Monday, 26 July 2010
The smell of cut grain changes depending on whether it´s rye or oats being cut (one smells more green, somehow. The other smells like raisins.)
The rotted old lintels in the rafters in the entryway of our little church are carved with triangles and dots. I´ve been in and out of that church at least a hundred times, and had not noticed before.
Our little plaza is not the most charming in Spain. It is uneven, and unevenly paved-over. But when the 6 p.m. sun hits it in late July, it´s spectacular.
The 6 p.m. sun makes standing grain glow like it´s phosphorescent. Viewed through a stand of trees it is positively eerie. A camera can´t catch it.
The market stalls in Sahagún´s Saturday market are getting positively in-your-face with their underwear. The shoppers and hawkers this weekend were shoulder-to-shoulder between the table-loads of socks, knock-off designer bags, jeans, jammies, cosmetics, toys, shoes, tools, and t-shirts. But most aggressive of all are the underpants sellers, who suspend their most tantalizing "tangas" (thongs), boxers, briefs, and panties from hangers just above head-level. They tap you on the shoulder as you sidle by. And if the family in front of you spots an oncoming long-lost relation, and traffic flow stalls out while their reunion unfolds, you stand politely by while they kiss and hug and halloo. You and a dozen others peer between the dangling assortment of sherbet-hued bikinis and bragas and bras for an exit route you know is not there.
The fruit stalls are beautiful. And on the sidewalk behind the walls of shapes and colors and textures are mountains of peels, leaves, stems, rinds, and seeds, thrown aside before the produce hits the scales. It´s a chicken´s version of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. People stare at me when I fill up a big shopping bag with this garbage. I´m foreign. I´m used to being stared-at. And my chickens love me for it.
Just outside our barn door a young tree is growing. We didn´t plant it. We don´t trim it, or fertilize it, but it´s grown up a good five feet since we came here. And on Thursday I really looked at it, and saw something wonderful. It´s a fruit tree, covered in what looks like yellow-red cherries!
A pilgrim told us these are not cherries. They´re a special kind of plum. They´re mild and sweet and firm, but small, cherry-sized. I don´t know what they are. But they make me happy, like a gift that just shows up in the post, or a visit from a friend from far away.
Early this month we passed the one-year anniversary of Una Dog´s death sentence. While I was at the church to do our weekly stint, I stood in front of the image of San Roque and his little dog, and remembered the superstitious little promise I made back then, when the veterinarian said the cancer in her leg had most likely spread, that Una had maybe four months more to live.
"Give her a year. Give her six months, even. If she´s alive and healthy by next year, I´ll walk the Camino again," I told Roque back then.
Una survived, at the cost of one back leg. I walked the Road in thanksgiving.
And there she was with me in the church entryway, chilling in the cool shade. I lit a candle and thanked God for taking time out to do me such a favor, then walked back out to sit down by the doors. And who comes walking through the portal, not two minutes later?
A little brown dog. I´d never seen him before, but Una greeted him happily, showed him where the water bowl is kept, took him out to show him around the plaza. Three pilgrims came in soon after. It wasn´t their dog, they said, but it had followed them down the camino for several kilometers.
Una was on her way home by then. The little dog followed along behind her.
"Good," Blandine the French pilgrim said. "We can´t take him all the way to Santiago. You can find his owner, yes?"
The trio filled their water bottles at the fountain and started on up the trail. The little dog, way up the street, saw them heading out.
He left Una. He turned round and ran back down Calle Ontanon and caught up to the last of them. He knew where he wanted to be.
Roque was a pilgrim saint, you know.
I´m making a concerted effort to really see the world that´s moving around me, to train my mind to not spend all my time thinking about what happened yesterday or ten years ago or last week, or what I hope will or will not happen tomorrow or next month or when I´m 64.
All I have is now. And I want to live here.
It´s easy. It´s fun. And it´s delicious.