The Swallows Have Flown

The tooth was abcessed, it spread infection up into my sinuses and into my tonsils. I got pretty sick pretty fast, and the dentist finally pulled the molar. It was awful. I passed out in the chair. I scared the dentist!And now, after two courses of antibiotics and many hours of sleep, I am getting better. I feel like I lost the first half of the month, as well as the back half of my mouth. This is a truthful year for me. I have taken three good hikes — the Camino Ingles in February, the Peñalba trail in July, the little slice of Camino Madrid in August. Two of them left me beat-up and battered for days after. I tire faster now, and stay that way longer. I am not the Iron Woman I used to be.But today, today I feel like myself. In the morning light we loaded up the dogs and went out to the Camino de Galgos and walked a good 10 kilometers along an old canal, past a fox den and under the new high-speed railway line. The dogs love that hike. We do, too. The light out there is yellow and soft, and the sky puts on spectacular cloud shows. No one else ever goes there. We have it to ourselves. The songbirds are flocking. The swallows are gone from the barn. This week, the leaves on the chestnut trees turned yellow.At long last, Alfredo the Leña Man delivered 2 tonnes of firewood inside the back gate. Pilgrims arrived, Hungarians and Germans and Italians. We stacked the wood in the shed, in stages, over time. It was hot, sweaty, righteous work. The heat here is dry, so I find breaking a sweat is not so terrible. It drips off and disappears. It doesn´t make me all yicky-sticky.  The pilgs had to eat strange food, but they don´t care.I have nothing profound to report.Life is good out here on the plains.

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Purpose

9/14 is an important date in my life.  Two years ago on this day, I found myself standing at the base of the Pyrenees Mountains getting ready to take my first of A Million Steps on the Camino de Santiago.  This walk forever changed my…

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The Good Egg

On an early morning last week, I pumped up the tires on my Cannondale and took off for 30 miles of joy.  The morning chill required my long riding tights and my breath was visible with each exhale.  I passed an elementary school and the…

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2014 Le Puy to Santiago Slideshow

This slideshow starts in Le Puy on April 26, 2014, and continues on to St. Jean Pied de Port, then along the Camino Norte, and then the Camino Primitivo, and finally a few days on the Camino Frances to Santiago where we arrived on July 6, 2014. Hope you enjoy the show.

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2014 Camino Slideshow

We have posted a Vimeo version of our Le Puy to Santiago slideshow, but it does not have the same full screen resolution as the YouTube version. Unfortunately You Tube is working through a music copyright issue (one song) that is holding up our posting of that version. As soon as it is ready we will put it up. Sorry for the inconvenience. This slideshow can also be viewed on Robin’s Facebook page, Pilgrim Robin. Enjoy the show (I hope you can see it).

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Reflections

As I approach the two year anniversary of my first step in Spain, I decided to re-read my own book.  It brought back many fond memories from a wonderful trip.  For this week’s blog, I decided to share a sample chapter.  If you have not…

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Practically Perfect

I love a good ending. I love a good beginning even more. And here it is, the first day of September. A bit of both. All the abundanza of the end of summer, the lush gardens, the grapevines coming on strong, a sky full of thunderheads. But when I am outside at 1 a.m. with Orion and Mars and the stars, it’s almost cold. Crickets sing in the dark. On the little boom-box we play Muddy Waters and Jussi Bjorling. One speaker points out onto the patio, and one into the kitchen. Someday we will get a proper stereo. We are kinda afraid what the dust here would do to a proper stereo. We will stick with the cheap option until they stop manufacturing these things. Then, well. Silence is great. But everyone should have some “Long Distance Call” on September first, when the night is warm and the little string of solar bulbs switches itself on, the white wine comes up from the bodega at the just-right temperature. The end of a day of planting out the Fall crop of kale and chard and lettuce, topping up the dog- and chicken-feed, finally paying back Julia with a box of eggs for her many tons of apples, plums, membrillo and advice. (Her hens stopped laying when the men started re-roofing their house. Hens are touchy critters, and this time of year they molt — they change their feathers, they stop laying. Bob Canary changes his feathers, and stops singing. Everybody needs a holiday.) The Spaniards are back at home, back at school. All last week the trains were full, Moratinos and Sahagun teemed with out-of-towners, but their numbers slowly slackened. The Spanish summer madness winds down. The European Camino madness winds up. More and more foreigners show up now, thinking they won’t have to compete for lodgings and dinner-tables. There’s litter on the trails. A paint-can philosopher worked-over our labyrinth in the last couple of days, advising passing pilgrims that “The Silence Speaks.” (The Silence has spoken there for centuries without any help from dumb-asses with spray paint.)And so it continues.The Peaceable was busy in the past week. Patrick and I took turns going to Madrid to help a friend who’s feeling low. I attended an Anglican Eucharist, which is always utterly delicious. We hosted pilgrims here, met some fine people, heard some great guitar music, ate  razor clams and sardines and drank some good vino. It is tempered by the troubles of our friend. And Momo Cat going on another walkabout. And my own issues. I developed a toothache at the end of the week, and lost a good portion of the weekend to pain and pain-killers. Worrisome things. Paddy made lovely soup from beans and bacon. I harvested the tomatoes out back and made the year’s finest gazpacho. Tortillas, salsa, rice, easy things to eat. I am well cared-for.    And today… today was textbook late summer. The morning dog-walk was lovely, the dogs all had good runs and tumbles, almost no blood was shed, nothing was killed, we ran into no hunters, and all returned panting and well-aired. We went into town and found almost everything on the list — alas, no dentist available until Thursday! Out on the camino I spread manure and calendula seeds and lots of water round the base of the Phil Wren Memorial Tree, and discovered the mess at the labyrinth. My tooth did not hurt so much, long as I didn’t use it for anything.We made naan bread, a weekly team event. We read books, sitting out on the patio with dog noses poking at us. In the silence of the afternoon I went all round the walls of the house next door calling for Momo, just in case he was locked inside one of their outbuildings. (Mo has a distinctive bourbon-and-cigarettes sort of meow, and he answers when I call him.) No Mo. How tiresome.I took a nap. The sun went low. The dogs lolled and wrestled on the patio. We had naan and gazpacho out there, listened to Steely Dan on the speaker, talked about old friends, and the old house that’s for sale downtown. And just as Paddy wound up a discourse on Heideggar, we heard a noise. A yowl. A yip. Unmistakeable. Paddy’s eyes met mine, and we both gaped and grinned. Momo Cat, up on the barn roof, shouting to be let into the house. Home again, the bad cat! And so our evening is complete, our family circle re-connected. We put the hound dogs to bed in the barn, and opened up the front door so Mo and Tim and Rosie could join us in the gloaming. Beauty, it was. The music ended on the box. The crickets took up the tune. And now, upstairs, I can hear Patrick snoring. Down here by my feet, Tim snorts in his sleep, too. My tooth hurts, yeah. But everything is so fine. Even with a bad tooth, I have to say it: I live in the best place in all the world.

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Fruits

Accidents, stopgaps, decisions made at the last minute three years ago, they all are cropping now, they are budding and flowering and bearing fruit. Literally. This is the most wonderful time of the year for anyone mad enough to try growing flowers and food in the ground around them. It´s a ton of hard work and hassle, and the rewards are often not so great, or just nada. Good produce is very cheap here, sometimes it is free. I don´t know why I bother, but I do. This is why.  This year, for some reason, the skinny slices of dirt in the patio out front are booming, blooming with plants I expected to see, well… The same year I planted them. Three years ago, I planted poppy seeds out there, all different colors of California poppies, all over the place. Not a single one showed its head. Duds, I thought. (Meantime, wild poppies grow in great profusion by the acre, in the same kind of dirt, all over the region.) This year, in a big pot out front, a new plant put out lacy leaves and then little bright flags… bright yellow! Poppies! Something similar is going on with the nasturtiums, flowers with pretty round leaves and edible flowers. I planted a gang of them last year, with nominal success. This year they zoomed back, and are popping up all over the place in long plumes and tails, fat saucers of bright green, and only a few flowers. They all are orange. And the calendulas, too, are yellow and orange, and they are everywhere, front and back, tough as nails. I like these little guys because I got the first handful of seeds while out hiking in the mountains with my bud Kathy. We were in a mountain town called Boca de Huergano, on the Camino Vadiniense. I admired the flowers growing outside a trim little cottage, and the lady there broke off a couple of seed-pods and folded my fingers round them. “If they will grow here, they will grow anywhere,” she said. And she is right. Three years later, they threaten to overrun the back yard. Which would be kind of pretty. I wonder why, with all the multi-colored things I plant, they all come out orange or yellow. Which works perfectly in the red-tiled patio outside an ochre-colored house.  The flowerbeds are not just full of flowers. This year there are tomatoes growing in there, and an enormous eggplant (aubergine) covered in patent-leather fruits and purple velvet flowers. These were leftover seedlings, the ones that didn´t fit in the raised beds out back. They do a damn sight better out front, even with dogs walking and whizzing on them. Some visiting stoner disposed of a roach in the potted Pony Tail palm, and now there´s a marijuana tree in there that is taller than me. I did not plant it, I swear. There´s a grapevine out there, too. I never planted that, either, but it´s grown right up the trellis and is now heading west, over the wall. No sign of grapes, but what would I do with more fruit? Out back the fig tree is loaded down, the apple tree this year has clusters of fat green fruit. Edu and Milagros, Pilar and Modesto all have given us buckets and baskets full of plums, damsons, cherries, cucumbers, chard, and courgettes (zuchinni). Three stalks of sweetcorn grew this year, and we ate the first cobs last week, raw. The tomato plants are in overdrive — we are consuming gazpacho by the bucket (I asked Milagros for a single cucumber for a gazpacho, and I came away with three cukes and two courgettes). Tomorrow I make salsa. And plum tart. And a red-pepper quiche. It is delicious and gorgeous and good for us, and there´s enough left over to share. Abundance, sweet providence. The fruits and vegetables of our labor.         

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Fright

What would you do if fear were not present in your life? Fear and happiness cohabitate like oil and water.  Eliminating one creates space for the other to thrive. Eleanor Roosevelt once wrote, “Do something every day that scares you.” Embarking on a gigantic adventure…

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Mental Toxins

While taking A Million Steps the Camino de Santiago, my daily experiences were vastly different from those at home.  The mixture of meeting new people, getting physical exercise, finding beauty in nature, appreciating the simplest things in life, and living with a tiny pack full of…

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