Wednesday, 25 May 2016


cleaning the chalice from Terradillos: Fun With Chemistry! 

It's half-past midnight on a Tuesday morning. I am way behind on the blog, but I won't even try to catch you up.

The hostel and albergue are packed with pilgrims, but we've gotten away with just a priest from New Zealand in the front end, a German upstairs, and dogs and cats everywhere else.

Springtime is a whirlwind here, and this year I over-booked myself severely. I like to think things are working themselves out now, but only time will tell. June will tell, maybe. I am working out on the edge of my ability to keep track, or at least where I feel I am competent.

Here's where things are:

First, Paddy. An eye specialist in Palencia injected Prednisone straight into Pad's eyeball. Eeeugh! But after a day or so Paddy picked up a paperback, and Boy Howdy! He can READ! Newspapers, internet pages, magazines, novels, wow! Not for a long time, and not tiny print, but hey... when you've gone without really reading for a while, this is a wonderful treat. Glory be.

Viva technology, and anabolic steroids, and socialized medicine! Paddy can see so much better, and it doesn't cost us a dime. Life is bright here in the Commie Socialist Darkness.

Then comes Albergue Monasterio de San Anton de Castrojeriz. (I am in charge of staffing this very rustic pilgrim shelter with volunteers.) Everybody loves San Anton. I have tons of hospitaleros who want to serve there, but they keep changing their minds and plans, their health is dodgy (dammit, can't you think about ME and MY plans before you have a stroke??) they're scared or unsure-of or allergic-to the cold nights or cold water or the darkness or the owl that lives on the roof...OMG OMG OMG! O Thank God I have Leonie and Anne, two excellent, no-nonsense, steady, merry souls from the Netherlands there these two weeks. June at San Anton is a ragbag of ten-day, seven-day, patched-together schedules, a legacy of San Anton's checkered, hippie-dippy past. Thank goodness Ollie still is here, he can fill in the gaps with perfect confidence, competence, good humor, and six languages.

And then there's "San Anton: A Little History." This is an artsy limited-edition booklet that Peaceable Publications is putting out, with illustrations by the illustrious California printmaker Melissa West, graphics by the legendary Kim Narenkevicius, with research, text, and editing by me and Scottish historian Robert Mullen. All of us worked for free. Proceeds will go to feed San Anton pilgrims... once the thing is ready to hit the streets, I'll make a big splash and make sure all of you get at least one, for a small consideration. Production is done. We're just waiting now on the printer, and someone to carry them over here to Spain. Anyone?

Albergue Villa de Grado, the new FICS albergue on the Camino Primivo in Asturias province, opens on 1 June! Staffing that place is a real challenge, probably because it's an unknown quantity. Still, so far, every shift has at least one stout-hearted volunteer assigned... with a few already signed-on for 2017!  Leonie and Anne will serve there, too -- you may hear great things from them soon, marvelous plans are afoot with these two!

I am a pioneer, a founder, a vision person -- I am not cut out for maintaining, staffing, juggling details. I am too absent-minded and noodle-brained, I can build you a stable and put horses in it, but I cannot keep track of the bridles and bits and the shit. Or so I think.
Somehow, though, I keep finding myself doing it, for free... or for the love of God.

Milagros and Flor, jardineras extraordinarias
Last weekend a Canadian pilgrim came here to get her head together after a crash-and-burn camino. She came along in the car when me and Milagros and Flor went to the greenhouse out at San Cebrian to buy flowers for the plaza mayor. I think she was overwhelmed by all the language and pollen and  the non-camino Spain, at least for the day. She was very quiet, but she knew about plants, which was very handy. We bought masses of flowers, fifty Euros worth, and potted or planted them all over the following few days, and scattered them around town, where they now look very small and puny indeed. It is a small beginning, but it makes me feel nice. In August my term is up as presidenta. Someone else can take charge of the Asociacion Cultural. It is right and just.

Me and the Canadian pilgrim re-dug and re-set the labyrinth. Hard work, but righteous. It's like ringing the church bells -- visitors love doing it. They don't often get these opportunities.
Women's work is never done

Meantime, the Camino Chaplaincy Meseta Ministry 2016 session started up, with the Rev. Patrick Brophy, a Marist priest from New Zealand, doing the honors at Terradillos and Moratinos. He's a sweetie, this one, very tall and soft-spoken, and timely -- because the wildflowers are blooming and the fields are lush and the pope has made 2016 a Year of Mercy, the pilgrim trail is these days utterly choked with pilgrims. We're packing them at at the pilgrim Masses, crowding 20 or 30 people around the altar every evening in Terradillos. Today the founder, a legendary Scot named John Rafferty, came over from Santiago on the train, bearing for us a beautiful porcelain chalice and paten for our Masses -- from Sargadelos, a spectacular porcelain producer in Galicia.
I am cleaning-up and tightening to bolts in the old silver chalice we've been using in Terradillos. It lists to starboard. I may use some of the Peaceable contribution fund to take it to a jeweler for a proper repair job, a small thank-you to the parish in Terradillos.

Father Patrick is staying in the new apartment on the front end of Peaceable, aka "the priest hole," or sometimes "the lurkum." We get occasional pilgrims in our salon still; two weeks ago this entire section of the camino hit gridlock -- Peaceable hosted nine pilgrims, with people dossed-down on sofas, chairs, and mattresses on the floor -- just like old times.    

Yesterday I had a toe-to-toe shouting fight with the mayor, a real first for me. He is a small man, apparently with no understanding of public service, or even rudimentary people skills. I asked about a dangerous tangle of steel in the kiddie playground, and he blew up in my face. I took the high road, but yeah, it was ugly and petty. I didn't call him any names. I didn't lose my temper. I didn't even lapse into English! But yeah, I raised my voice. I may not have won, but I burned that mofo to the ground.

Everyone who reads the new book marvels at it, calls it splendid, the best thing they've read that I ever wrote. I only wish one of them was a literary agent or even a sharp book publisher.

"Holy Year" is now in the hands of two New York agents, one in DC, and a publisher in London. None has made any response since the first exchange or two, but all are friends of friends or associates somehow... apparently the only way to go. The market is apparently flooded with amateur camino diaries, serious journalistic interviews of compostela pioneers, and turgid pilgrim memoirs. But this isn't any of those things. It is as unique as we are.  If they'd only look, they'd see. It really is that good.

And so you see I am over-subscribed. I do this subconsciously, as therapy. If I keep myself very busy doing good things, I will not be overwhelmed by depression, an illness that brings me to full stop if I let it take hold.

And so we shall see.  
And so we are busy, with more busy to come.
And so I ask you to pray for me, so I can keep up with it all.