Moratinos is known along the Camino for its “yarn-bombed” plaza trees. The local ladies love sitting on the plaza bench on summer afternoons, watching the pilgrims snap photos of their crocheted handiwork. The pilgrims enjoy the splash of color, the odd incongruity of a soft, hand-knitted surface superimposed onto a natural objects. Which is to say, crocheted and knitted blankets wrapped around the trunks of trees.
The first blankets went up three years ago, using handmade items donated by knitters from all over Spain and other parts of the world, too. As time, sunshine and weather took their tolls the crochet has been patched-up, replaced, nailed, stapled, stitched, and stuck-up every which way. We all agreed last year that the installation was due for an overhaul. After the holidays. After winter…
Spain went into lockdown in March, so all the usual Spring maintenance was pushed back, too. The flags sagged. The banners went brown, their corners curled. The once colorful crochet faded and stretched along the seams.
Three weekends ago we were allowed out of our houses, so Flor and Marivalle, Sonia, Toni, and Luca, Ana and me, Segundino, Jorge, and Bruno headed for the plaza to do the needed deeds. We started with scissors and step-stools, but soon hauled out the ladders, hammers, and wire-cutters. Ants and mosquitos feasted on us. We freed the trees of their sweaters and un-strangled the trunks where we’d tied things on too tightly. We sent the grubby fabric through a gentle washing-machine cycle.
The following Saturday we gathered again in the ayuntamiento meeting room to survey what remained. (And to sample Flor's cheesecake, and Segundino's "champagne.")
It was messy. Some knitted pieces had turned ugly. Some we snipped apart and reassembled. Some had to be shored-up, their raveled edges repaired. Others we simply flipped over and sewed back onto the trees with the faded side facing inward. We re-strung some pennants, measured out triangles, tried to make the colors harmonize whenever we could.
I am not much use where knitting and crochet are concerned, but I do have some reach online. I put out an appeal. An Irish lady sent us some pennants and a charming shamrock shawl for the olive tree.
An enormous box arrived from California. Inside was a full-size wool afghan of exceptional quality, with a note attached. It was made 40 years ago by Opal Catherine Holtom of Kansas City, Missouri, for her granddaughter, Janet Brovold. Who sent it to us in Moratinos.
A note inside tells all about Opal, and the blanket:
My grandma crocheted a blanket for me almost 40 years ago. To be honest, it was never my ‘style,” and I never used it on a bed. I kept it as a remembrance of all the love she had for me…For years it was stored in the cedar chest my grandpa gave her for Christmas, the day before their wedding. She was 15 years old. That was not unusual in Kansas in 1925…
Today, I am sending the blanket to Moratinos, Spain to reside as long as the threads will bear. Its main plaza… is a holy place, where pilgrims pass by on their spiritual journeys. My grandma was one of the most spiritual people I’ve known… This woman still lives in every fiber of my being, and has informed and guided the parts I like best about myself. So this morning I blessed her blanket with incense, wrapped it around me one last time, and sent it on its way. God willing, I will someday again be in Moratinos, and find it – and her – there in the plaza.
Last Saturday I did an on-the-fly translation of the note for the plaza work group while we continued basted and overcast, sent indoors by a thunderstorm. We all agreed we cannot cut up Opal's blanket. There was a rush of ideas, some measuring, some arithmetic...
When the job is done, I’ll let you know what it’s become. Grandma Opal’s going to be a Spanish yarn bomber!