Monday, 31 May 2010

See For Yourself!

I always wanted to be a Patron of the Arts, but somehow figured that meant I had to be a millionaire first. But no, the Camino provides! We have tons of talented people stopping in here. They make paintings and photos, poems, articles, novels, plays, liturgies, wine, comedy sketches... even little knitted sock monkeys. And all we have to do is feed ém some dinner and send them to bed. What a deal!

Since we had such talented guitarists in the house, Kim got her Creativity (and her camera) going and made a couple of music videos this morning. They´re not exactly jump-cut song-and-dance costume extravaganzas, but they´re sweet and stable and full of little accidents of light and noise and critters. Which is to say, good reflections of Peaceable Life.

I will attempt to embed them here:

(the ending of this one is sweet!)

... and a backyard Bossa Nova:

(these are not showing up true to size on here, so just double-click on the screen and you´ll see them just fine in YouTube.)
I hope you enjoy them as much as Max the Rooster apparently did.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Hanging by a Fred

Our share of pilgrims has come and gone through this beautiful week of May – an expert water-dowser from Boulder, a fresh-faced filmmaker from LA via Pittsburgh, a small herd of polite Germans and their bossy Aussie wrangler. Kim came back too, which means everything runs sweet and neat.

Out on the trail the poppies and daisies and lupines are blooming madly. The sky is perfectly blue. I am just tucking into a tasty new book called “In Pursuit of Silence” when Fred and the Guitarristas roll up outside the gate.

So much for Silence. You may know Fred, a somewhat un-strung guitar-builder, NFL chiropractor, pilgrim, and sporadic Peaceable visitor. He loves the Camino, loves the pilgs, loves classical guitar music. He also loves a challenge. So he decided, for the 2010 Holy Year, to organize a top-class concert series for the pilgrims.

Truth be told, I am not the greatest aficionada of guitar music. I can take it or leave it. But Fred´s a friend, and Fred´s a fan. And so I have been hearing about this Concert Series for years: Master musicians take turns living in rented digs in a town along the trail, and offer free music to the pilgrims and the locals at some of the emblematic historic churches. Sounds nice, really, until you consider the logistics: Visas, short-term insurance and rental contracts, transportation, food, and language barriers, fees and honoraria and favors asked. Not to mention the prima donna factor: musicians are moody characters, sometimes veering into Vegan territory. Local parish priests, pilgrims, bureaucrats, and church councils are often no less manic, each with territorial issues to be skirted and exquisite ego to be massaged.

In short, it´s an insane idea. The kind Fred likes best.

After months of wangling introductions and Fred arrived on Tuesday and got the apartment all fixed up. He thumbed a ride to the little village where the professor lived, to pick up the car. And once there he learned the car he´d agreed-to was “no longer available.” There was another car, however, but the prof wanted Fred to fix it up and have it inspected first. Then the rental price went up. Then the rental contract morphed into a Bill of Sale. Fred said “wait a minute.” The prof exploded in a dramatic show of passion, threw Fred´s money in his face, drove him to a bus stop along a deserted road, and left him out there.

“He went all Spanish on me,” Fred said. “¡Increïble! And he canceled. He was supposed to play for the third week in June, and now I gotta find somebody else. And the bastard made me miss the big corrida (bullfight) on TV!”

Fred´s crazy, but he clearly has his priorities in order.

The first two musicians arrived in Palencia the next day, René from Cuba and Elina from Belarus. Happily, René still has relatives in Spain, and an uncle lent him a car. On Thursday the trio presented themselves at the Bishop´s Palace, ready to prepare for the night´s gala concert and kick-off reception.

There they learned that aside from the apartment arrangements, no one had done anything they´d promised. No concert was planned for that evening. No bishop, no cocktails, no meetings with the priests of Carrion, Fromista, and Villalcazar, at least not til June 2, when the priest who´d made all the promises came home from his annual holiday.
Did Fred come unglued? No. He poured them all a glass of tinto, and emailed The Peaceable.
“These guys want to play. Can you get the auditorium in Sahagun to open up? What about the hermita at Virgen de la Puente? What about Moratinos?” he said. I could read the desperation between the lines.

He wrote the note at noon. I read it ten hours later – too late for Thursday. Friday the auditorium had a high school graduation going on. Saturday was all we had. And Sahagun said No.

Fred doesn´t know what that word means.
So on Friday evening Elina and René played a pickup guitar concert at our little church in Moratinos. On Saturday we invited all the pilgrims, neighbors, and friends to hear a better-organized set of pieces at the bigger, more ornate church at St. Nicholas del Real Camino, the next village down the camino from Moratinos. (There´s a pilgrim refuge there, and the concerts are supposed to include some pilgrims.) So two world-class guitarists traveled halfway ´round the world to play for an audience 25 farmers, bartenders, geezers, goobers, and pilgs.
It was beautiful. The music, the sunlight splashing the retablos, the cava and jamon serrano after at Restaurante La Barrunta, the paella Paddy made for our dinner, the soft evening on the patio, and the music that poured over our walls til past midnight and drew the neighbors out into the alley for their final cigarettes.
The St. Nicholas concert was only the start of the series. Elina and René will go ahead and play Wednesday in Carrion de los Condes, as planned. They´re off to Barcelona to play a “real” orchestral concert next weekend. They seem happy enough with the way things are playing out, God bless ém. They´re happy to be in “Esapaña Profunda,” to see inside village churches and meet people and eat food and drink drinks no tourist tripper will ever encounter. They are lucky, and they know it.

I wonder if we the people in those pews yesterday have any idea how lucky we are. We had these two here for free. In Barcelona this weekend, someone´s paying them 3,000 Euros do do the same thing.

...And now to find a car for Fred.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Wherein a Canadian in Galicia is Bailed-Out

Funny old week it´s been, a very Camino week, with an extra dash of Hospitalero.

I told you that Lesley, a Canadian-trained hospitalera, was off to Miraz to try out the life of the volunteer  host at a pilgrim shelter. This particular "albergue" is special to us, as Patrick was one of the very first to volunteer there. We did two weeks in Miraz during our "Homeless Summer" of 2006, when we were scouting out places to maybe settle in Spain. Miraz was a bit too remote for us. It is Deepest Galicia, a tiny village where Gallego, not Spanish, is the primary language, and on the Camino del Norte, well off the beaten path.

Even though we settled elsewhere we´ve kept up our connections to the place, pointing people we´ve trained to serve there, supporting those on the job, and visiting whenever we were in the neighborhood. (Our kitchen countertops are made from granite mined in the Miraz quarry.) It´s a beautiful, peaceful spot. Or at least we thought so...

If you scroll back a year or so you´ll see my account of my last Hospitalera stint there, which was less than wonderful. I was paired with The Queen of Passive Aggression, and spent two weeks in misery and desolation, shivering through damp, gray days with wet firewood, a sinus infection, and a perfect bitch from London. I was assured afterward that this person would never again darken the doors of the Miraz albergue, and I chalked it up to Experience. I´ve volunteered at a lot of places, and a bad experience had to happen sometime. My number just came up.

But now Lesley volunteered there. And Leslie had a very similar experience to mine. She phoned me up in tears a time or two, wrote copious notes, and just generally had a miserable time... and this was her first stint volunteering on the camino! She´d come from Ontario at great expense to do this, and was treated like a stupid child by her co-worker. She called on the people in charge, but was met with stony silence.

(Paddy says it´s a syndrome: Person of a Certain Age outlives the spouse, who´s been bossed around for decades (or said spouse finds a more gentle partner). POACA is a righteous churchgoer, does the Camino. And as Hospitalera s/he finds a new niche: Lording it over a pilgrim hostel for two weeks per year, fixing everything that´s wrong with the Camino de Santiago.)

I can see both sides of this issue. Even though most volunteer teams get along just fine, the Coordinators (themselves unpaid) are probably full-up with personality conflicts. Volunteers must know there´s a mixed bag of people out there, and some strangers just don´t gel with others. They have to just scrape along somehow, tolerate, smile on through. Unless, of course, someone gets abusive.

And if Lesley is to be believed, things got there within a week. She was called "stupid." Her co-worker slammed doors, locked everyone out of the kitchen, shouted and raved at her in front of the guests, and just generally behaved like a martinet. The topper, though, was the toaster. Lesley´s co-volunteer decided that toasting bread at breakfast was too much work, and pilgrims don´t really need toast. And neither did Lesley. So she took the toaster and hid it somewhere.

In retrospect, this situation has all the makings of a situation comedy. But when you´re living it, things can get homicidal very quickly.

Miraz is 300 kilometers from Moratinos. Patrick had surgery this week and needed me near, so I was not amenable to bailouts. I listened to Lesley on the telephone. I made a couple of calls, sent a couple of emails, prayed a couple of prayers. It´s only a couple of weeks. I stuck out my misery there last year, I told her... but then I was the person in charge. I couldn´t leave the pilgrims at the mercy of the wacko I was working with. If you are being abused, you need to get out. But the decision is yours.

I left it in her hands. She stuck it out. I went to pick her up a day early, once I knew her replacement was on his way. Her replacement, you see, is Frank the Scotsman -- a patron saint of British hospitaleros.

Frank trained me and Paddy at Rabanal del Camino back in 2003, the first time we volunteered. He is a kilt-wearing character, a Lockerbie native, all charm and wit and common sense. If not for Frank I would have let Lesley just get a train back to the Peaceable. But I´ve not seen the guy for two years, and this was a wonderful opportunity.

And so I drove the 300 km. The weather was beautiful. The welcome was sweet. As I´d expected, Frank had swept into a toxic situation and put things right within hours, simply by smiling, and saying No. 

"No, we are not leaving the pilgrims waiting in the rain until the 4 p.m. Official Opening Time, when we are here and ready at 2 p.m."

"No, I don´t want to feel the cold. I think we should turn on the heaters so the place is warm. We have heaters here for a reason. This is the reason. If you want to feel cold, go outside."

And last but not least: "I want to toast my bread. Where did you put the toaster?"

And so Lesley was restored to sanity, and I stole an afternoon and evening of time with Frank. I showed him Friol, the market town, and he showed me where the nice little pension is in Parga, another charming little town to the north. We walked along a beautiful riverside path. We had big sea bass for dinner, the whole fishes. I could´ve stayed at the Miraz refuge, but I chose (like a non-pilgrim) to sleep in my own room in Parga, where I stayed up and wrote til 3 a.m. under the bare lightbulb: Dinner, room, breakfast for 20 Euro. I love rural Spain.

I learned that the nasty woman I served with last year at Miraz is scheduled to be a hospitalera there again in a couple of weeks. I hope it was just me, and that her next stint there is more successful, and the pilgrims  arriving then are treated much better by her this time around. Me? I will not volunteer there again anytime soon. Something is wrong.

I drove back home the next day with Lesley. We followed the Camino most of the way, stopped and bought a jasmine vine and marigolds outside Lugo. We visited Gordon, a South African trainee, who keeps a "stealth albergue" in a tiny town outside Portomarín. We stopped near Samos, at a tiny derelict watermill in a backwoods valley where Lesley´s sure she lived in some previous life. The millrace roared. The greenery was lush, buzzing with honeybees. The highway howled from the overpass way overhead.

We stopped at Triacastela and drank cider and ate KitKats. We took a wrong turn at Astorga, and ended up going cross-country through towns made up of bodegas, where it looks like everyone lives underground. The shadows grew long. The sky continued blue, but shifted from plain cotton to serge to velvet. Lesley told me about her marriages, her twin boys, her sociology career at a string of Canadian colleges. In the background were Neil Young, Cole Porter, Bebo y Cigala, Bach, the highway and passing cars. Outside the windows were mountains, windmills, exit ramps, detours, plains and petrol stations and pilgrims, pilgrims, piligrims.

It was day-long, warm and beautiful. Lesley called it a Rescue Mission.

I call it a cruise. I don´t want to do it many times, or it won´t be so special.

And it made me want to walk again, that stretch of Camino I missed in April, from Ponferrada onward via Samos and Sarria and Portomarin. The Invierno is not far south, but this path really does have a vibe of its own. It´s the Real Camino, as over-sold and paved and pimped-out as it may be. I love it still.

Maybe I will go back and walk it again. Maybe in the Autumn, when the crowds thin out. Maybe...

Lesley´s gone on now to walk the Norte from San Sebastian. Life at the Peaceable is a round of gardening, dogs, neighbors, doctors, and often pilgrims in the evenings -- last night we hosted a pilgrim from Pittsburgh, a freelance writer. Imagine that.

The fields are lush, waving in the breeze. The Lugo flowers seem to like life here on the plain.

It´s time for a snack. I think I will have some toast.


Monday, 17 May 2010

San Isidro & the Tourists

Saturday was  St. Isidro Day, when Spanish farmers call on their patron saint to make sure the crops keep growing. Here in Moratinos, where 80% of us are farmers, we have a procession to mark the occasion. We shoot off skyrockets and march our resident St. Isidro statue out to a neighboring field where the priest sprinkles a bit of holy water over the greenery and the populace. Someone cuts a fresh handful of oats to put in the statue´s plaster grasp, and Isidro then is carried back into the church to spend another year indoors.

We do this every mid-May, and every year the marching Moratinians are avidly photographed and followed ´round behind the saint by a crowd of passing pilgrims. I always invite the strangers to come inside for the Mass, but almost all of them tell me No Thanks, they have to be somewhere else very soon.

Which is to say, "I am on a pilgrimage. I don´t have time for church."
Which is, to me, a scream. If you are walking a pilgrim path, and you refuse an invitation to join the locals in their worship, you are not a pilgrim. You are a tourist, plain and simple. And you´re missing out on about half the richness a pilgrimage has to offer.

I´m just sayin´.  

Anyway, back to Moratinos... After Mass ended, we all trooped over to the meeting room at the ayuntamiento for the usual get-together over plates of sausage, pickles, pork rinds, potato chips, mussels, vermouth, and Verdejo. This year we packed the house -- it was lovely having the whole community present, smiling, and healthy. We talked about the exceptional 2009 wine, the slow progress of the Italians´ pilgrim albergue, and the crazy weather we had this week: we awoke on Wednesday to snow, something nobody in the place could remember ever seeing in May. (the vegetables will probably survive, but the fruit trees took a real blow.) 

Outside in the plaza the pilgrims flowed past. Some sat down a while, nosed around looking for the bar that is not here. I held my little plate of goodies and sipped my vino and wondered... out there among them were the two Polish pilgrims who´d accepted the invitation to Mass. They ought to be in here, I thought... But it would be presumptuous of me to invite them. Sure, the food was paid-for from our community fund, and nobody in the room would really mind. They expect that kind of thing from me. Maybe. But I still am an outsider, you know. It´s one thing inviting these strangers to our own house, but to have them share in the town´s bounty? Hmmm.

Celestino filled up my glass again. I turned my attention away from the pilgrims outside, and onto the friendly faces in the room, the happy chatter.

Maybe it was the wine. Maybe it was just practicality, seeing as all of us had eaten and drunk our fill, and there was still plenty of food on the plates and wine in the bottles... But somehow, someone (I suspect Milagros, who is a natural hospitalera) went out and brought in the two Polish Christians, and put glasses into their hands. I translated, and we learned they´d walked here all the way from Posnan. And soon Bruno and Daniel, our Italian hospitaleros, found some fellow Brescian Italians out there on the plaza. They came inside and joined in the hubbub and chorizo. We were chattering away in three or four languages, with pilgs mixing perfectly well with the locals, about 30 people packed into a room made for maybe 20. It was a fine event, and it likely made those pilgrims´ days.

Hours later I stumbled across a Saint of the Day calendar for children. It told about San Isidro´s life and times, a thousand years ago near Madrid. And it showed me how history repeats itself right here on our plaza:

Once the parish had a dinner. Isidore arrived early and went into the church to pray. He arrived in the parish hall late. He didn't come in alone. He brought a group of beggars, too. The parishioners were upset. What if there wasn't enough food for all those beggars? But the more they filled up their plates, the more there was for everybody else. St. Isidore said kindly, "There is always enough for the poor of Jesus."

The poor of Jesus... or the pilgrims of Santiago. Maybe even tourists, people poor in Jesus?
Somehow we had enough to share with them. No one went away hungry.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Dog Gone

The Big Pine Woods are a favorite Expedition around here. It´s several acres of pine plantation about 7 km. from the Peaceable, on the far side of Terradillos. Up there dogs can run and romp in the forest, where there are lots of fascinating smells to run after and no farm animals to tempt their killer instincts. We humans enjoy the terrain -- it´s hilly, and covered in pine and oak, with a few mouldering sheepfolds scattered here and there, and the occasional outburst of exotic toadstools and mushrooms. It´s not hard to get lost up there, but I have a pretty good sense of direction. So far.

But Tim doesn´t. We were about an hour into a long hike on Monday morning when all four dogs vanished for a good three minutes. We called to them. Una, Nabi, and Lulu reappeared. But Tim did not. And Tim is the only dog we own who listens when we tell him something. Tim has only ever gone to the Big Pine Woods in the car. He didn´t know his way home.

We whistled and shouted and called him by name, for hours. We took the other dogs home, and I went back and shouted for him for another hour, and had a good cry, too. I went up to Legartos, the village nearest to where Tim was last seen, to put the word out. There in the little plaza sat two old men. Flung casually over the benches and verges round about were dogs: galgos, a black Labrador, and a couple of snaggle-tooth lapdogs, all in complete Lounge Mode. A couple of them raised their heads and flapped their tails when I spoke, but they soon grew bored and got back to the business at hand.

I greeted the geezers, shook the hand of the younger of them. The older one, wearing a balaklava against the morning sunshine, called me "hija," daughter, and kissed my cheeks. I figure he must´ve mistaken me for someone he knew.
"I am looking for my dog, a lost dog," I told them.
The younger man looked at the other. "Have you seen a dog?" he shouted.
"Nope," the old guy said. The half-dozen hounds scattered around him were not part of the equation.
"Which one´s missing?"
"He´s a Brittany Spaniel, young."
"He´s fat," the younger man said. "He´s castrated, isn´t he? So you know nobody´s going to take him home and keep him. No good for hunting."
"He won´t be chasing girls, either," the old guy yelled, cackling.
"You know my dog?" I asked.
"Yep," the younger guy said. "We´ve seen you guys out here, walking with the dogs. From Moratinos, right?"
Woah, I thought. Our fame has spread to faraway and exotic places!
And then I remembered the Eduardo, our sweet-natured neighbor, has ties to Legartos. Everyone within ten miles of Moratinos has some kind of friend or family tie with the people in the similar tiny towns. We must´ve been talked-about, even out here. And our little dogs, too.
Which is to the good. The men assured me Tim would be alright, long as he stayed off the road. He´s probably on his way home right now, the younger man said. Give him a day or two. He might be out chasing deer. He said two of his galgos vanished about five years ago, nobody knew where. And they turned up again, on their way home, along the road to Villada -- a good 10 km. from home. It took them a YEAR, he said, but they came home!

I don´t want to wait that long, I told him.
Don´t worry, hija, he said. Tim might just roll up in Legartos, ´cause plenty of dogs do -- the other dogs call to them, and there are 18 galgos living here in town. And if Tim showed up they´d bring him home, they said. "I´ll bring him home to Moratinos, and just ask for the house of "La Rubia," the old flirt said. "The blonde."

I was reassured. I went home. We had lunch, we cleaned house, we kept busy, we kept the music turned low, so we could hear if anyone came to the door. I expected it.

The first time the galgos shouted at the door, nobody was there but Eduardo. He´d been in touch with his friends in Legartos. No news.

The second time the galgos shouted, nobody was there at all. The afternoon ticked away.

And the third time, even Una jumped up and bayed and ran for the gate. I sang out  "¿Quien esta?," and no one answered. But when I opened the latch, someone pushed from the other side.

It was Tim, come home all on his own. The girl dogs exploded into wags and yips and leaps. Paddy ran down the sidewalk, asking in a honeyed voice, "Where have you been, you bastard?" I hugged Tim´s smelly, curly neck -- he´d been rolling in manure. And Tim? He said nothing. He did not wag, neither did he snivel, or shiver or shake. He was perfectly... reserved. Exhausted. Done-in, after a long, long run. He had nothing to say for himself. No excuses, no explanations.

Like Murphy before him, somehow Tim found his way home. He drank a huge drink of water, downed a dish of kibble, and slept by the fire for hours. We let him lie there and stink. It´s his home, after all. God knows what the pilgrims thought!

In other news, the calendar says May. The weather says March. The garden looks very geometric, but the vegetable plants are going nowhere. They need to take lessons from the fields, where the poppies and oats are going great guns despite the cold nights and windy days. Enough already. Time for someone to turn up the HEAT out there! San Isidro day is coming right up... maybe the Holy Farmer can put the right word in the Big Ear?

Paddy had a minor surgery on his right hand yesterday in Palencia. They kept him in the hospital overnight, which he hated. But the man in the next bed was in much worse shape, which kept Paddy´s complaints to a minimum. Today we are full of thankfulness: For our dogs, for our hands, for pilgs and plants, neighbors and strangers so willing to behave like friends.

How lovely indeed is the Ordinary.  


Saturday, 8 May 2010

Part of Me Goes to Burgos

I´ve been back from my pilgrimage now for a couple of weeks, but I´m still in that peculiar mental space you inhabit when you walk for days and days with only cows and crows for company.

I am not paying full attention to the stream of pilgrims that is flowing in and out the door, even though I am aware they are a good lot of people. Paddy is doing a beautiful job of hosting and butlering and just "taking care of business" while I get on with the slow and delicious business of serious writing. We´ve had a Canadian hospitalera on her way to host at Miraz, and an Englishman crazy for football (He´s a fanatic for the Bolton Wanderers, a team I never even heard of). Last night it was a soft-spoken South African lady who operates a bulldozer at a diamond mine, back at her "real life."

This morning I drove myself to Burgos to an academic conference on Caminos of the World. It was interesting stuff, with a Brazilian talking about the pilgrimage paths of Brazil; a Japanese describing dozens of  appealing trails through the Kii mountains, lacing together hundreds of Shinto and Buddhist shrines (I am going, soon as I hit the lottery), etc. etc. There were the usual suspects: the editor of Spain´s glossy pilgrimage magazine, some guys promoting a new map book, and Marcelino, a furry man from LaRioja who wanders The Way dressed up as a 16th-century pilgrim. (He can smell a photo op or a free meal from a mile away. Marcelino is one of three guys who do this every year. It´s a living.)

But most of all, being American myself, I went to see the lecture led by George Greenia, our man from William & Mary. He told that little conference about the Shakers and the Quakers, the Mormons and Ephrata Cloister, the National Cathedral and St. Patrick´s in midtown Manhattan, the Cherokee Trail of Tears to Oklahoma and the Junipero Serra Franciscan Missions trail in California. America is so packed with religion and religionS... and for a country so young and large, it´s got its share of pilgrimages. George had em eating out of his hand, all in his elegant Castellano. (He did leave out Graceland, however. Lawyers from the Elvis estate are probably filing suit as we speak). George reminded me of how rich is my homeland, with 40 flavors of Christian heresy compared to Spain´s vanilla/chocolate/strawberry orthodoxy. (not that there´s anything wrong with orthodoxy...)

George looked very tired and jet-lagged, so we scrapped our plans of bringing him back to The Peaceable. It was hard, not being selfish. But he is worn-out. And I am only about halfway here myself.

I realized that while pawing through the heavy bag of pilgrim hype handed over to all the conferees. There´s stuff in there that would´ve spurred several good stories in ambitious days past, especially as many of the sources were right there on-site, camera ready -- and after a morning of listening to academic Spanish I could probably handle simple interviews.

I had a nice lunch with George. I looked at the notes I took during the morning´s lectures, and I didn´t even go back for the second half of the program. The notes did not mention the Hajj or Shikoku or the Amana Colony. They were thematic notes, ideas for the project waiting for me at home.

So I am not a journalist any more.

I may not even be a "camino head" these days... all the racket and news and issues seem to chatter and clatter away out there someplace.  (Except for the hospitalera who texted an SOS... I´m still glad to help out our trainees when they get into deep water.) (And I don´t ignore the pilgrims who stay here. I repaired a badly torn backpack yesterday, and rather enjoyed the manual work. I am friendly with them, honest.)

I´m in the writing zone, reliving the earliest days of this place, back before it even had a name. And like I told George today, (I´m almost afraid to say it out loud)  I am as happy now as I have ever been in my life. I am doing exactly what I ought to be doing, surrounded by people and things and critters I love. My dream´s come true. Now I only need to tell the story.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

A Simpler Way to Be

Well, no, we don´t NEED pilgrims here. Not a lot of pilgrims. We´ve only hosted a couple of pilgs in the last week, and those for not very long. One of them, a powerful Spanish lady, informed us she is called to be a hospitalera, and she is coming back here to "help deal with the pilgrims" for a couple of months after she finishes her camino. She can´t waste time with training, she said -- she´s 73 years old and life is too short. Albergues are noisy and dirty, and she´d prefer to be a hospitalera at our house.

I told her No Thanks. I think she was miffed.

The other was a Danish lady. She told me I am wrong about the Camino Frances becoming overly commercialized and touristy. She thinks as long as the Camino caters to the cheapest end of the tourism market,  the food, accommodations, and spirit will continue in the present "medieval and brutal" form. She has a point.    

Spurred by their tales, and my encouragement, and a long string of sunny days, Paddy made a snap decision on Tuesday to walk a strip of Camino: five days from outside Burgos and on toward home. Like me, he wanted to see where the pilgrims are coming from these days, literally. He set out from Tardajos after lunch, smiling into the afternoon. I did some shopping in Burgos, then drove back home.

Paddy got as far as Hornillos. There, the little grocery store wanted 1.80€ for two liters of water. The bed-and-breakfasts were booked-up with surly French tourists. The pilgrim hostel was unspeakable -- packed and dark and smelly. There was noplace for him to sleep anywhere in town, and he didn´t feel up to walking another 8 kilometers to the next refuge.

Paddy did not do as a stalwart pilgrim would. He did not wrap himself up in his blanket on the church porch, nor seek alternative accommodations from the barkeepers or the police. He did not phone a cab to take him on to the next town. Paddy phoned me. He asked me to fetch him home.

Nine kilometers of pilgrim-ing showed Paddy what a week of hospitalero-ing in Salamanca did back in December. Paddy, a man who holds a fistful of Compostela certificates, with friends up and down the Caminos won through his hospitalero career, is through with all Camino-type activities outside Moratinos. If it requires him to leave behind his animals and foreswear a clean and comfy bed and hot shower, he ain´t having any. He´s getting too old for such silliness, he says. If the Camino wants him, it knows where he lives. He doesn´t feel any need to go out looking for it any more.

And so it is. Pilgrim numbers are increasing, but fewer pilgrims are finding their way to our door. It´s a rare thing to bring one home, now that the galgo girls have shifted our morning hikes away from more populated paths. And when I do meet them on the trail, pilgrims are less amenable to invitations. They are more wary and goal-oriented, and somewhat less open to random events that might interfere with their carefully laid plans. Which is OK by me. Because I have plans, too.

My walk in March and April emptied me out and simplified many things for me. And being home now is much simpler than it was when the place was full of boarders and visitors and appointments.

Before she left, Kim arranged a massive pile of material into a comprehensive computer file called "Moratinos Life." She planted  it on the desktop of my Mighty Samsung. It´s an invitation I can no longer refuse. This week I set up a corner with a desk and window and plants and nothing else to distract me, and I sat down there, and I tucked into the great feast that´s been laid-out for me. Off to one side I even started assembling a jigsaw puzzle, a time-tested way for me to focus sharply and work out questions of structure.

Which is to say, I am writing now, and it´s going very well, and it´s going to be very good.

I am cooking our lunches, and the cuisine is outstanding and creative and delicious. Malen and David brought us a bread-making machine from Holland, and we´re now feasting on the outcomes. Nevertheless, we are eating much less food. I will  blog less often, seeing as there´s less to tell you about these days.

We walk the dogs. We plant vegetables, and feed the chickens, and care for one another and the house. We chat with the neighbors and help clean up the church. The men are finishing up the roof on the barn, Paddy´s having minor surgery next week, I´m going back to USA for ten days in June to see my son graduate from university...Nothing too amazing there.

Now and then a friend or a pilgrim or pilgrims will come and stay a day or a week or a while, (and we will feed them very well!) but we won´t go looking for them. Not for now, anyway.

Like one of my Senseis told me: There are many ways to be hospitaleros, and pilgrims, and peaceable. To learn what that means on an everyday level, we only have to relax and see what happens next.