Friday, 15 April 2011

Crowding Into Quiet

Fred & Co.   Pictures by Rachel
Above us, beyond the chatter of birds, the pine tree lows. Little brown seeds rain down. Look close. They are tiny pine cones.

Today the dogs are happy. Lulu finally emerged from the barn, and is lying in the sun by the well. Harry is flung alongside. Paddy reads in his sunbeam, and dozes off his lunch.

Friday afternoon at The Peaceable. Just us, after a week of people.
This is becoming thematic, I know. When the weather breaks and the days are long, the Pilgrim Vibe goes out from among us, and gathers in the wanderers. They stay and play and work and enrich us, and they go. Then we feel happy to be alone again. For a while.

First, on Saturday, was Rachel, a pretty, tiny Czech girl who wanted to stay a while and work. She has no money. I said OK. There´s plenty around here that needs doing. (I had asked the camino to send us a big strapping hardworking guy, but I have a soft spot for real mendicants.)

In her wake came Jean, from Paris, via Philadelphia. His family is very very Catholic, he said. He was “looking for a new way to be.” He was clearly smitten by Rachel.

She worked like a yeoman, sweeping and mopping, scrubbing and lifting and shifting. He dithered and stood by, like his hands were too big. It was hard finding jobs for him to do – he is small and thin, with the big nose and wide forehead of a hermit or a revolutionary..We potted plants and hoed the garden. He helped Paddy and Rachel empty out the studio in the old kitchen  They washed down the floorsand shelves, then put everything back in, in better order. A monumental job I wanted nothing to do with.)

Jean left after a couple of days, having written a three-page letter to young Rachel, telling her she´d shown him A Better Way.

Rachel shrugged. 
She went with me to the bodega on Monday to put up a new layer of whitewash. We ended up stripping the concrete off, back to the bricks. I had a temper tantrum. She shrugged. “Big job,” she said. “You have water coming in from behind the bricks. You need to repair the roof, or you will need to do this job over and over.”

(I know about that roof. I bought the materials needed for the repairs back in the Fall. Esteban already said he´ll kindly bring a tractor-load of dirt over to finish it, once I get the asphalt rolled out and pegged down... But Patrick and I cannot do this kind of heavy job ourselves. This is why I asked The Camino for a strong young guy.) I did not tell Rachel all this.

“It is damp. Let´s let it dry out a while,” I said. “Fred is coming. He will advise.” We spread the busted concrete down the tractor-tracks outside the bodegas, to keep it driveable when it rains. We went home, and prepared for the next day. Another pilgrim was on her way, in addition to Fred.

And so they came – Fred fluttered in from France, bearing big, beautiful Malbec wine from Cahors, indistinguishable (to my amateur palate) from nice Bordeaux. Annie walked here from St. Jean Pied de Port, ready to be trained as a volunteer hospitalera.

So the following day I spent with the ladies round the sunny patio table, discussing the practicalities of radical hospitality. I.E., how to:
*start a wave of peace, love, and harmony that lasts from 1 p.m. to 8 a.m.;
*clear out a clogged sump drain;
*make a public prayer on the spur of the moment;
*register credentials and assign bunks to large groups of exhausted, cranky people;
*properly react to bedbug infestations, forest fires, and demanding tourists.

All that fun stuff you gotta do when you´re running a pilgrim albergue. We did the course fast and efficiently. I stripped my voice.

In the evening we all walked out to the Promised Land. We had a big, merry dinner round the kitchen table, with Fred demonstrating the workings of the new copper moonshine still he´d bought that afternoon at the ferreteria. We listened to guitars. We looked up at the stars, and the half-moon. Paddy and I smiled at one another in the dark.

It took another day for everyone to go.
We were happy to have them. We are happy to not have them, too.

We love pilgrims. And we love our privacy. That is why everyone who buys the new 2011 edition of the usually-excellent John Brierly Guide to the Camino Frances ought to note the following corrections to the Moratinos entry:
Moratinos (pop 20) Hostal Moratinos new hostal at entrance (under construction). Continue down main street calzada Francesa. The main street of Moratinos is Calle Ontanon, as is easily seen from the signs along the buildings. There has never been a Calle Francesa in Moratinos. This "Francesa" error dates back to the Gitlitz and Davidson guide of 1992, and has been repeated by every guidebook writer ever since
Albergue The peaceable Kingdom recently opened in sensitively restored private house in the main street (summer only)
Albergue Hospital San Bruno, a private albergue created by the Confraternity of San Bruno in Brescia, Italy, is opening on Holy Week (hopefully) in a sensitively restored private house on the main street. It will stay open all year. (Peaceable Kingdom is a private "casa de acogida" that has offered emergency backup help to pilgrims since 2006. It is very much NOT an albergue). Parish church dedicated to St. Thomas with large shaded porch and (F). Continue out onto gravel track all the way into San Nicolas del Real Camino etc. etc.

(I told John Brierly I was not happy. He said he is sorry, that this won´t happen again.)

So it was a busy and somewhat stressful week.
Everyone left this morning, everyone but me and Paddy.

Lulu came out of the barn at last.
Harry stopped barking.
We pottered around the patio, we went to Villada,for a fabulous Friday fish menu del dia.
We are back now, in our quiet home with the lowing tree, the twittering canary, and the dogs, groaning and twitching in their sleep.

The concrete will wait for tomorrow. Maybe then the strapping young pilgrims will arrive, fresh and ready for work.


claire said...

Oh, I thought the guidebook said The Peaceable Kingdom was a cheap place. My memory of it is that it is a warm, cosy, inviting place... Nothing cheap about it, especially when it comes to the hospitality.

I liked what the list of hospitaler@ instructions you gave.

Enjoy your privacy until the next wave arrives.

Very much missing your blessed spot on the earth.

[odd] Jean said...

Haha, I love the way you put it. It was a strange experience for me but I don't regret it at all. Thank you for your kindness. said...

You bring me face to face with my insensitive self. I was out of line to write that, making you look bad for the sake of a story.
If you see this, please forgive me -- you did not leave an email address.
Buen camino

Jean said...

Don't feel sorry. It's your story, and I enjoy reading it as it is, really.

Anonymous said...

rebekah.thanks for all the hospitality.
but i never said he wrote me a 3 page letter.
he was a nice guy...and jean if you will read this.
just drop your email & im going to get in contact with you. i actually really appreciate what you said....
it was great to meet you and i walked past the guy in the abandoned house,couple of km before astorga...;)
i hope you are well and happy with your life...only 5km from santiago...made couple of stops on the way in eco village near foncebadon....rach

Anonymous said...

btw Rebekah...thanks for the present you left in my camera bag...i found it couple of days later.
im off to camino de portuges and then camino del northe...still thinking of stopping by in Moratinos on my way back...not sure when...
love to patrick and the dogs... specially to rosie and tim.rach