Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Books You Wrote

I want to write about fear, and about being a mystic. I want to write about stones, and fire, and the stars.
But instead I will write about pilgrims, because that´s what I know most about, and that´s what people expect and enjoy.  I found our first pilgrim register today, fallen behind the bookshelf.  We ask pilgrims to put their name in a register book, the date they arrive, and where they´re from. Then we stamp their pilgrim credential with our “sello.” It´s just what´s done.
The books are not fascinating reading, unless you are me.
Jean-Marc doesn´t see the appeal

The first signature is from 12 October 2006, nine days after we bought the little farm that became the Peaceable Kingdom. It´s Kathy, my best friend from California. Three days later, Marianne´s name is there. Marianne was a German-speaking Swiss, a hospitalera, a strange bird. She ran the shelter at Eunate for a season, I served there with her the following January, and just about froze to death.
Here´s my friend Filipe from Portugal. He brought us a slab of salt cod we tried to soak back to useability, but the only place large enough was the sheep trough in the patio. Birds came and pecked it to bits.  Here is Sebastian from Belgium, who stayed to help us fix up the place, and Bernd from Braunschweig, on the run from the law. Here´s my daughter Libby, who visited that darksome, muddy February. I drove her all the way to Bilbao to catch a bus, and when I got home I found Berndt and Sebastian and one of the villagers kicking the tar out of one another in the dark, in the street.  
Here´s Anselmo, a blithe spirit from Valencia, a forest ranger. Colin and Margaret from Walkes, and Frank, the merry Scotsman who taught us to be hospitaleros. John Murphy, the man whose name we gave to our first and finest cat. Ann, who´s now a hospitalero each October in Grado, all these years later…  People with heroic names: Doug Challenger. Christian Champion.  Dael, a policeman in a kilt. Patrik Kotrba, a Czech art historian turned hobo. Alan, a CIA agent who didn´t know he was dying. Mike, a fresh-faced boy from Ohio who´s now living in Santiago, writing guides as “The Wise Pilgrim.” 
Tomas Konopa lived in Holland but he was a Croat. He came and helped, and came back to help some more. He was a shipwright, a hard drinker, veteran of the horrors of Bosnian war. His DNA is in this place. I wonder how he´s getting on. I think he might be dead.
Here´s Paddy´s son Matt, who designed the Peaceable sello, and Michael, a priest-in-training from Hawaii. Hedwigs, Heidis, Jennifers, Janes, Ragnhilds, Cristobals, Bobs and Timos, Kevins and Claires and Jyo-Jeong Kims.
Here´s a Korean family of nine, spreading the Gospel, and my old bestie Jeanne and my godson Nicolas, here from Paris for a disastrous visit in 2008.
Then came Malin and David, still so important to us, and Philip, my son. And the guitarists came, too, the first sello from Camino Artes, the first concerts. Paddy´s old London friends Derek and Rimmer, blown-away at what Patrick´s life had come to.
And Kim´s in here, too. The names in the book thank her for her kindness, because she was hosting them right alongside us. She´s been here almost from the very start, Kim.
Here is Brian from Pittsburgh, who was not who he said he was, and Leo from Cuba, who is exactly what you see.  A recording crew from Israel, who made a guitar and violin album at our church. Stretches of Korean text, Japanese characters, Cyrillic letters, unreadable.    
I close the book, only three years into our history. Golden years, terrifying times. Such giants walked the trail in those days…  We had so many people in and out of here, and we didn´t wear out the way we do now. We took them more easy then. I remember the pilgrims as more easy-going, flexible, ready to stop and talk and come home for coffee, to sleep on the sofa or even the floor.   
We only get the full pilgrim flow in winter, but it´s not so easy nowadays.  Maybe it´s us who´ve changed, life is more comfortable now with heated floors and a laundry machine. We are older, more tired, less willing to shlep out to the storage room in the morning dark when more jam is needed.
Paddy is getting beyond all this. And Paddy is more important than strangers from the trail… this is his home. The pilgrims have other places they can stay. We should take our names off the Winter Welcome list, I think.
But what would this place be without the pilgrims? What would I write about? Fear, and mystics, maybe, or stones, and fire, and the stars.  

Who wants to read about those

Wednesday, 3 January 2018


Helena sent lovely port from Portugal... another gift. Perfect for a celebration! 

Ollie, Paddy, David, Kim, and me. Very different people from all different places, brought together in one place with a common purpose. We did Christmas together, and almost New Year´s Eve (midnight is too late for most of us, and David had to go to Astorga to fix an engine.)
We had some big jobs to do, at a season when Peaceable is often overwhelmed with pilgrim traffic. We called in our old standby friends, and they did not disappoint.  
Kim holed-up by the pellet stove in the Little Kitchen and designed web pages, and plotted her next big move. She shimmered in between, and made salads at dinnertime.
Ollie buzzed around the house with mops and sheets and spoons, cleaning up and feeding and coddling the steady flow of holiday pilgrims. 
David made the electric bike work. He fixed the solar light on the patio steps, and made my IPad play jazz radio from Bordeaux on our little stereo, indoors and out. He tuned the guitar, put on a new E string, and sang “Over the Rainbow.”
I can´t say just what I did. I cooked a few meals, did some laundry, wrote some copy and some emails, paid some bills. I bossed people around, I washed the cat.  
Somehow, over the 12 days between the Winter Solstice and the end of the Mercury Retrograde and today, we got it all together at Peaceable and made it happen. We hosted 28 overnight pilgrims, three holiday dinners, and seven drop-in guests. Judy dog had emergency surgery. Jim, the newest Peaceable stalwart, brought a carload of supplies from the restaurant supply warehouse in Madrid, and buried Kim´s little kitchen under tons of pasta, Cheerios, tomato sauce, and toilet paper. He left with Goldie, a feral kitten we´d been trying to tame. We opened the church and rang the bell for a series of Masses, handed Christmas candy bars around the village, and received homemade delicacies in return: This year´s favorite is a half-kilo block of homemade quince paste wrapped in psychedelic cellophane.  
Much was given. Much is given still. And today Kim´s little masterpiece was unveiled: this website, the work of weeks.
And as the emails and testimonials rolled in today, I realized how many people I need to be grateful for… old friends who´ve walked with me over miles or sat with me over glasses of Ribeiro, listening while I hashed-out this vision. Family members, professionals who offered good advice, cut me big breaks on the price, or just did the heavy lifting for nothing. Colegas who puzzled out what I was trying to say after a long day of Spanish left me babbling.
People who saw I needed some space, and left me alone. And people who saw I needed help, and stepped up. People who helped me forgive myself for being less than perfect. People who love me, or just like me an awful lot.
And people who see the website, and the vision, and open their wallets to support the cause. Some people who don´t have a lot of money, and a few who are pretty comfortable. People from Sweden and Ukraine and Washington, and Waterloo, Ontario. People I don´t even know. Generous souls.   
People I´m going to keep hitting up for ideas and manpower, influence, letters of support, advice, or collaboration. Or money! 
People I would owe so much to, if I didn´t live in this strange and wonderful economy of grace.
The more you give, the more comes back to you.

Just watch us. We´ll try to show you how it´s done. 

This post also appears on "On the Perimeter," the new blog on the Peaceable Projects Inc. website. I now have two blogs to keep up with! I hope this will spur me to greater writing achievements -- this one to cover the day-by-day personal homey things, and that one to cover the non-profit projects. Not sure exactly how to un-twist the two, but I will try, at least for a little while. 
Please be aware that the PayPal button here sends money to my personal account, which pays our daily expenses and is not non-profit... I don´t want to confuse anyone. If you want the PPInc. non-profit, please head over to and give to your heart´s content.  

Tuesday, 2 January 2018


I´m telling everyone I know... the long-awaited website is finally a go!
Have a look, sign up for updates, let me know if it works OK.  It´s a proud day at Peaceable!