Friday, 30 September 2011

Hound Dog in the Promised Land

Paddy, Promised Land
If you have been round here for long, you know about the Grand Canyon, Labyrinth, Tumberon, Hare Field, Medieval Lane, and Happy Valley -- names we´ve given to the trackless landscapes around us.  You will not find them on any maps, but these names enable us to find one another while dog-walki, bush-whacking and star-gazing, or better describe to one another where we spotted the owl or the avutarda.

So... what´s the Promised Land look like in September, when the fields are cut and there´s been no rain for many weeks? Here you go. Shot today, while the camera battery stuttered out its last moments of power. I will do better next time, I promise.

soybeans sprouting near the bodega hill

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Things delight, if you let them.
Here are several things that delight me lately.

My grandad Albert Scott celebrated his 94th birthday Saturday. He is sharp and smart and funny, and now he has a girlfriend! Her name is Betty. She is a sweet young thing of 80-something.

This morning I picked a bucketful of sweet yellow apples from the trees in our back yard. I thought to make pies with them, but realized I still have sliced-up apples from last year in the freezer. I pulled those out to use them up, and discovered frozen sliced-up cherries, too. And cascabellas, the little cherry-ball fruit thingies that grow on the tree out front. So in the oven now is an apple pie and a cherry-cascabella pie.

I don´t know who will help us eat them, or even if they will be very good after all this time in the freezer. But we´ve seen a spate of very fine pilgrims lately. Hungry ones. And I bet these pies are going to be fabulous.

Lately the fruit and veg are beyond compare. In the past two weeks I have made the finest Red Gazpacho Andaluz AND the finest Sopa Ajo Blanco of my entire life. And some killer zuchinni bread and veggie quiche as well. It´s the vegetables, people. September is the moment for fresh vegetables and fruit, and I love to eat!

I delight in Literacy. Over the last couple of weeks I re-wrote Zaida, a novel I wrote last year about a Moorish princess who lived nine kilometers away and a thousand years ago in Sahagun. The book is now being read critically by three trusted people. And of course I now am discovering a great trove of historic information on that time and place that will have to be rubbed into the story somehow! I am delighted to say I feel no fear or resistence to re-writing the whole thing again if I have to -- I may need to make Zaida into a tough cookie instead of the innocent hard-done-by. This is a wonderful and simple story, but I am not so attached to my work that I cannot chop out chunks of it to make it even better.

Reading deeply of historic texts has always been a favorite pastime. Now I can do it with an end in sight. It makes me want to go and visit Córdoba and Sevilla (where Zaida grew up). Just about every tourist who comes to Spain goes to see Sevilla and Córdoba, but until now I have managed to miss them both. (FYI: Leprosy did not exist in western Europe until the 12th century, when the crusaders brought it home with them from the Middle East.)

I am delighted that Leena, a friend from England, may be coming in a few weeks to stay with the dogs, so Paddy and I can go together to see the splendid Moorish cities down south. We almost never travel anywhere together, so it is a treat when it happens.

Meantime, the camino has offered up some wonderful characters. We hosted a kilt-wearing Shaman massage therapist, a high-church Episcopal priest from Fort Worth (he updated me on goings-on in my beloved US denomination and did a bit of healing as well); Another night brought a chipper Dutch-English couple who run hotels in Costa Rica. (The man is a jolly prophet of our oncoming collective economic doom). We also had a beautiful Irish girl who explained how hashish is made, using freezer bags and tea strainers and a rolling-pin.

We bought three new tires for the car in a week´s time, and now the front end is making a not-encouraging sound when I turn the wheel hard. So far we´ve been able to address the problems as they rise... including the fused light-switch in the salon. When things go, they all go at once.

The English lessons are swimming along. It delights me to hear Flor and Estevinas saying aloud, “The doves are timid,” “I have no money,” and “José is drunk.” Some of them are doing very well indeed, even though I still do not know what I am doing. The hours of 5:30 to 7 p.m. Saturdays goes by faster than any other hour-and-a-half of the whole week.

Our critters are healthy, we are getting over colds, and we put the last couple of pilgs on a train for Oviedo just before lunchtime. Now I will have a nap.

We are doing delightfully.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Year´s Hard Crown

Internet is back. I am taking all the credit, even though I am not sure which of the several "fixes" I tried was the one that worked. It is all very mystical and mysterious. Maybe a saint dunnit. Thank you, whomever or whatever. Living takes on an odd cast when you know the communication links are down.

The sky is full of herds of birds, lots flying south, a few heading north! This afternoon we saw eight gray geese fly across the fields near St. Martin de la Fuente. The sky is becoming silent now. In the morning, out on the Promised Land, nothing can be heard but crows. I saw a snake out there the other day, black and gray, running away.

It is manure-spreading season. The familiar perfume hangs in the air. The flies are bad.

At the bodegas work continues on the new underground restaurant, with a forest of floor-jacks and elaborate cement-injection machines blasting away on the roof. Someday, something awesome is going to be there. Around the other side of the hill the Segundino family is rebuilding a collapsed bodega, connecting it inside with their current cave. Beautiful arches of bricks, all of it going to be buried at the end. We are keeping busy too, taking care of business: furnace maintenance, new front tires on the car ("Fear As Tony," the tire man recommended: Great for farm vehicles. Tough as nails. American. Then I saw the brand printed on the side of the tire: Firestone! Aha!) All we need now is a window and door out back, for Paddy´s painting studio.The next ordeal.

It all would be rather boring and anodyne if I was not working a good four hours each day on Zaida, the novel I wrote last November. I am doing an overhaul, a re-write, smoothing out all the repetitions and stupidness that slips into a document that size. It is productive, it is creative, and it is funner than just about anything else I do. Half my day is spent in Sahagun, but a thousand years ago.

The work is only apropos, seeing as Autumn is on its way.
Next to the downstairs toilet we keep a copy of "The Unquiet Grave," a series of epigrams by that cheery old elf Cyril Connolly. In there this morning I found this:

The creative moment of the writer comes with the autumn. The winter is the time for reading, revision, preparation of the soil; the spring for thawing back to life; the summer is for the open air, for satiating the body with health and action, but from October to Christmas is for the release of mental energy, the hard crown of the year.

Hear, hear, Cyril. I could not agree more! And now that I have the re-write half finished, other projects are flowing in -- Mitch is going to Bolivia at the end of the month, and will be writing madly after that to have his book in shape for a November deadline. I agreed to do that re-write, too -- no doubt chapter by chapter, as the draft is finished. Should be fun. I might actually make some money, too!

And then there´s the Vadiniense guide, and an article or two about the route for a couple of pilgrim magazines. Kim sent me a huge zip file of blog entries and photos... I haven´t had the nerve to open it yet.

It is very good to be booked-up. Things like blogs, housework, friends and birthday cards are neglected, but I don´t feel too guilty. I am doing what I do best, what I love most.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Limited Contact

The internet connection in our house has gone south again. I write this from Bruno´s place. I will get back into better touch when Civilization returns to The Peaceable.(everything else seems to be breaking down, too. Tis the season!)

Meantime, I am doing the re-write on Zaida, the novel I wrote last November. Without the internet distractions the work is progressing apace. Also, the English lessons here in Moratinos recommenced yesterday evening... I thought I might get five or six takers, now that the summer rush is over. But TWELVE people showed up, and stayed for a full hour and a half! What fun!

But seeing as I need to move on out of here before another purchase is required, here is my offering for the week. An offering, really, from Kim. She lived with us for a good while in the last couple of years. She is a  gifted woman, and a filmmaker. Here is her summary of her Year On The Road, part of which was spent with us in Moratinos. I could never have put it better than she does -- our house, and the Camino de Santiago, and Finisterre at the end. Put it on full screen and pour a glass of Tempranillo and just enjoy:

reflections from the end of the land from soulful road on Vimeo.

Thank you, Kimster, for being a part of our story.