Friday, 4 March 2011
Jesterday: A Lesson
Still, after 13 kilometers they were smiling, happy, full of life. Ruben, a Basque from Barakaldo, was a big man, 40-ish, a chef at a summer resort up on the coast -- the kind of pilgrim who drinks lots of red wine and laughs loud and then snores like a sawmill all night. The other two were slim and fashionable and in love: Alan from Argentina, a young Sinatra in a black fedora, and Sylvia, a pierced and tattooed nymph from Portugal.
We sat them down in the kitchen. I made some bread last night, and they tucked into that while Paddy made them each a two-egg omelette. We talked about Hugo Chavez and George Bush and the California maharishi that Alan and Sylvia hope to meet up with later this year in India. I had trouble understanding Alan´s Argentine accent, I admitted. So everyone then shifted into perfectly OK English. Accented, but fine -- probably about equal to my Spanish.
After the last of the egg was mopped-up with the last of the bread, Alan spotted the guitar... "Ah! I long to touch the guitar!" he said. "May I please?"
So Fred´s guitar was put to its intended use, and the gray morning round the kitchen table turned to a skilled bossa nova, then a tango. Ruben has a monster baritone voice, which he applied with fulsome emotion to the Beatles: "Jesterday," he sang. Me and Alan harmonized (more or less) on "Wish You Were Here," and then Ruben then made a blockbuster attempt at "What a Wonderful World."Alan suddenly decided the guitar needed a tuning. (sing that song with a Spanish accent. Just try it. It is an absolute scream.) Bob the canary loved every minute, and sang along at maximum volume. Tim and Rosie and Murph did not budge from their usual 10-to-noon posture, best described as "carelessly flung across the furniture."
And so by 11:15 the smiling trio put their coats and backpacks on again, and disappeared back into the winter.
We made more coffee.
"Nice people," I said. "Fun, hearing live music in the place."
"They have a lot to answer for, the Beatles," Paddy said.
* * * * * * * * *
I blogged about the eventful morning, a verson of what you see above. I posted it. After lunch the doorbell rang again. Out on the steps, in the rain, was Antonio. This is the third or fourth time the leathery little Portuguese has turned up here. He travels back and forth across the camino, fully credentialed but obviously not your usual pilgrim. Antonio is a traveling man, a homeless person. A hobo. "Hola, Rebekah!" he said, kissing my cheeks. "I am back!" We are on first-name terms, us and Antonio.
Antonio is walking eastward, to Rome this time, he said. He needed wine to warm himself, maybe a raincoat for tomorrow, and especially a winter-weight sleeping bag. We didn´t have the last two, but he helped to empty out the bottle of Rueda left over from lunch. I told him I´d drive him over to Ledigos, to the next open pilgrim shelter. Paddy gave him 10 Euro for the night´s stay. (Paddy and I are finally communicating between ourselves, when one of us doesn´t really want to host a pilgrim that night.) I remembered an old LL Bean sleeping bag out in the barn, a dusty, overly-heavy model abandoned here a couple of years ago. Antonio was glad to have it.
Antonio never leaves here empty-handed, which nettles me somewhat. I feel like a sucker when he goes. But when I think about why, I have to respect the man. He is in need. He asks for what he wants, he never demands. And if I have extra, there is no good reason for me not to share it with him. We both understand that. That is why he keeps coming back here, and that is why I keep giving him things. (That, and my mothers´oft-stated suspicion that bums are often "angels in disguise.")
On the way over to Ledigos the snow turned to heavy rain. I remembered Kim had left a poncho in the back of the car, for whomever. I dug it out and gave it to Antonio, so he can walk tomorrow.
At the bar in Ledigos sat Don Gaspar, one of our two parish priests, in whose capable hands I left our friend Antonio. I am not sure either was happy about the exchange, but both told me I am a nice person. Both thanked me, and wished me godspeed.
They blessed me in Castellano and in Portuguese, respectively. And during the drive home that made me think, too, about the blog above, and the fun I´d had, laughing at the Argentine and the Basque singing English tunes for us in our kitchen -- how funny it was, hearing "Yesterday" sounding so silly...
And I was struck by my own ingratitude, maybe even my cruelty. Sure, England and America provide the world with a fabulous musical repertoire. But English, the lyric language, is not my personal possession. Here were these tired, damp strangers, taking a chance in a second tongue, paying for their breakfast with songs and smiles. And there I was, mocking them behind their backs for their funny accents.
Me, the person who twists Spanish into bizarre shapes on a daily basis... a foreigner who, after five years in Moratinos, still cannot make some of her neighbors understand more than half the things she says. Hold up right here girly, I told myself. I took a look in the mirror.
We´ve had plenty of pilgrims in the days since I came home: a French Canadian, two Catalan ladies, as well as today´s arrivals. None of them left any money, but what they did bring, apparently, were lessons I need to learn. (Just incidentally, this afternoon, even while I was driving Antonio east, a blog reader from Australia hit the donation button, and paid into our account enough to cover everybody´s expenses.)
* * * * * * * * * *
We live in a magnificent place, people. Not just us at The Peaceable in Moratinos.
You live here, too, wherever you are. We all are parts of the same world, we all inhabit our own Peaceables. We create our own kingdoms. And we are charged, by Christ himself, to be peace, to bring justice and kindness to whomever shows up at our doorstep, or at our elbow, or at our desk.
Patrick and I are not called to be any more heroic than you are called to be.
After today, I hope you are kind to the needy people all around you. And I hope it does not take you so long as it does me, to see the lessons they have for you.
And the music.