Now that the manual work is done, I need to get down to the written test.
Which is another way of saying "Christmas cards." I try to keep track of all the friends and family and just random kind people who touch us in special ways each year, and at the end send them each a nice hand-written holiday card. This should not be difficult, seeing as we no longer clog our Decembers with evergreen trees, holly, or extravaganzas of cookie-baking, partying, or gift-giving. I string a line of Christmas lights around the living room or over one of the larger house plants. I bake stöllen or lebkuchen or something merry, and if we expect a crowd I will roast a fowl or some kind or other. This year I grew parsnips and brussels sprouts in the garden, just for the holidays, because Paddy likes them. (we shall see how they turn out!) But compared to the month-long lunacy so many people undergo, things are pretty simple and easy around here at Christmas. I like to think if a star appeared in the east, or a baby was born out in our barn one of these nights, we might not be too busy to notice.
Anyway, we looked over our diary and thought back over the nice things we enjoyed this year, and we made up a list of people to send cards to. I bought ten nice ones from the UNICEF display at the post office. Ten cards. It tends to focus things a bit. Who is on the list?
>Kathy, who sends us divine Mexican tortillas from California, at vast and foolish expense. Who flies to Spain to walk with me on unexplored trails. A great friend. A card for her, surely.
>And one for Tracy, who drove me and Kathy up to the mountains, and let me stay at her villa in Marbella, and is soon to open a pilgrim welcome place in Galicia.
>Denis, the French Scotsman who rescued Kathy and me from the hot griddle that was the last three kilometers of the Camino Vadiniense in late July. Sent by angels. A card is the least I can do.
>Miguel Angel, my Mexican-French psychoanalyst friend. I did not see him this year, but on a particulary tough day in the spring a courier delivered an elegantly wrapped tin. Inside were waxed papers, embossed with the name of a French pàtisserie: Pastries. Cookies. Sweetness. He was just thinking of us, he wrote on the little slip inside.
>Filipe, my Portuguese DNA scientist and bosom friend who whisks me off to the beach.
>Dael, the dour Scotsman who helped me move 16 tons of dirt onto the bodega roof in May. The man deserves much more than a card. He needs a medal of honour, that one.
>George, from Virginia. An academic, a gentleman, a scholar, a mystic. He introduced me to movie stars in February in Washington D.C. We go way back. I love him.
>Ivar, who lives in Santiago and always welcomes me to town with a big lunch and all the latest camino news.
>John and Stephen, more Scotsmen. They walked and talked with me across the baking plains of Valladolid and Zamora provinces, and who now are innovating a pilgrim welcome center in Santiago. Visionaries.
>Marion, and the other very English people in the Confraternity of St. James office in London, who edit and publish the guides I write. Infinite patience. Hard work. No pay. Except maybe a card now and then. Worker bees.
>Colin and Margaret, from Wales. They drive their camper van from home all the way to Rabanal in the summer, to volunteer at the monastery there. They stop here on the way, and have done ever since we lived in the summer kitchen. They bring us Marmite, cheddar cheese, Branston Pickle, and week-old copies of The Times and The Guardian, and great good cheer.
There are others. You get the idea.
What do all these fine people have in common, except acquaintance with me and The Peaceable?
I cannot find postal addresses for any of them.
In the Information Age, I am without their data. It is here somewhere, maybe tucked into a computer file, or scrawled in a notebook. I have found addresses for Kathy and George, but I know those are out-dated. And Kim. Where is Kim these days? The sangha in Colorado, the Hindu chant-fest in Puerto Rico, or in Key West? I could send out an email appeal to all of them, but that would spoil the little frisson of receiving an honest-to-God, hold-in-your-hand greeting, wouldn´t it?
So here I sit with beautiful little cards and lots of good will, but noplace to send it all.
I wish everyone could be blessed with such a problem. Lucky old me!