Monday, 27 February 2012

The Center´s Shifted

I get caught up in things here inside the walls of the Peaceable. I finished the novel, and am now considering my options, wondering where I can get a book-cover design that doesn´t make the story look like a lurid murder tale or soft-core pornography or do-it-yourself project. I need to negotiate with the publisher of another book, and get the spiders off the ceiling beams without meeting them personally or gassing myself. All that kind of stuff.

And then the bell rings at the front gate, and somebody brings me back to earth. Some bodies.

My office looks over the patio and a slice of street. I can see when someone is coming.
These days, with the Italian albergue closed for a while and the weather clear and warm, we see plenty of pilgrims – more than our average numbers. They come at the end of the afternoon, windblown, windburned, and smiling, mostly young, all of them very hungry.

Paddy and I came here to retire, not to write books. We wanted to help out pilgrims now and then. The pilgrims we see these days are reminders of the blessing the camino continues to be, and the direction, perhaps, we are heading into. We have had 14 pilgrims stay here with us since the turn of the year. They are what´s real about here. They keep me from drifting into full-blown hermit-hood.

Spanish men who do not leave their names. Koreans whose names we cannot decipher from the record book, as they are written in elegant script. Miguel, who claims his tendinitis was healed here, overnight. A worldly, handsome Dane, three apple-cheeked Italians from Bologne with a smart dog called “Porky,” and Camilo, a French boy from Brest walking backwards from Sevilla, on his way to Lourdes. They brought richness to our house, and sweetness and light and sometimes hassle, and all was swept away with them the following day.

Three of the 14 were hospitaleros, other hosts at other pilgrim hostels. Some were honored guests: a hospitalero trainer from British Columbia came for the weekend, and hiked with me up into the peaks of the Camino San Salvador, where we checked the snow conditions for some pilgrims on their way up there. We ate and drank and shmoozed, in English!

Others were more like boarders: a silent German girl, parting from a hospitalera gig of several months, unhappy and insular and traumatized, facing a winter on the road. She kept to herself. We left her alone. It was not a happy time for any of us. But I know she will be back. She lives on the camino, lives for it. We don´t do that. Not any more. We love our camino and our pilgrims, but we are not centered there. Our lives are rich and varied and rooted not on The Way, but in this extraordinary little town.

I have not been out and about much, Moratinos-wise, in the last weeks, I lost touch with the local gossip, the English lessons curtailed by work schedules and family feuds. I curled up inside our walls and just worked on books, traveled a bit to visit friends. 

At church this Sunday Milagros handed me a three-page flyer called “El Veladero,” a monthly newsletter from the Escuelas Campesinas program that she and Modesto and Raquel are part of – I have written about their meetings in blogs past. This month´s edition is a special one: it is all about Moratinos. Moratinos in the past six years, and how it is exceptional in the district, because it is so wide-open, progressive, and growing. Not just because of we foreigners coming in and starting things, but because the Milagros Boys are building a restaurant in the bodegas, and because Don Santiago and several local families have resurrected the Corpus Christi celebrations, November retirement dinners, the after-Mass vermut gathering. Because so many of the people here get along, and work together, set aside their differences and actually enjoy living in what might otherwise be a “nowhere” place.

It all is true, and now it is not just me and this blog saying so. It´s official!

And now I must get up and go outside these walls and ask Julia why she sent us over a bottle of cider this morning, and see if maybe she wants to take a paseo, hear what song Fran is singing today.


The Solitary Walker said...

You finished the novel? I'm impressed. Well done. And waiting to hear more!

EileenHamer said...

If you keep this up, we'll all want to retire and move to Moratinos. Then you'll have stoplights and fast food and . . .