Sunday, 19 February 2012


I went to Galicia, to the Costa da Morte, to a spit of land sticking out into the Atlantic, with waves smashing against rocks and gulls wheeling in the stiff wind. A church stood there on the point looking west, with waves splashing its face.

I went to a lighthouse on another spit of land, beyond the new lambs grazing in mazes of ancient dry-stone walls. The wind tried to knock me down, tried to tear my coat off my back. It whooped and whistled in my earrings. It blew all the clouds right out of the sky.

I went to a castro, the leavings of a tiny town built thousands of years ago out of stones on a hill. Circles made of stones, hardly houses, once with pointy raffia roofs, once with fire and water and iron tools, (seeing as it was the Iron Age), circles standing in a circle inside a tall wall, once full of some kind of people, lives lived, histories, stories, love and birth and fear and death, and now completely silent. But for the road passing by below, and the lowing eucalyptus woods, and the water in the stream, all is silent, all dead and gone and forgotten. Time has all but wiped them all away.

I saw a Dolmen, a megalith, a big half-buried booth of stone slabs that made a tomb about 3,700 BC. Somebody barely human painted the walls inside with what we´d term "grafitti," red and black and white. And over time the earth grew up around it, made it look like it erupted to us from somewhere lower down. There are dozens of dolmens and standing stones in this region, but this one is the biggest. So this one´s been dug out and charted, scrubbed, landscaped, roofed-over and Disneyfied. It´s got a turnstile and a security guard and charts and graphs. It ought to be humming with ghosts, but now it is truly dead. It needs the sky and wind to make it breathe again.

I saw a medieval church hunkered into a hillside, its door-jambs carved with crude Last Suppers, the edges worn fuzzy green and gray. A white rabbit stood and watched. It is very green there, daffodils bloom, farmers fill ox-carts with fragrant grass, fields are full of fuzzy donkeys and foals. It is beautiful, damp, and ancient.

I did not bring a camera. I have gone off cameras, they get in the way of seeing and being. But this place, these places, are all around Muxia. You can, I hope, go there yourself someday, take a long walk, see them yourself, hear the funeral bells ringing from way up the valley, smell violets underfoot, scratch the donkey´s gray face, walk among the tombs in the little graveyards, peek into the salon of the old rectory, a room now full of blackberry canes, its roof and floorboards long collapsed, its last occupant buried years ago under the stones there in the churchyard.    

Ghosts are everywhere in Galicia, quiet and benign. You´d expect that in a place called "the Coast of Death," but it´s not just the great amount of historic shipwrecks. I think it´s the sheer number of humans who´ve spent their lives on that land, for many thousands of years. Solitary as the big sky and crashing waves and abandoned beaches might feel, the map is peppered with villages and towns. Every other field has an old woman in it, swinging a hoe or examining some object on the ground. Every open barn or garage door has its man inside, pitching hay or shooting the breeze or mixing concrete. Every bit of land is planted, or harrowed, or built-on or grazed or forested. It is a lonely place, but it is not lonesome.

It is intensely human there.
I am glad I saw it, and felt it.
I am glad now to be home, too. It is not so historic here. Man has not left so many fascinating tracks out on the Meseta.
There are no stones. Our monuments are made of mud and sticks, they fade away with the rain. 
So our space is wider. Our ghosts have names, and their stories will die when we die.
We are not so civilized.   


Tracy Saunders. said...

Yes.That is it. Though you really ought to wear a thicker coat. X said...

Tracy(who was my guide to all the above, and now has a casa de acogida in the neighborhood):

My coat is fine, really. I wear multiple layers. I was not cold, just buffeted. I am cold-blooded, from a cold country.

Anyone finishing a camino in Muxia should find their way to the Casa de Raposito, Tracy´s house. You will be welcome there. (links to come)

ksam said...

You and Tracy are making my feet itch...badly I might add!

Anonymous said...

I have beautiful photos of Muxia and the donkey cart women, as well as the dolmens and abladars (standing stones)...and I can't wait to go back to see witness them all in 'real' life, k

mazoo said...

Reb, Beautiful,evocative writing. I'm proud to say your are my daughter! Mazoo

Anonymous said...

Your donation page needs reworking.

Why do you need our name and address ?Rather name is part of credit card data , my street address should not be asked for.

Also, your screen should have all data sensitive fields in password format i.e asterisks appear as we enter credit card number etc.. said...

Hey Anon
I checked that out.
Don´t worry, you still are Anonymous, even if you can see the names, numbers and such, you are the only one who can. It is not appearing anywhere anyone can read it. Paypal makes it visible for you, so you can see if you made a mistake.

It is not something I can change. At least not with my level of IT savvy. Thanks for trying!

Nancy said...

Just thought someone besides your mum should compliment you on your wonderfully transcendent writing. Thanks for the trip!