a bit harsh.
There is a little story I love that I would like to share with you. It is about the starfish:

An old man was walking along a beach one day (it doesn't matter where but I often think California for some reason). Up ahead of him he saw a boy stooping and picking something up and then throwing it out to sea. The old man was intrigued and walked closer. He noticed that the beach was littered with starfish washed up from some storm. He came closer to the young boy and said: "Why are you wasting your time? Look. The beach is covered with starfish. What possible difference does it make, what you are doing?"
The boy looked at the old man and stopped for a moment, and then he leaned down, picked up a starfish and threw it back in the ocean. Then he said:
"It makes difference to this one".

Very best wishes and hope to meet you and Paddy sometime this year.
Tracy Saunders