December's gone on entirely too long. Time to put an end to it!
It's the time when people review the past months, but I live in small slices. Looking back over great sweeps of weeks and months makes me dizzy, makes me realize how fast time passes by, even as I live each little slice so intensely.
It's not like I am "practicing awareness," or "living in the moment." I do my fair share of reminiscing, as well as "what if," and "when this is done, then this." Problem is, when I look back over several months, what sticks out most in my mind are the hard times.
In 2015 my favorite cousin died in a terrible way. An American pilgrim died in a terrible way, right here on the oh-so-safe Camino de Santiago. I had a harrowing day of anesthesia-free surgery. In February all the albergues closed at the same time, and we were overrun with pilgrims: 78 people stayed here in 28 days! My son, all the year through, struggled to find work in the field he loves. My brilliant ideas for the new Moratinos Asociacion Cultural were not a big hit. My big sweet dog Bella turned mean and savaged Lulu Dog. The stitches, the horror, the loss of trust, and the final goodbye at a ditch dug out back...
No. Stop. Think of the good things.
In the bright spring I walked the Camino de Madrid, from Segovia to Valladolid, on my own. It was beautiful and healing.
The long summer evenings over at Terradillos, ringing the bells, seeing the pilgrims straggle in and sit up around the altar for a Mass in English. We served both bread and wine. The pilgrims were great, but it was the old ladies from the village who really struck me most. They came to the Mass, but sat down where they always do. We served them Communion there, like they'd never seen. They wept. It was small and sweet. It felt so important.
I re-wrote a fine new book by Pulitzer winner Mitch Weiss. In November I wrote the first draft of a new book of my own. This year I went two times to Paris, and for the first time I saw Italy: Florence and Venice. We had the front end of the house -- the old kitchen, storage room, and potting shed -- turned into its own smart little apartment.
I took the job of staffing the scruffy little Albergue Convento San Anton in Castrojeriz. Once I got people rounded-up, the place kinda ran itself, although I think I could've done a better job supervising. I am not a people person. I thought the volunteers -- almost all seasoned hosts -- ought to work out things for themselves, I didn't think they'd need to have rules. But they do. If I do not give them rules, they start making up their own, they start bossing one another around. Next year will be better.
This year, though, whilst getting ready to open up San Anton, I vacuumed the old mattresses. They started to unravel in my hands, they were mushy as old pumpkins, so I put out an appeal on email and FaceBook. The English-speaking pilgrim world rose up and opened its big, deep wallet. We bought new mattresses, and bedbug-proof covers for them, all in a twinkling. I was impressed. It made me start thinking... There's a lot of need out here, and generosity to meet it. We need to form a non-profit.
The guitarists came in the summer, and did their beautiful things all over Palencia.
Paddy slowed down. He made two of his weekend art-viewing trips to Madrid and Malaga, but a third, in November, proved too much for his weakening eyesight.
Paddy is 74 years old. His eyesight is going, and there is little the doctors can do now. He cannot hear so well, especially on his left side. He gets tired, he gets annoyed. He cannot drink they way he used to. I cannot expect him to jump up and run the way he's done since we met up.
Getting my head around that is a real challenge for me. I am selfish. I do not want to cut back on my junketing around Spain and Europe -- I want everything to stay in its comfortable rhythm!
Oliver, the German hospitalero who's been ghosting around Peaceable and Moratinos since May, has made this year possible. He helped Bruno early on, and was a real stand-by for me at San Anton all summer -- everyone who served with him left rave reviews. Ollie ran Bruno's place while Bruno walked the Camino this fall. He's staying with us this winter, he's with us now. He's a godsend.
He stayed here and walked dogs while Paddy and I attempted to walk from Samos to Santiago for Christmas. That trek was a disaster, but in the end we made it to the shrine city for the celebration. We walked together through the Door of Mercy.
Oliver is staying here through January, because I am off with the New Year to stay for a month on the mountain-top of O Cebreiro, house- and dog-sitting sitting for a friend. I am doing this now, because I said I would, because I still can. I might need to stick close to home more in the coming year.
A month of solitude for re-writing the November book, and co-writing a short history in English of the Convento San Anton, for all the travelers who want to know about the place. I think I will publish it myself. I have ISBNs, after all.
I don't have to leave home to be a publisher!