Saturday, 17 October 2015

Mountain Climbing

The nights are snappy cold, the trees are bright yellow, the sky is mostly shocking blue.

It makes me want to get out and about, makes me want to drive west and north, probably my last chance to run free before the gray skies and long nights close in and shut me indoors.
Posadas de Valdeon
And so I went, with Fred and a French guitar dealer, up into the mountains of Cantabria and Leon, to mountain fastnesses with great big-sounding names like Puerto de Pandetrave, and Posadas de Valdeon, and Boca de Huergano. Spectacular places, 1300 meters up, bright green and blue and yellow for now, but with an overhanging threat of isolation and snow.  I bought good 2500:1 maps. I can look at those this winter, when the snow’s sealed those places off from us in the the south.

I went with Ollie on Tuesday over to Astorga, in the foothills, and met with city councilmen and other muckety-mucks – they like my idea of a grove of trees to memorialize pilgrims who die on the camino Way. They have an unused swath of parkland right alongside the trail out of town – complete with a chapel, benches, water supply, lighting, trash bins, and a maintenance crew. It’s tailor-made. We only need the mayor to rubber-stamp it, and we can start taking donations to make it happen. 
The park outside Astorga. Not much there. Yet.

Astorga’s got it going on. And Astorga’s got some wounds of its own to heal. American pilgrim Denise Thiem spent her final hours there in April, before a local madman abducted and killed her.
So far, the victim’s family doesn’t want any memorial outpourings. But a tree? A tree among other trees, dedicated to all the pilgrims who’ve died on the Way … we can plant trees, and when they are ready, we can put her name to one.  Meantime, other grieving families and friends can memorialize their loved-ones on the camino path, and passing travelers can be reminded they, too, are only passing through.  Still no word yet from the mayor. If you know the guy, put in a good word. If you know a pilgrim with skills who’d like to help design this, put them in touch!  

Only a couple of days later I was back over west again, this time with our beloved Kim.(That explains the nice new blog header... Kim's got a way with graphics.) We drove up to O Cebreiro to visit another friend – Canadian author and activist Laurie Dennett. Laurie knows about gardens and garden design. Her own garden has a life-size Chartres labyrinth laid out in boxwood, and this year she had a bumper crop of parsnips, too. We sat and visited and consulted and sympathized, then
Kim in the car, this time with Paddy, Ruby, and Harry
loaded up the car with parsnips and the seed pods for Cosmos flowers. Kim and I stopped on the long way home to visit the grave of Don Elias Valina in O Cebreiro, the albergue of Matt Sanchez in Vega de Valcarce, the wineries of Tilenus and Camponaraya in El Bierzo, the Bank of Santander and pizzeria of Ponferrada, the Cave of San Genadio way up top the mountain at Penalba, and finally the pilgrim hostel of Leon. Kim jumped out there, to rejoin the pilgrim path out of town for a few days. She is back now on the camino, considering her next move. 

If you know someone who wants to buy a successful, soulful sea-salt and local honey boutique in Key West, Fla., do send them on.

Back at home, the house is full of pilgrims with no homes or money, pilgrims who want to buy a copy of “The Moorish Whore,” pilgrims who just want to stop and say hello. It’s mid-October, and there are still tons of the blighters passing by.

So you see, it’s busy busy business around here.  Except for when it’s very quiet.

Which it is, still, most of the time. We ARE Peaceable, after all.   


Christine Adams said...

I love the idea of the shades of pilgrims offering shade to pilgrims. I'll be among the first donors. Lucky you to be up in the hills in brilliant fall weather! Buen camino!

Martea Cashion said...

I love and miss you so much...

Heidi L said...

I love the idea of a shady memorial grove.

Sorry to hear that you never get any peace from pilgrims! I will walk past when I go through Moratinos next weekend, and feel very virtuous for saving you at least a little bother...

Amanda Schaffer said...

Trees seem to have an eternal presence so perfect that a grove will honor Denise and others -- Please count me in for a contribution when ready.
Your picture of Posadas de Valdeon reminded me of the beginning of Camino Aragones -- majestic mountains all around!