It is mid-February, and the first week of Lent. But no, kids, this does not mean life is dreary!
It only means that life is -- shall I say -- structured.
Lent is 40 days of fasting, soul-searching, and quiet prayer, supposedly. Here in Spain, a heavily Catholic country, we take our repentence with grace and gravity. (Lent has a much nicer name here: Cuaresma. "Lent" sounds a bit too much to me like the stuff that accumulates in your pockets. "Cuaresma," though... it is practically "charisma!")
In any case, I am making good on Cuaresma this year. I am doing a daily session of contemplation and prayer, following an updated form of the Spiritual Discipline of St. Ignatius of Loyola -- the Spaniard who founded the Jesuits. It only sounds heavy. It is very good, and very good for me.
I like to think I am a "free spirit," someone who can run her life just fine without programs and outside structures. I was not always very organized at all, but then I grew up. I learned I do well in winter if I have some regimen to follow, a schedule or a ritual. I have learned to schedule things for January and February. This is why I am doing well at studying Spanish verbs. It is why I will (by GOD) have a nice garden this year. It´s why I was able to get Paddy to the medical center by 9 a.m. today, and get the car to Palencia for its annual inspection, get to the bank and get grocery shopping done, all before 1:30 p.m. Because I planned it out.
(Of course we have to wedge dog walks into there somewhere, and muddy plowed fields, and Paddy losing the rubber tip off his new walking stick. The dogs flushed a rabbit and Harry, who is lame, dragged the lead out of Paddy´s hand and may have re-injured himself... Still. It was a beautiful, sunny evening, even if it was a hard evening to be Paddy in.)
Structure is why I am digging Lent this year. It feels right, and there are positive outcomes. It makes me more aware of beautiful things. I see the yellow winter light, and how long and black the shadows are. I hear larks in the fields now, and see Vs of geese overhead, heading back south already. I listen better when people speak to me. I listen better to my gut. I spend less time online, and more time reading books. I pray for a long list of people and things each day. And I am seeing my prayers, very subtly, being answered.
Philip, my son, needs a summer internship. He is in law school. Summer work experience is vital to his later job prospects, and the market is very, very tight. I pray for him. And this evening, on an impulse, I contacted a couple of old lawyer friends -- a District Attorney, a journo who shifted into law, and asked them what is out there. I wonder if that is the right thing to do, if I am being One of Those Moms. (Philip is 25 years old, for heaven´s sake!) But I did it because my gut said "go for it." Why not? It feels right.
I pray for Moratinos, for unity, for forgiveness and co-operation. And at the annual Plaza Tree-Trimming After-Party, the head of the Neighborhood Association offered a strip of community land to me and Michael from the Italian Albergue, to put a garden on.
|Angelón roasting lamb, post tree-trimming|
We haven´t taken a good look at the land, don´t know a time-frame, haven´t settled anything. But the idea is an intriguing one -- a community garden! We would likely be comedy relief for the neighbors, all of whom are professional growers of green things -- Michael, like me, is a big-city newspaper hack, with little experience in actual dirt. We don´t have a tractor. Could we ask the neighbors to plow it for us, and share the big manure delivery, and show us how to irrigate? How many of them would help us out, at least at first? Will they be disappointed if we don´t succeed? Is the ground too near the camino, where passing pilgrims are known to sometimes sample the produce?
I pray about Bella Dog. Nobody wants to adopt her. I decided to treat her with love and respect, even though she is clumsy and overly affectionate and huge. I brush her every day, and look her in the face and tell her she is beautiful. And she is. She is more likely to grow into a good dog if she is loved than if she is resented. If she´s got to live here, well... I will have to love her.
This is the Peaceable Kingdom, after all. This is Cuaresma, time to re-think our less-than-positive habits, time to clean out our pockets and get things lined-up for later. And time to rest up.
It feels right. So I am doing it.