Friday, 26 November 2010
Living Small, Walking Hard
I can listen to my Pete Townshend and Holly Cole and Elvis Costello music without driving Paddy up the wall. I can make one homemade pizza and it will last for a whole day. I haven´t had to wash dishes or wash laundry or take out trash for days and days, because somehow I don´t make much mess when I´m on my own. I live pretty small. When it´s just me and the critters, me absorbed in a project, I inhabit only two rooms. I can heat those with just the woodstove. It´s kinda cool, living small. Long as I remember to keep lobbing logs onto the fire!
(the sky is closing in.)
One of the signposts of my days is 4 p.m. That´s when me and Julia go for a paseo. A very FAST paseo, a good 6 or 8 kilometers´ worth, sometimes more. We´re getting into condition for the camino, you know. Her family steps aside and lets her go, sometimes right out til 6 or 6:30, when the sunlight fails. She is a woman on a mission, with her new Salomon walkers, her waterproof trousers -- the combined total for both was 100 Euro, hollín! For a walk of four days!
(Six days. Seven, I say, parenthetically).
You know what I mean, Rebekah. What do I need with expensive hiking things? This isn´t Everest!
No. It´s about 115 kilometers. It´s not Everest. But it is not peanuts. It´s not easy-peasey. You are going to feel this. It´s a pilgrimage. Sacrificio.
Julía´s husband Paco tells her she´s "muy illusionada." Living a dream. Her daughter Christie did the same Camino a couple of times, and she´s the one who Shanghai-ed her mom to the mall in Leon and bought her the proper shoes. (Christie´s the one staying home and keeping an eye on Fran, the family member who needs some looking-after. Here is a pic. of what the two of them are doing lately: alumbrando their field of grapevines. They say it keeps the stocks from rotting. I say they are practicing for careers in cutting-edge hair design.)
The family is making sure Julia´s camino is successful. This week Paco volunteered to drive the pair of us to Sarria, and to drive our "coche de apoyo," (in America it´s the "sag wagon.") We won´t have to carry our things on our backs. We will walk short days, and sleep each night in private rooms, in proper beds with sheets and blankets. We´ll have hot showers and clean towels. Nothing elaborate. But better than the pilgrim albergue bunk-bed and manky shower routine beloved of the pilgrim throng.
Some consider this short-trip luxurious kind of pilgrimage a touristic cop-out, not quite legitimate. In the past I may have thought so too. Now, once again, I am having my mind renewed.
This family is rallying around Julia, the matriarch. They are making this happen for her, because she really, really needs to get out and do this. She and Paco. Their fields are sown. Christie is off work, at home with Fran. The holidays aren´t here yet. The Holy Year is almost done. There´s me, a (somewhat) respectable pilgrim woman for Julia to walk the path with, someone with experience. It will be so good for Julia, so therapeutic. The family is making a sacrifice for Julia. They are "siezing the day."
And Julia is doing this for whom? She does not say she is walking for the sake of her daughter, her namesake, Juli, so recently and suddenly taken from us. It is ME who is doing the walk for little Juli, my friend and their daughter and sister. Julia, Juli´s mother, is doing this walk with me, to support me. Because I made a promise to Little Juli.
And just thinking about that makes me melt into a big pool of sentimental tears.
This may be the most meaningful Camino I ever made.
So God help the next hardcore hiker who rags on the Sarria-starters when I am around. He may forever after carry on his hide the scars of a multiple rosary-bead impact. There´s so much more to this Camino than our presumptuous, self-referential, comparative Pilgrim egos can comprehend. It takes years to even start to see the layers. I think we all ought to just shut the hell up and walk, for Chrissakes.
It is a day of hope, though! Today in San Nicolas, during our paseo, we ran into Sabina, a sweet lady of 88 years. I met her at a funeral a couple of years ago, and helped her walk from church to cemetery. She remembered me, and whose funeral it was, and what the weather was like then. She remembered when Julia´s firstborn was baptized in the church there, a good 40 years ago. Remembering is what she does best these days, she told us.
My Words O Wisdom? Write down at the end of each day what happened, and what you thought of it. It is not hard. It´s very therapeutic, really. And in so doing, you build your own archive. Lots of pilgrims keep diaries, but they quit when they get home. Not smart.
Years from now, when you get to be as old and wise as Sabina, you can put on your Holly Cole album, and pull out your notes, and review all the wisdom of your years, and create Great Literature.
Or at least you will leave behind some stuff that will embarrass the hell out of your kids someday, if they ever bother reading it.
At the very least, it will be great kindling for the fire.
Some future dog or cat will appreciate a good fire.
Oh, and today in a draw at the big "hipermarket" in Leon I won a jamon Bellota, a top-quality giant cured pig leg, delight of gourmets and campesinos the world over! Paddy and I discussed only days ago buying one to install in the Residents-Only bar in the Moratinos town hall... Santiago steps in again. My lucky day!
Luckiest of all, perhaps, was discovering the case of Prado Rey 2006 crianza, a restaurant-grade Ribero del Duero tinto that I stuck in the bodega two years ago. Tomorrow we will have guests over for a late Thanksgiving feast, so I pulled out two bottles to serve with dinner. I tried a taste this afternoon. It has matured into something marvellous! My first home-cured Reserva!
God is good, in so many ways. I wish more countries did "Dia de Accion de Gracias," or Thanksgiving.
Julia says maybe I should take tomorrow off, hiking-wise, what with David and Malin coming from Astorga, and Bruno and his Italian carpenter, and Paddy returning, and all these little quails to roast.
... and the blister on my left foot.