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.