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?