Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Hermit is a Pig

Me and Una, in happier times
I am almost finished being a hermit.
I switched everything off this month so I could write a book. I am almost finished. I am getting ready to climb out of my little cave and peer into the sunlight, my clothes hanging off my withered form, my skin white, my ink-stained hands shaking...
Well, no. I only wish that writing books made me skinny!
Writing books only makes me boring, I'm afraid. I don't have a lot to talk about besides the book, and most of that is technical stuff that's only interesting to me.
There's been some animal-related drama: Norman Cat's dreams came true, and while we were out one morning, he pulled down the cage with Silent Sid inside, and slew the poor canary. I found Sid breathing his last, out back by the washing machine. He died, I cried, I buried him under the olive tree. Rest in Peace, Sid.
Lulu has four stitches in one of her front paws. She cut herself running out in the Promised Land, which this time of year is alive with little roe deer and great moving clouds of songbirds and hunters bent on their destruction. The fields are full of dead sunflowers, row on row, a sobering, artistic Anselm Keifer kind of severity.

Writing is becoming less interesting these days. I think I am ready to be finished, ready to strap on my boots and get out in the ditches and clean up some pilgrim trash.

Yes, I am a strange woman. Each year, I actually look forward to spending several winter days on the boring awful Meseta, cleaning up other people's trash with a group of like-minded individuals. I am not sure just why, but people who do this are called "Ditch Pigs."

The Camino Cleanup starts at the end of this week, with volunteers coming from Switzerland, England, the United States, and Spain. Eleven donors gave us enough money to each dine on a Menu del Dia every day for five days! I hope to clear a swath from San Anton in Castrojeriz right on out to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, or maybe do a couple of days' walks north on the Camino de Madrid, from Villalon de Campos to Sahagun -- depending on what the volunteers want to do. And the weather. And how bad it is out there.

Ditch Pigs to the Rescue! 
Picking up trash is itself a hermetic practice. It has a lot going for it, spiritually -- not just the obvious Service to Mankind and Nature stuff, but the long days of physical labor, much of it done alone. Ditch Pigs aren't burdened with backpacks like pilgrims are, so they can duck and dive and stretch down low, and leave the filled-up bag along the Way to be picked up later. While they're working, they're thinking. They're pilgrimmy that way -- the camino juju gives a Pig all kinds of philosophical grist to contemplate, even as they crush water bottles and spear tissues and rake out little streams.

We wonder what kind of fool flies a thousand miles to walk a pilgrim trail, then drops litter on it. We wonder why the rise in the number of North Americans has a concomitant rise in the number of white toilet-paper tissues left along the trail. It seems my countrymen have a toilet paper addiction, or are overly fastidious in their outdoor weewee practices. When they finish they feel daisy-fresh. But everyone coming along later gets to see their "paper rose."

One sometimes contemplates the redemptive and preventive power of portable rocket launchers. The problem is, we so rarely actually see anyone drop trash on the camino. We can't blow up anyone without good evidence and due process and all that civilized crap.

So we soldier on. And each year, there's less of a mess for us to clear up.  This summer a litter cleanup campaign headed up the the Japanese Amigos group had people picking up trash all over the caminos. And over in Galicia, a Spanish group just this weekend cleared up a goodly swath of trail.
Hats off to AGACS cleanup crew!

Things are looking up out there, I say. From inside my warm, dark cave. Where I need to scribble more, more more before the week is out, before I emerge into the light.