The Teacher Will Come

Curveballs. A week of curveballs. But like any good hitter, after a couple of curveballs it’s time to step out of the box, take a few practice swings, adjust the batting helmet, and get your mind right. This is a baseball metaphor, for any non-North Americans in the audience.

After hearing of our situation last week, a wonderful friend of mine in Santiago sent me this video that made me smile.

https://youtu.be/sEDZwG6bFss

The easy thing, in all this nonsense with The Patrimonio, would be to get angry. And I was at the outset. Taking all of this personally. They’re doing this TO us. But after a few days of reflection, I have come to a different place.

I have more than a couple of decades under my belt walking this planet and have learned a few things along the way. And those lessons are sometimes painful, but necessary. There are gifts in each one of them. The best way to find those gifts is by letting go of the anger.

Embracing Change

So much in life is about embracing change. I know people who wear their fear of change like a badge of honor, but this is self defeating in a world that moves as quickly as ours does. Those who adapt survive. Those who don’t fade away. But it’s more than survival I’m shooting for. I want to thrive. And to do that I have to wrap my arms around things I don’t like, then let them go. And the more practice I have the easier it gets.

Teachers

Looking at our situation from afar, there is a lot to be angry about. I have had a few sleepless nights grinding my teeth and awakening with a sore jaw (until I put in my mouth guard). And then, I got some perspective.

When the student is ready, the teacher will come. I try to view life as a classroom. Every situation, every person, is a teacher. Sometimes the lessons are difficult. But, always necessary because I have something to learn. I’ve had terrible bosses whose misguided actions taught me how to be a better leader. Fair-weather friends who taught me to cherish those who love and support me through dark times. Cruel family members who taught me that family is not necessarily those with whom you share DNA. It’s those you chose to call family. I experience things – difficulty – until I stop fighting the lesson. Then, suddenly, the uphill battle fades into a gentle, rolling plain. Until a different teacher arrives on the horizon.

Viewing my life this way helps me in a few different ways. First, it assists me in being gentle with myself. Not to beat myself up for allowing a person or circumstance to cause me immense pain. I am just a student, after all. And second, it helps defuse the anger toward the person creating the painful circumstance. They are only here to teach me this lesson. Perhaps it’s to stand up for myself and learn to set a boundary ‘I will accept this no more.’ Or to discover how to stop giving myself away; to value myself and my peace above the selfish needs of others. This is in service of me. I learn the lesson and then I can let the teacher go without malice or any sense of bitterness in my heart. But there are other lessons.

Take Nothing Personally

This situation we have experienced in the past week is not here to hurt us. It’s here to force us to pause. To reassess. What do we really want? What should we do now that our best laid plans have been thwarted? Not by a person, but an entire government entity. So, I am doing the only thing I know how to do. Ask the big question. What is this gift? This lesson.

It’s natural to look at this in isolation. But everything is a building block to something else. And sometimes it helps to look back so you can trust the obscured path ahead. Jeff and I went through this exercise yesterday. We looked back at all the major things in our lives in the past twenty-five years. I call it the ‘If this didn’t happen’ exercise. In retrospect, there are a bunch of things that seemed like a nightmare at the time. Things we wondered how we would get through. But we can see now that those things led us to other things, and on and on. We wouldn’t be living in Spain if both the good and the bad hadn’t happened. We wouldn’t be us. This exercise really helped sort out how we feel about our current circumstances. Instead of resisting, we need to flow with it.

Humans are terrible about predicting the future. We can’t see ahead. Our reptilian brains are wired for fight or flight. Self protection and survival. To reduce risk as all cost. Often at the sacrifice of adventure. But Jeff and I have always handled what has come our way. Learned lessons and taken the step up. Transcending this automatic brain response. Letting go. With a brief pause we will chart a new course. Secure in the knowledge that when we are ready, the next teacher will appear.

50 Shades of Nonsense

We’re not into sadomasochism, but you would never know it based on how spanked and screwed we’ve been getting lately. It’s not like I’ve never experienced unjust treatment in my life before. But if someone is going to use me as a whipping post I like knowing why. Whether I agree with the reasoning or not.

In the past three days I have begun peeling back the onion on what the hell is going on. Do I have the entire picture? Uh, No. Not by a long shot. They can deny me. They can denounce me. But, I won’t stop until I know why. Why is this happening?

Eruptions of Anger

The Rage in Spain falls mainly on the Camino. Or so that song should go.

Yesterday, Diego came to the house directly from meeting with the guy at The Patrimonio. That is when I learned how we thought we were approved but we really weren’t. This is how it works.

The architect and the analyst who study the project plans approved our entire project. And told Diego. But then, it went to the Patrimonio’s council meeting. Think of it like The Knights of the Roundtable. Except packed with angry old guys with unchecked power and, as Jeff funnily assessed, A hard-on for smacking down foreigners, and anything different on the Camino. We are foreign and, as anyone who knows me will attest, as ‘different’ as they come. They clearly hated what we were doing. And then it got worse.

Kind and gentle Diego spoke to the grand poobah, and the man shouted at him. Why are you even here? We have spoken. If they do not disassemble everything immediately we will assess them a €10,000 fine. And we will assess them another, then another. On and on. You would think we had committed the crime of the century.

Diego returned to our house and he was shaken. He has never been spoken to in such a way over a simple planning permission. He and Miguel came out last evening and unhooked the food truck. Then, Jeff pulled it back behind the house. He used the tractor to take the tables away. Even the bench we had outside our gate so Pilgrims could rest is now gone. As well as the flower pots to make it nice. I have walked Caminos. There are few non-restaurant/bar places to rest. We had 50 Pilgrims a day resting there. Repacking their packs. Eating a snack. Bandaging their feet. It seems, in Galicia, for the Camino the government doesn’t view their role as supporting a spiritual experience, or helping Pilgrims to reach their goal. It’s about money, power and control. If anyone, including a Pilgrim, gets in the way of that? Look out! And if you are a foreigner? Forget it.

Last year we paid more than €60,000 in tax here. But it has only bought us derision and discrimination. They’ll take our money but they won’t do one thing more than let us know we don’t belong.

Don’t Mess With Maricarmen

Last night was hard. We removed everything in complete silence. It was weird, but there was nothing left to say. Calm Jeff was so angry he did it all red faced. Diego is angry, as well. Miguel gave 50 examples of current businesses that violate the rules they cited in our rejection. We all acknowledge there are powerful political forces working against a little food truck with the word Happiness emblazoned upon it, and the symbol of a praying meditating person. Imagine being threatened by that?! A speck of nothing. €10,000. And then €10,000 more. And on and on. A David and Goliath political saga.

At 9:30 as the sun set, there was a knock at the door. Maricarmen was there with her weekly lettuce delivery. She asked where it all went. I told her the story and she went red in the face.

‘This is not right.’ She stated, thin lipped. Then, she pulled out her phone.

The Prayer Chain

When I was a kid we prayed before dinner every night. My Mom was on the church prayer chain and she would pray for people I didn’t even know.

‘Lord, help John Beck’s brother with his heart condition.’ Stuff like that. Our phone would ring and we would write it down. Then, our Mom would recite it at the dinner time prayer.

Maricarmen is a one woman prayer chain. Her contact list is longer than any I ever had in my working life. You ask her and she begins scrolling. In short order there will be messages on my phone for plumbers, etc. But last night was different. Being my local BatMan, she put up the Bat signal to all those who work for the Xunta de Galicia in her contact list. And it’s not one or two people.

‘We will see what we can do, Kelli. Don’t worry.’ Then she hugged me and left.

Today, the road guy came back. He was angry with me because Diego didn’t put my NIE number on the forms. He wrote up an assessment and I signed it. He took the opportunity to shout at me some more, before telling me he wasn’t sure he could approve any of it. I didn’t bother to respond. Then he took his leave. I texted Diego and reiterated what was said. Then, I had a good cry. The South of France is starting to look lovely this time of year. My lavender would grow much better there. They freely sell French rosé in every establishment. And, there would be no hint of the dark underbelly of the politics of the Camino anywhere in sight. It seems the people tasked with protecting this sacred thing are the ones this holy experience needs protection from. I’m no Knight of the Templar, and even if I was, after the past 36 hours I don’t have much fight left in me.

Devilish Details

The devil is in the details. No getting around it. Yes, we have the paper with the approval.✔️ But it’s the supporting document that arrived yesterday, personally delivered by our contractor, that was a punch to the gut.

As he sat at the dining room table, his heavy sigh was the first sign of trouble.

‘Would you like the good news first? Or the bad news?’

I gulped. Bad news? There should be no bad news. We are approved. The guy told him so on the phone. I got the notice via email and printed it out. But apparently that was not the entire story. Like so many things in Spain, and in Galicia more specifically, there will be more. There is always more.

It was in Gallego so he had to translate it for me.

‘The camping is fine. But we must divide each campsite by hedges (I thought they hated hedges) and they will notify us of the plants we can use.’

Fine. Whatever.

‘They will count your trees and if one dies or becomes damaged you must plant another from a list of trees they determine.’

Fine, again. But I noticed Diego wasn’t looking me in the eye.

‘The cabins must not be cabins. They must be small casitas and they must be white stucco and with red tile roofs. Suddenly, on the Camino they have decided that all buildings look like they are from Andalucía – but telling us that this is traditional Galicia architecture, which it is not.’ (Diego is also an architect).

Whatever.

‘No for the food truck.’ He hesitated. ‘You can not have it.’

What? I could barely process his words. ‘What do mean, I can’t have it?’

He read the paper verbatim, knowing I wouldn’t understand a word. Then he translated their exact wording.

‘The food truck and the setting is a abomination and an affront to the Camino. The tables and red umbrellas are against the traditional look. The positioning of the terrace destroys the tranquility of the Camino and the experience of Pilgrims. It can not operate within the sensitive zone protecting the Camino De Santiago.’

We sat there in silence before I started to tear up. ‘What are they talking about? An abomination? Between Palas and Melide there are 50 cafes and businesses. All of them right on the Camino, and most with faded old Estrella Galicia tables and chairs, emblazoned with beer logos. And red umbrellas sporting the same. That’s the true spirit of the Camino? We bought what we bought to fit in. Our tables match the cafe up the road. Granted, Estrella Galicia didn’t supply them but they are identical.’

Diego didn’t know what to say.

‘Is it because we are foreigners?’

He tried to assure me it was not. But then he made an interesting observation.

‘The wording had been lifted from the complaint against you with the council filed by the police on behalf of the cafe up the road. The exact wording.’

I didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t know what else to say.

‘Can we appeal?’ I asked.

‘Yes. We have ten days. I will get it going and file it.’

‘How long?’ I asked. ‘How long will it take for them to answer?’

Diego shook his head. ‘How long they want. They will do what they want.’ He said quietly.

So, we will not be opening any time soon. Our cabins will not be built this summer. The food truck will remain shuttered. This walking season is a washout. I have to accept it or it will drive me insane. An abomination, really? Every single pilgrim last year told me it was the most beautiful stop on their Camino. The umbrellas, the flowers. A hundred people a day stood at our gate and shouted ‘Que Bonito!’ What they have written on that paper is a lie.

But, if I accept this reality then I have options. Not the outcome we thought just 24 hours ago, but options nonetheless. Am I let down after so much hard work? Of course. Jeff and I have been up all night talking about it. At one point I threatened to move to the South of France. I bet the French would take my investment. Sometimes bad things happen so better things can fill the space. This summer I will focus on my writing and the release of my book. Energy flows where attention goes. Time to refocus my energy toward my creativity.

As Jeff reminded me at 3:30 this morning.‘You’re good writer. Take the summer in the chicken coop and fill yourself up by writing. It’s your passion. Maybe the universe is telling you to spend this year there.’

He’s right. That’s exactly what I’m going to do while we exhaust every possible appeal with The Patrimonio. As all of you who read this blog are aware, I have more than a few things to say. And more than a few writing projects already begun. I am choosing option three. I just need to pick up the pen, or the keyboard, and get to work.

Democracy In Action

It’s that time again! Hard to believe that we have lived in Spain long enough to see this every-four-year process kick off once more,. May 28th will be voting day in all local, municipal, and provincial elections. Yes, it’s a Sunday so all citizens can participate. No monkey business with who can vote. Age 18 and you’re eligible. No registration. Being a citizen means you can vote in your town. Sounds too simple, I know. Especially coming from the land where voting rights are under threat each and every day. Voters mysteriously purged from the rolls, registrations thrown out, and so much more. Barriers to voting in the US pop up like Brussel sprouts in Galicia. They’re everywhere.

Of course, we are unable to vote in Spain, but not because we are foreigners. It’s because Spain and the US do not have a treaty which allows each other’s citizens who reside in the country to vote in local elections. Any EU national legally residing in Spain can vote in local elections. This is deemed appropriate as a person should have a say in the government where they legally reside. There are other countries included in this, as well. But our lack of voting doesn’t stop us from caring about the outcome and its impact to our community.

The PSOE – Spanish socialist party – controls more provinces throughout Spain than any other. And our Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, is head of this party. He has led the government in Madrid for most of the time we have lived in Spain, after knocking the scandal-ridden Mariano Rajoy from office with a no-confidence vote. I was not a fan of Rajoy.

How the government operates here is very different than the US. There, if you make a catastrophic blunder in electing a morally bankrupt and corrupt leader you have to wait four years to oust them. Even if the mood of the country is torches and pitchforks. Here, a successful no-confidence vote in parliament will bring down the government, forcing an immediate election to form a new government. I like this system much better than the US.

Spain has so many different political parties it feels like ordering a burger off the menu at Burger King. Have it your way! Political parties on the fringe dial their issues down to a fine point. And because it can be difficult for one party to capture a 50% majority, they are forced to form a coalition between the larger parties and small ones. Compromise by necessity. So small parties can wield enormous outsized influence. Both a blessing and a curse.

We have been watching the campaign, which is only allowed to go on for six weeks prior to the election. Imagine it, Americans! Six weeks would be all you’d have to deal with for political campaigns and signs. Then, when the election is over they actually start governing. No two years of campaigning. Or just perpetually campaigning. Spain is a functioning democracy with codified equal rights for women, no guns (except for hunting), protections for LGBTQ+ citizens, and access to the legal full spectrum of family planning services. The identity politics and culture wars of the US aren’t such a thing here. Yes, there are far right groups here. The VOX party, etc. But like during Covid when the population took a common sense approach to protect themselves and their neighbors, people here seem to shy away from the extremes, valuing their lives and those of their families over some lunatic screaming into a microphone with messages of fear about immigrants, religion, drag queens or trans people, and guns. Those crazy messages wouldn’t fly in Spain.

The political signs in town are interesting, as well. No neck ties in the group. Jeans are just fine for photos. More than 50% of candidates are women. And as far as I can tell, half are under 40 yrs old. Some candidates are even younger. Most head shots look like they were taken in a passport photo machine. A few others are half body shots. It seems the PP (People’s Party – centre right) is pouring a great deal of €€ into the race in Melide. Their candidate for the council has the greatest number and the largest, fanciest signs.

There are signs on garbage dumpsters, as well. And lamppost signs declaring the benefits of the socialists. Something you would never see in the US, where socialism is viewed as a great evil, yet is widely embraced in Spain and other parts of Europe. Americans confuse socialism with communism. Spaniards do not make that mistake and social democracy is alive and well here. And it works.

Jeff and I smile as the compact car with the bull horns strapped to the top drives by to tell our village all the benefits of their candidate. It’s like being in the US in the 1950’s or 60’s. Small town politics. But, they say all politics is local and this election is no different. It will decide our fates for the next four years, so we are paying close attention.

I sure wish the US would sit up and take note. Their perpetual campaigning means politics is constantly the number one topic there. Noise and more noise. Fear and more fear. This further divides families and neighbors. Whole communities. So busy fighting each other they aren’t paying attention to the politicians who are raking in $$$ but doing nothing to help solve real problems. Instead, focusing on drag queens reading to children in libraries in Kentucky. Seriously, that’s a thing politicians are pretending they are worried about in America. You can’t make it up. I can just see a politician here trying to get the old men in the square in Melide riled up about drag queens reading to children at the local biblioteca (library).

‘Aren’t you outraged, Jorge?’ The politician would ask.

The old man shrugs ‘Is the child learning to read?’

‘Well, yes, but that’s not the point.’ Counters the politician. ‘He’s dressed like a woman.’

Jorge frowns ‘If my grandson is learning to read should I care what they wear. It is none of my business.’ Then, shakes a stick at the politician to move him along. The other old men laugh at the stupid candidate. This would not happen here.

We can see the US so clearly from over here and we are like the little old man. Culture wars don’t interest us. Kindness is my number one. Show me your kindness and compassion. Your acceptance of everyone. And your willingness to feed the hungry and house the homeless. A party where all are valued and welcome. Then, you’ll have my vote.

In Spain, on May 28th this six weeks of small town election hell ha! will be over. We can peel the candidate’s poster off the dumpster in the road and move on for the next 3 years and 10 1/2 months. Smile at our neighbors. Discuss the jardin and the weather. Share our vegetables and help each other, without the threat of politics, violence or religion invading the conversation. For a country like the US that purports to be the shining city on the hill of democracy; the democracy and freedom, the neighborliness we enjoy here in Spain somehow feels a whole lot freer.

Finding The Treasure

Last evening, I drove into Santiago for a remarkable evening. Inspiring on every level. I’m not sure why I’m surprised.

It was Ascension Day. The day Christ ascended into heaven 40 days after Easter. And Santiago takes a minute to celebrate the occasion each year in style.

As we sat for some very late afternoon tapas, bands of roaming performers and musicians processed by. As per usual. And groups stopped to conduct intricate traditional dances and sing songs in Gallego. It was a festive atmosphere around every corner. And while I was lucky to be in Santiago yesterday to see it, it was not what I came for.

These days, Santiago is like the Enlightenment. Yes, the world is a messed up place, but Santiago is a crossroads for the world because of the Camino. There are authors and artists, writers and painters. Creativity abounds in Santiago. Like a French salon, each time I go there I am introduced to someone amazing by my friends, who are themselves talented creatives. It’s a place of connectors and connections. Everyone is helping each other to take the next step. Reaching back to help lift others up. Always inspiring.

I was there to see the limited run of the one-woman show Crying on the Camino written and performed by Celeste Mancinelli, a Broadway actress and singer. A veteran peregrina, Celeste wrote this at times hilarious, frustrating, sometimes whining, and profoundly emotional take on her Pilgrim experience walking the Camino Portuguese with two older friends. I laughed out loud and shed a tear, or two.

It is never to late to be what you might have been~ George Elliot

The wonder of this show hit me on several levels. First, the audacity of it. Celeste performed the material in it’s entirety for two hours without intermission. Her performance was bold and brash. Truthful and unapologetic. Her singing voice is shockingly beautiful and also comedic. The costumes were her own pilgrim clothes, and nothing was conjured or dressed up in mimicry. It can’t be easy delivering a show to others who have walked The Way, many of whom are often critical when someone tries to depict their own Camino experience. ‘That wasn’t how mine was.’ It’s all over Camino FB groups these days. But, last night the room was filled with generosity, and we were all in on the joke as she expertly led us through her recount of her first Camino. But it wasn’t so much the comedy that ensnared me. It was the message behind her performance that I found so emotional.

Remembering…

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I harken back to when I was a child. Quite frequently, in fact. There is a reason for this, and last night’s performance made me remember why.

In her show, Celeste connects her Camino to how she felt as a child, leading her childhood friends on adventures through the forests, and along streams near where she grew up in New Jersey. She vividly describes the joy of being a kid. How bold she was and audacious, much like herself last evening. Taking pleasure in simple things. And her painful Camino at 60 yrs old brought it all back. I can relate.

I stood here today in the kitchen with Jeff, recounting the show. How it made the hour-long drive in the dark back to the farm go by in a flash. So caught up was I in the messages of the performance. Remembering back to the day before the start of my freshman year of high school. That day I made a list and did all the things I had done as a child up until that point. Riding bikes, playing hop scotch. Everything. The last item was climbing to the top of the tallest climbing tree in our neighborhood. I stood up there balancing on the thinnest branches, holding on and looking out over the houses knowing my childhood was at an end. The next day I had to start high school. New, more sophisticated clothes and shoes had been purchased. My Mom suggested wearing make up and curling my hair was a good idea to fit in and snag a boyfriend. Up until this point I had done my best to beat the boys at everything. The fastest in gym class. Brutally unbeatable at tetherball or four square on the playground. But playgrounds were over. The high school didn’t have such a thing. I had learned if I wanted to be asked to a dance – and apparently there were going to be many and I should like them – that I needed to let the boys win. Step back from the front and allow them to take the lead. My signature braids long gone, a sweaty girl after gym class with messed up curls wasn’t a catch.

I climbed down the tree slowly that evening. It was getting dark and dinner would be on the table. Walking home alone in silence I mourned what I was losing. My freedom. What made me, well, me. Knowing that the mantle of society’s female expectation was firmly settled onto my shoulders. There was no escaping it. That night, I cried myself to sleep.

A Revelation

Within the show, Celeste talks about recapturing that childlike feeling on the Camino. As though we are all rediscovering an old friend long hidden within ourselves. But we know her instantly and embrace her. Where has she been? Waiting. Where have we been?

After the show ended on a tearfully poignant note, and a standing ovation, I looked around at the audience. It was predominantly women. All of them peregrinas. A few in their 20’s and 30’s. But many in their 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s. Women who didn’t let their age define or stop them. Their hair may be grey. Their bodies imperfect. But a light still shines within them. It’s easy to look past the aging skin, a few extra pounds, and see their younger selves. It’s still in there. And they return to the Camino because that child is waiting for them there. Perhaps the Camino is a spiritual fountain of youth.

The Cave You Fear To Enter Holds The Treasure That You Seek ~ Joseph Campbell

Today, I have thought a great deal about Celeste’s bold show. Her recommitment to the joy she finds in performing. I have so much on my to-do list. My book will be published this summer. The graphic designer wants my thoughts. They need quotes from recognizable authorities for the back. The formatter wants my input on fonts and voice breaks. The leader who is assigned to me is an email fiend with questions, suggestions and more. I sit here with my to-do list knocking them off, one by one, with a little dread in the pit of my stomach. I’m not sure why. But then, I think back to Celeste and her fearless performance, and I close my eyes. The treasure I seek is on the other side of fear. After last night, I just need to find that unstoppable freckle-faced, pigtailed girl that was me all those years ago. Because I know she’ll help me to push through to the other side.

And Still, She Persisted

When I was little my Mom read me a book about The Little Engine That Could. The other bigger train engines didn’t believe in him, but when the Littlest Engine had to go over a mountain he built up steam and willed himself to the top.

‘I think I can. I think I can.’ He tells himself, over and over, until he crests the summit. The story of my childhood philosophy. I always believed that I could accomplish whatever I set out to do. You can call it arrogance. Dogged determination. Hubris, perhaps. But I figured that if I could dream it, I could make it happen. Jeff is the same way.

Henry Ford famously said ‘If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.’

These days our property is flooded with workers. Digging, plumbing, wiring, and asking me a thousand questions. In my experience, these guys have a plan. But they are like the hero from 1950’s Hollywood. The strong silent type. They generally don’t communicate at the level I need. So I when see them I ask my thousand questions. Some of them run when they see me now.

It’s nearly 8pm, and there is still heavy machinery here. Digging holes and excavating stumps. The rest of the workers have knocked off for the day. They have been here hooking up the food truck. Two days ago they told me they were waiting to hook it up until they had the approval for The Patrimonio. But today they started. Hmmm.

So, this afternoon I went outside to talk to Carlos. He works for Miguel who runs the crews. Carlos speaks a little ingles. and he has loved the idea of the food truck right from the beginning. I asked him why he is hooking up the truck and laying cement stones for stairs to the door of The Happiness Cafe.

‘I can not say, Kelli. I just do what they tell me. You go to Kelli’s on Monday. I go. Yesterday they tell me not to complete the hook up. Today, they tell me to get it finished immediately. It is complete. You have everything you need. But the roof of the food truck should be vented and insulated, for the summer to make you more comfortable. I call my father-in-law to bring some on Thursday for you from his chicken farm. After that, I do it in five minutes. No problem.’

I know I can complain. Ok, I have been frustrated, angry, hopeless, baffled, hopeless, again. Whiney. At times, very sure that my permissions would never come thru. But, when the foreman of the crew offers to call a local chicken farmer to secure me insulation so I don’t have to go to Obramat in Santiago or Lugo? You can’t beat that kind of community feeling or dedicated service.

‘Anyway, Diego is coming to talk to you when they are pulling out the stumps. I don’t know nothing but I think maybe something is happening.’ He saw a hopeful glow pass across my face and raised his hands. ‘ I don’t say nothing. But I think since they change their minds on the works, maybe.’

I let him get back to his business. But I have sat in the house for the past two hours waiting for Diego. Could today be the day? Is it possible that we will be open again by June?!?

Diego arrived and in his typical low-key fashion he let me know we are approved by The Patrimonio.

‘It is no official yet because I don’t have the paper in my hands. But they tell me yesterday that it is approved. No more trouble from the Patrimonio.’

What?!? I need fireworks 💥 A bottle of champagne 🍾. Something BIG!! I want to shout at the sky!! Or perhaps light a candle and say a prayer 🙏 of thanks. But, right now I am smiling and crying at the same time. To some this may seem foolish. Approval from The Patrimonio for the protection of the Camino de Santiago for a Pilgrim business? A little food truck and cabins? Some tent sites? Nothing, really. But to me it is HUGE.

We came to this country as immigrants. Knowing nothing and no one. Not even the language. We learned everything from the ground up. NOTHING was the same as the US. NOT. ONE. THING. We survived the pandemic far from home, navigated Spanish medical care, and hospitals galore. Then bought a farm, and started, again, making a life in a rural community. As dreamers, believing we could accomplish whatever we set our minds to, we thought we could start a business on the Camino, and then we did. Yet again, there have been roadblocks, misdirection and misunderstandings at every turn. But nothing worth doing is easy. I want that Elizabeth Warren t-shirt to wear in the food truck for my first day open in 2023.

And still, she persisted.

Diego says when the Patrimonio official paper arrives in the next week or so, he and Fernando, who is the owner of the construction company, will drive to Palas de Rei to meet with the council in person to make the authorization for the food truck and bathrooms/pilgrim laundry, immediately. Before the Concello approves the entire project. But the turismo and The Patrimonio have given their approval for all of it. Finally.

Sometimes, I need to stop and remember all we have done in five years. And all we have been through. Just for a moment. Time to take a deep breath, then get ready to open. Because we have cleared the highest hurdle. At long last, we are ready to build up some steam and tackle another mountain. And to the people who called the police on The Happiness Cafe food truck last October, take a good look. Because no matter what you threw at this silly American girl of little consequence, still she persisted.

Hedging Our Bets

To all the Pilgrims walking by our gate early this morning who had to witness me in my pajamas, robe and slippers, all while desperately trying to communicate with the guy in charge of road assessments from the government of Lugo, you are welcome. It was a sight to behold. And not just because I am sick, coughing and sniffling. But because the lovely man kept wanting to converse with me in Gallego. I hang on to my Spanish by a thin thread. Gallego? Forget about it. But, let me backup a bit.

We have been waiting for business permission from the plethora of governmental agencies, and the like, so that we can open this year. Nevermind building anything above ground. This journey has been fraught with so many twists and turns you might be forgiven for thinking we were caught in the children’s board game Candyland, or Shoots and Ladders that we used to play as kids. There have been times I have felt stuck in the Candy Cane Forest. Or that my game piece has landed on the slide and I’m catapulted back down to where I began. Not even understanding how I got there.

Our contractor has been great. If sometimes frustratingly slow. But I know he’s trying to save us money and will slow things down so that they don’t have to do the work twice. Our water treatment plant was just such a thing. He didn’t want to install it in our old shed, knowing we are tearing it down to put up another building to house all the electrical, water treatment, laundry room, freezers, etc. But, with the solar panels going in they had to do the work. So they installed the water treatment on Friday. At last.

There are other things that have popped up. Ridiculous things. But our contractor is trying to dot his i’s and cross his t’s so that when we get the go ahead from the Patrimonio that protects the Camino we can move forward. And in doing this he learned we need a forestry study, and a road study. Seriously. The forestry study will determine whether our project will be planting trees near to another property, or near a road – within 40 metres. We are doing none of those things because we are not a tree plantation. If anything, we are taking some out. For the solar panels and some cabins. They are out there right now pulling them out of the ground. And chainsawing some others so they will not interfere with the electrical lines. But bureaucracy is a voracious beast in Spain. It must be fed it’s pound of flesh or nothing, and I mean NOTHING will get done.

So, early this morning there was a knock at the door. I would be answering it because Jeff is afraid to be confronted by a blizzard of Spanish. His sizable brain shuts down, and the only word he can utter at the top of his lungs is ‘KEELLLII!’ At which point I come running from wherever I am, offer up a hearty Buenos dias, then try to reach the button on the top shelf of my brain to shift over to español. It always takes a couple of moments, some frustrated repeating by whomever is standing at the door, and repeating, again, it in my head before I get up to the 100kph that is required to participate in a conversation. I always get there. But, Jeff likes to cut out the middleman. ‘Someone is at the door for you.’ I wondered if it was the cold meds this morning but I understood nothing of what this man was saying. I thought he was asking me if I wanted to get an estimate for a gate and a fence. We already have wildly varying estimates, none of which do me any good without the permisso of the Concello, which I can’t get until the Patrimonio approves it. (I’m rolling my eyes and shaking my head as we speak) But this guy wasn’t here for that.

He walked me out to the gate and started walking around and taking photos. The first indication that he wasn’t trying to sell me something was his car parked outside the gate. On the door was affixed the coat of arms of the city of Lugo. This was an official car. But what could he want? We went back and forth. I walked him around. He talked, I pointed. We muddled through it. By this time, Curious Jeff decided to join us, somehow trying to communicate with this man through me. ME – who speaks no Gallego. For once I was the one shushing him.

The man was there for the road study. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s studying the road outside our gate to make sure it’s safe to use now that we are a business. As if it had never existed before the moment our business license was issued in Santiago. Nevermind this gate and this road pre-date our arrival by many, many decades. We installed neither of them, and control the actual road, not at all. And I know this because if I controlled the road it would be two metres widers, have a safe trail for Pilgrims to walk upon, and wouldn’t be filled with giant potholes from the cement trucks and cranes building the new AutoVia. But none of this mattered to this man. He told me he thought we should remove our hedge.

‘I do not like this hedge. It’s restricts visibility.’

For the record – it does not and I know this because I drive through it daily. I told him I love my hedge and it’s going nowhere. My hedge is grandfathered in. I have read the law. He said he thought it wasn’t four metres from the road way. I told him to measure it. It was four metres away. Exactly. Then he said our gate was not four meters and is encroaching into the road. I, again, invited him to pull out his measuring tape and measure. Unless his eyeballs are digital lasers, it feels like something invented by the Egyptians could be repurposed in 2023 to give us accurate information, rather than some dude holding up his thumb and squinting. He reluctantly complied. It’s four metres. And I already knew this because I had measured it myself when reading the regulations. But, as all bureaucrats in Spain are seemingly taught in their Masters in The Olympics of Bureaucracy course, they gotta find something.

The Easter Bunny of Finding Fault

Whenever we sold a house in the US, Jeff would leave the inspector easy Easter eggs. Relatively inexpensive stuff to repair, but obvious. Things that required almost no effort to find because people are lazy, but that the inspector could add to the buyer report to look like they had done their job and justify their fee. These things would be given to the buyer and they would come back and ask for money off the price, or for us to repair them before closing. That’s how it works in the US. Not in Spain, or they would never sell a house here. Nothing is up to US building codes. I challenge anyone here to find a wall with a real right angle. A window that is plum. Here, everything is a one-off. Today, was like that. Except ridiculous.

The guy did a lot of hand waving and talking. I didn’t get large swaths of it. But what I did get is that we must have a second gate as required by the Concello. But that this guy says we can only have one gate because our property is one solid piece of land. But we can’t have the approval of the business without a second gate. What? A double bind. He shrugged as if it was not his doing, except it was. It took a bunch of back and forth before he finally understood that our property is four parcels of land. I can have four gates, if I want them. Just for fun! I’ve read up on it and I interpreted all this for Jeff, who was frustrated with me because I was challenging this guy. I think he thought I was going to blow the whole thing. But right is right. And I am sick, and on my last nerve with this bureaucracy thing. Beaten thus far, the guy played his last card.

<in Gallego> ‘Your gate needs to be moved two metres into your property. For safety on this blind curve. There is limited visibility due to your hedge.’

Blind curve?! There is, at most, an oh so gentle bend. The fucker played the ‘safety’ card. That trumps the regulations. I know this already. It’s the bureaucrats ace in the hole. We are replacing the gate and putting up secure fencing, so I don’t care, but I needed him to think he won so he would go away, write up his report, and well, Fuck Off! I was not feeling well. You can tell I’m still not feeling well. I was tired of being stared at and wished Buen Camino while standing in the road as the hoards passed by me while in my pajamas, slippers and robe. Really, Pilgrims. Read the room! I shook my head.

‘Veridad?’ I asked, incredulous.

The dude just smiled – the man with the mighty power of The Road – ‘Sí’

Whatever. I coughed, almost on him. On cue, he retreated and took his leave in his government car. But I take this as a good sign. Something, no matter how small, is happening. It took three months for this guy to show up. And we are still awaiting the anointing of the Patrimonio. All this as Pilgrims have nowhere to sleep on the Camino. So many people are walking that some are abandoning their Caminos after sleeping rough. I want to put a sign out near the road- This dangerously curved and terrible road is brought to you by the province of Lugo. I’d be open and serving you smoothies and avocado toast with a cafe con leche vegetal, but the road department is making me move my gate back two meters. Here is their number and email address so you can complain. But, I probably won’t. They’d fine me for an illegal sign on a road I am seemingly responsible for but have zero control over. And it’s no surprise. Apparently, I don’t control my own freaking gate, either. All because this guy took an instant dislike to my hedge.

Happy American Mother’s Day

And the hits keep rolling. I won’t say I don’t ❤️ two Mother’s Days in a row.

After a wild a woolly EuroVision grand final last night and into the wee hours of this morning – they have to get rid of the juries and go with a strictly public vote as Croatia, Finland or Denmark should have won! – I awoke to this lovely card written by my unruly fur baby, Fergus. He knows his Mama. It seems my gift is on it’s way. And, of course, it’s shoes! He’s eaten enough of them.

Fergus is cutting me some slack this morning. Sleeping at my feet as I enjoy my coffee. The birds are singing. The sun shining. Jeff will head out to work some more on on Kelli’s Koop today. Installing the last window and grinding off the old door. Soon, a dutch door will grace the opening and the stuccoing of the interior walls can begin. I can’t wait until the interior is complete with lighting and plenty of outlets. I’m move my office and my painting out there.

When the exterior is complete I’ll plant my pomegranate tree from Valencia. It will climb up the trellis we will install on the white exterior stucco wall. Pomegranates are of great significance to me. Not sure why. Subconsciously, I have them imbedded in so many things. Jewelry. Furnishings.

I painted this very large painting in Valencia. And the tapestry from Greece is hung in our bedroom.

Pomegranates are a symbol of fertility. But also renewal. Or optimism, as I see it. Perhaps Kelli’s Koop will have a pomegranate theme. It’s evolving. I have time to decide.

This Mother’s Day I have much to be grateful for. New shoes, apparently – always welcome. The adoration of Fergus the Unruly Beast. People who love and support me. And a lot to look forward to in 2023 and beyond.

Happy American Mother’s Day, to the amazing mothers out there!!

The Santiago de Compostela Book Club

As a 6th grader, I wouldn’t have considered myself a reader for pleasure. At eleven, I was more an outdoor kind of kid. One who preferred climbing trees and riding bikes than picking up a book for fun. But, it wouldn’t be long before I would combine my love of sitting in trees with my love of a well woven tale. And my Dad had everything to do with facilitating that pivot.

At the beginning of sixth grade we were told we needed to read eight books and write eight book reports by Spring break. This was assigned in September. March seemed a long way away. But then it was Christmas. And suddenly, it was just two days before the start of Spring break. A letter arrived at my house informing my parents that I had turned in just four book reports. 50% complete. An F (failing) grade by any standard. That’s when the yelling, pacing, finger pointing and accusations of laziness, flibertygibbishness, and a general lack of discipline started. It seemed that my entire future hung in the balance of these four 6th grade book reports. My Mom lost her cookies. By the time my Dad arrived home I was pretty sure I was going to die.

My Dad, as readers of this blog know, was not to be trifled with. On a good day. Never mind that, according to my Mother, I had committed the crime of the century. Physical pain was coming my way. I braced for it as my Mom met my Dad at the bottom of the stairs – laying out the charges like a good prosecutor. I knew it was a capital offense, and I was getting The Chair. OK. At the very least The Red Friend. The red ping pong paddle my Dad used to hit us with. But then, something happened and it was almost unimaginable.

My Dad looked tired. He laid down his coat and his keys. Then he told my Mom to ‘sit down and shut up.’ After sitting in his chair he beckoned me forward to confirm or deny the story my Mom was yelling at the top of her lungs just moments before. I told him it was true. I had not read all the books or written the book reports. He got quiet. This was a dangerous moment. My Mom tried to fill in the void with more yelling but he stopped her in her tracks. Taking a deep breath of someone who had a long day, he then spoke in a tone I had never heard before. Calm. Measured.

‘This is what we are going to do.’ He told me. ‘You’re going to go get a notebook and a pencil. I will tell you the story of four books from when I was your age. Books you can get in any library. You’re going to write the book reports sitting here with me while I tell you the stories. Then, during Spring break you will stay in your room reading until you have finished the books. As you complete each book I am going to quiz you. There are details you can’t know unless you read the book. Do you understand?’

I nodded. My Mom went to open her mouth in protest. My punishment wasn’t severe enough, apparently. But my Dad silenced her. He had rendered his verdict in 1978. There would be no questioning of his authority. It was his house, for god sake.

I did as he commanded before he changed his mind. And that is when I fell in love with reading. It was The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baume that did it. The book is very different from the movie. And I discovered that at age 11 while grounded to my room to read Spring break away. It turned out you can escape into books. Inhabit the characters and live in another world. If just for a bit. One of the best Spring breaks I ever had.

A Book Club Fraud

Decades later, when we lived in the Cascade mountains east of Seattle, I used to commute with my boss to the city. I would drive down the mountain to the first town on the east side and park my car. From there my boss used me to take the carpool (HOV) lane in heavy Puget Sound traffic across Mercer Island into downtown Seattle. I was happy to be her +1 so we could whiz by everyone. And it worked well, for a long time. We got a ton of work done on those drives. Sat in on calls or meetings via speaker phone. And generally got to work prepared for the day. The only time it didn’t work was if either of us ran later than late. But there were always taxis or buses to fill in the gap.

One later than usual evening on the way to drop me at my car so I could drive up the mountain, she suddenly remembered an appointment.

‘Shit! I have a book club meeting in 15 minutes. I’ve missed the last two and I promised I would make this one.’ Her wife was already there. ‘Do you have time? If I drop you off I’ll be late.’

‘Sure.’ I said. ‘What’s the book?’

It was one of the books by Khalid Hosseini. I don’t remember which of his books but it might have been The Kite Runner – set in Afghanistan. I hadn’t read it, but I didn’t plan on being an active participant in the meeting. Shrinking violet, that’s me!

‘You read the book?’ I asked.

She grimaced. ‘I skimmed the first three chapters.’ She was already in hot water with her wife.

We arrived a few moments late as the meeting convened. Everyone had their copy. I had snagged my bosses copy from the back seat and sat down as I was introduced to the crowd. That’s when it went sideways.

‘How did you like the book?’ The leader asked me. ‘What was the part that spoke to you the most.’

The closest I had ever been to this book was at that moment holding it in my hands. I hadn’t even read the inside jacket or the back. But I have spent a fair bit of time in the Middle East, and entwined in Middle Eastern culture, so I decided to wing it.

‘I loved it.’ Looking over at my boss, whose eyes narrowed, I turned back to the leader. ‘Sally, to me, one of the main characters is Afghanistan itself. And the cultural context in which these characters are trapped. They each have a societal role to play dictated by those mores and familial expectations. It would be easy to pretend that we are not like them. They are backward and we are not. But we are all prisoners of our own cultural game, and we play it, just as they do in the story.’

My bosses mouth hung open, she closed her eyes and shook her head. I was pretty sure I saw a smirk.

After the discussion ended we socialized over coffee and snacks. It turned out it was her church book club. So I’m probably going to Hell. But people came up to me wanting to talk some more about the book.

‘You had amazing insight into the subtext. I hadn’t really dug that deep. You gave me a new perspective.’

I nodded thoughtfully. ‘Maybe go back and read it again. You’ll get there.’

This, as my boss pulled me away. ‘Time to go.’

We got into the car and she hesitated before starting the engine. ‘What the fuck was that? You hadn’t even read the book!’

‘So. It’s not that difficult. There has to be a heavy cultural component. It’s set in Afghanistan. I’ve spent time in the Middle East. Misogyny. Patriarchy. Set in a desolate landscape. Plus, no one else here has been there. They just know the tropes they see on tv. It wasn’t that difficult to bullshit my way through that. Besides,’ I reminded her, ‘you hadn’t read the book. So it saved you from having to participate.’

She flashed me a cockeyed grin and shook her head. ‘Sometimes you scare the shit out of me.’

The Santiago de Compostela Book Club

This week Amazon delivered me two books. Sent by a friend in Santiago. The Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett. Required reading for living in, wishing you were living in, or just visiting Spain. And Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart. A hilarious first person account of living in Andalucía. My friend thinks I should publish a book based on this blog. I love both books. And it got me thinking. What if we started a book club? I reached out to all my friends in Santiago and received ‘I’m IN’, ‘Yes!’, Absolutely!’ So The Official Santiago de Compostela Book Club is, well, officially born. Another friend in Santiago has agreed to play hostess as I live in the boondocks.

I’m very excited about kicking this off. I think it will be so much fun selecting books and getting together at monthly meetings. Maybe we can even open it up broader, eventually, to include people from across the globe. An international book club infused with the spirit of peregrinos and Santiago de Compostela. We shall see how it goes. Who knows, perhaps we can invite authors to read from their work and participate in the discussions.

But I want to make one thing clear. My days of reading the book after the fact are over, and bullshitting my way through is done. I pledge to read every book and come ready with well-considered opinions and questions. A book club! I can’t think of something I’m looking forward to more. And I kind of think my Dad would be proud of his long-ago part in it.

A Little More Galician

Our first taste of living in Galicia came from our next door neighbor, Maricarmen. Our gate opened as the moving trucks were on the font lawn. And a small woman in an apron and rubber boots pushing an ancient wheelbarrow filled with vegetables made her way to us. This was just the first of a hundred such visits in the next two years.

Maricarmen is a gardener extraordinaire. The fact that I knew nothing of growing my own food made us even stranger than we already were. If you visit Galicia, especially walking the Camino through towns and villages from O Cebreiro to Santiago, you will notice every house has a vegetable garden. All sporting the national vegetable of Galicia, the Brussel Sprout.

Jeff and I could be forgiven for not having a garden the first year. We arrived past planting season. But we didn’t have one the second year, either. I was walking across Spain during garden planting season. So, yet again, last year Maricarmen supplied our vegetables all spring, summer, and into autumn. We reciprocate, of course. Maricarmen receives a gigantic food hamper from El Corte Ingles each holiday season. Complete with a jamón leg and other delights. And we keep her yard for her. Still, it doesn’t feel like a fair trade. Her vegetables are invaluable.

Grocery stores in our area have very small produce sections. Because everyone grows their own food. But not Kelli and Jeff – Those Americans! Until now.

That’s right, baby! I planted a garden this year like a real Galician. When they were plowing the field next door to plant corn, the guy in the tractor waved. First time. He saw that we are attempting to live like everyone else. If planting a little late. But, it’s harvest time! Well, really, it will be harvest time until November. Depending upon the crop. But the radishes were ready to pick today, and Fergus and I went out this morning to pick them.

There is something about harvesting food from the garden that you have grown from seed. A huge sense of accomplishment. After gathering an arm load of radishes – Jeff’s fav – I brought them into the house and cleaned them up. Jeff was shocked at the volume. But this is a fraction of the radishes I have left to harvest. Then, I proudly marched myself over to Maricarmen’s and presented her with a sack of radishes. I smiled broadly like the winner of the 5th grade science fair, basking in the glow of the appropriate ‘ahhs’ while she examined the contents of the bag and praised my green thumb. Granted, radishes aren’t a huge seller here, as folks don’t like spicy food. But, I figure it’s the thought that counts. Kind of like when she brought us a rabbit that she had caught, killed, cleaned, and skinned. I had never eaten an animal that grew up wild in my front yard, before. But we adapt.

Handing those radishes over to Maricarmen was one of my proudest moments since we moved to Spain. I think she is a little surprised I could grow something. But, I believe it speaks to my hearty gene pool. I might be a generally agriculturally inept American, but I am a descendant of farmers. I can grow things, too. Sometimes. Even contribute to my neighbors dinner tables. A real member of the community. Just wait until Chus comes to clean the house tomorrow!! She’ll go home with a sack of radishes, too. Probably stop on the way home to tell her cousins in the village. And I’ll stand a little taller when I walk through town. Because I have a producing vegetable garden now, just like everyone else. And I’m a little more Galician because of it.

EuroVision 2023: It’s That Time, Again!!

Holy Smokes, friends! It’s that time again. The craziest. The tackiest. The most bizarre spectacle of the year! The circus is quite literally coming to living rooms around the world in the form of The EuroVision Song Contest! And it’s awesome.

For most Americans, this isn’t really a thing. But for everyone else in the world it’s the best thing since sliced bread. 37 counties enter their best acts to compete for the top prize. And it starts tomorrow night 9 May and concludes with the glorious finale on Saturday night! It is required viewing.

We knew it was coming up. Jeff remembers it because it’s the anniversary of his run in with the javalies (wild boars) in our yard on a stormy May night when restocking the ice cream from the freezer in the barn that is mandatory for EuroVision viewing. And we are giddy with excitement! This afternoon Jeff met me at the front door when I returned from a lovely lunch with Deanne, a Camino friend of the blog.

‘I just got the notice! EuroVision starts tomorrow night!!’

We both squealed with joy. Five nights of looking at each other confused after one performance or another (for sure a Scandinavian or Eastern European country), and saying in unison ‘What the hell was that?’ Laughing hysterically. Shouting at the tv. Booing when a terrible performance makes it through to the finals! And championing our favorites, but with a shot through the heart if they don’t advance. It’s like we’re the Roman Emperor and Empress bestowing our 👍 or 👎 in the Coliseum. Sealing their fates. Well…except not at all. Because we don’t even vote. We are very clear that we will over index on the emotional investment in a contest we barely knew existed six years ago! But who cares? It’s so much delicious FUN!!!

The whole enchilada was won by Ukraine last year. Not the best performance or song, but a sympathetic vote. Spain should have won. But we understood. The UK is hosting it this year since they came in second in 2022 and the war in Ukraine sadly rages on. Fellow expats new to Spain, and North Americans friends – check your local listings, stock up on ice cream, and join in. Five nights of pure nonsensical joy! Absolutely NOTHING beats EuroVision.

A Good Reminder

We sit on the front porch this Mother’s Day – Die de la Madre – in Spain. And we watch Pilgrims pass the gate, even into this eventing. Each of them had to have the courage to take that first step. From their front door across the ocean, on an airplane or a train. No matter, the celebration of that spirit of adventure. A desire to simplify and go within.

There are more Pilgrims this year than any other before. Post pandemic, more people are searching for that missing something and many of them have landed here. And we get to see them and encourage them with a smile and a wave. What a blessing to be part of it. And then, this reminder came across my social media feed.

https://soundcloud.com/rick-steves/the-way

This is a great conversation on Rick Steves’ podcast. With his guests Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez discussing the rerelease of their movie The Way across the US in a thousand theaters for one night only May 16th.

The movie is an inspiring story of a grieving father collecting his son’s remains after he has been killed in the Pyrenees on his first day on the Camino. And, in a fit of pique, he grasps his son’s pack and sets off on his own Camino to grieve. And ultimately to discover himself. A noble endeavor, and one that all Pilgrims can relate to.

I wish we were in the US on May 16th. I have seen The Way many times and love rewatching. But, I would love to hear other people’s reactions in the US. In Europe everyone knows about the Camino de Santiago. But in the US it is little known. When Emilie and I walked from France 800kms across Spain in 2017, there were people I knew in the US who thought I was crazy. And to take my high school daughter? Well, that was the height of irresponsibility. But I like to believe that in some small way it changed Emilie’s heart. Perhaps not in a way even she really understands, yet. Perhaps it will come to the surface when things get tough, as they do in all our lives. When she is searching for strength. And she looks back to her time on the Camino. The difficult days. Physical, emotional and spiritual pain. And to remember that all she had to do is put one foot in front of the other and she would make it through. If there is a gift to give a child, I think that is a good one. The gift of resilience.

Spreading The Mother’s Day ❤️

Today, we looked over and there were no cars in our neighbor, Maricarmen’s driveway. Her kids are spending the holiday at their spouses families, I guess. It’s just her and Manu. So Jeff and I went over with the riding mower and the gas weeder and cleaned up her yard. She was so happy to see us.

This year for Mother’s Day, Jeff showered me with inexpensive grocery store gifs. Including a pinwheel for the garden. And I’m lucky because he gets another bite at that apple for American Mothers Day next Sunday. That’s when the jewelry shows up 🤞. But I don’t really care. I have everything I need. And I live on a river of positivity that reminds me every day that less is more. No jewelry required.

Fergus’ Big Adventure – From 3 Perspectives

Hi! My name is Fergus!

First off, let me state unequivocally that I didn’t set out this morning to become the most famous dog on the Camino between Palas de Rei and Melide. Like most things in my already charmed life, it just happened.

I was standing at the gate greeting Pilgrims when someone, my soon to be new best friend, opened it up to pet me. Now, any self respecting perro knows that when a human opens a gate you run through it!! Out onto the road with a thousand of those brightly dressed humans carrying backpacks, singing, trudging with sticks. I usually like sticks but these sticks make loud noises on the black pavement. It makes me nervous.

At this point I followed my new friends like swimming in a river. Everyone knows that when you see a river you jump in! Common sense dictates. Each person I met was soooo happy to see me. Like they had been waiting for me all day. Possibly all week! And who am I to disappoint them? After walking for awhile, I turned around and realized I didn’t recognize anything. Not the path. Not the trees. Nothing smelled or looked like home. And where was my Mom and Dad? I didn’t know. So I kept walking. Maybe I would find them up ahead.

Jeff’s Version Of The Big Adventure

Kelli let Fergus out as I made her coffee. She fed the cat and the dog. Then I handed her my usual cafe con leche de nueces. We sat down and chatted while she drank it. Before long, LuLu cried at the door for her breakfast. She had been out all night. Kelli went to let her in and called for Fergus to come get his breakfast. Then she went out onto the lawn, calling again. No dog. Then she called for me.

Fergus comes when we call him. He knows we are food. I put on my rubber boots with my overalls and a jacket and took the back half of the property. Kelli took the front, heading out the gate to call for him in the lane and in the horse pasture across the road. I came back from the field and we both shrugged. This isn’t like Fergus. He was no where within shouting distance to hear his name. Not a good sign. Kelli opened the gate again and started running towards the village calling his name, as I took up the rear.

Kelli: The Real Truth

Fergus knows my voice. And he knows my whistle. If I whistle he will come from a mile away. Running hell for leather towards me from two fields away. He has never not come when I whistled for him. This morning was the first time, ever.

I was in my pajamas when I strapped on my rubber boots barefoot, to call for him. And I was in this very same get up when I went out to the road. I didn’t care. I’d never see these people again. But then Fergus didn’t come. So I started asking Pilgrims if they had seen a black dog. I described him and told them his name. But they all shook their heads and said no. I saw Jeff coming back towards the barn. Fergus wasn’t with him. Fergus would have been trotting right beside him if Jeff had found him.

Based on the info, or lack there of from the Pilgrims, this meant he wasn’t to the right towards Palas de Rei. Or to the back of our property. He was somewhere towards Melide. I ran out the gate in my pj’s and rubber boots towards OCoto. Asking all the pilgrims – 50+ – on the road if they had seen a black lab. And telling them his name in case they came upon him. I got up to OCoto and Luis was open at the cafe. He looked taken aback at my pajamas and rubber boots. I called whistled for Fergus, asking the next 100 pilgrims, and the driver of a tour bus if they had seen a black dog? No one had.

Then I remembered Fergus’ AirTag. I could track him on my phone. But looking in the app he should have been standing beside me. His last pinged location. Pilgrims helped me look everywhere. Even out n the N-547 highway. No Fergus. By this time Jeff arrived and I told him I had found nothing.

‘I’m going to get the car. You walk to Leboriero.’ I told him.

I started running towards home when I asked a guy who was sitting on a stone wall near the horses since the last time I passed. ‘Have you seen a black dog?’

He had, pointing in the direction Jeff was walking. So I ran back home, showing Fergus’ photo to Pilgrims and giving them Jeff’s mobile number.

Jeff’s Trek Down The Camino

Kelli ran for the car, as I made my way in rubber boots without socks down the Camino to the tiny village of Leboriero with it’s old Roman bridge and buildings more than 500 years old. The church is one of the oldest in Galicia. If Fergus saw the door open he would be in there.

I whistled for him but he didn’t come.

‘Are you looking for Fergus?’ A group of women asked me.

‘Yes. How did you know?’

‘You wife is asking everyone. It got put on our group chat in WhatsApp.’

Our dog is now famous on Camino WhatsApp.

I thanked them and walked faster after hearing dogs barking at a house we call The Duck House on the other side of the old stone bridge. They are the grandparents of some people who own a restaurant in Melide. We know them and they have a German Shepherd. Fergus might be there barking at their farm dog. Sadly, I was forming a blister on my big toe in my rubber boots. Well, it is the Camino.

Kelli Flying Low

I got a bag of treats, and the car, then drove as fast as I could without hitting Pilgrims toward Melide. I turned into the industrial park before the town and rolled down my window to ask a Pilgrim if they had seen a black dog. He nodded and pointed up the trail with his pole. I looked and there was a black flash at the top of the rise, before the downhill towards Furelos. I jumped out of the car, still in my pajamas and rubber boots, with the treats, and whistled. The black blob stopped. Then, it started running towards me. Halfway there he stopped again. Like he wasn’t sure it was me. The guy he was walking with had stopped, as well. I called Fergus and shook the treat bag. Finally, reassured it was me, he looked back at the guy standing there, as if to say goodbye to his new Pilgrim friend. Then Fergus ran towards me like a greyhound.

I won’t lie. I teared up as he licked me furiously, then rolled over for a muddy belly rub. My pajamas were quickly covered in wet mud. Pilgrims gathered around taking pictures and videos of our happy, pajama’d reunion. It felt a little weird, but I guess people had become invested in The Great Fergus Saga. I prayed they would not post pics of Dirty Pajama Rubber Boot Kelli on social media. Reunion complete, Fergus and I made our way together toward the car so we could call Jeff to pick him up somewhere on the trail.

Fergus’ Last Word

Once again, I’m warm and dry on my rug on this rainy day. Back home with treats and lots of love. Some people might think I was lost but I wasn’t. I wasn’t worried, because I knew she would come for me. She always does. Because she’s my Mom. But somebody should tell those Pilgrims that they should never open a gate to a dog. Especially if he’s a black lab on the Camino Frances named Fergus😉 🐕‍🦺🐾

The Sharp Left Turn

Last night I had a dream. It was about my high school reunion. Something I never attended, so I’m not sure why I dreamt about it. To me, reunions like that are about some form of measurement. Everyone there is trying to stand up straight and hold in their stomach. Hoping to stack up against others who might have been voted Most Likely to Succeed, or Least Likely. eek! I want no part of that. The first reunion invitation I received was for my five-year reunion. Even at that young age I was not naive enough to believe that five years was enough time to achieve anything of import. And my personal plans were more of a long game. There was no way I was going to that reunion because I knew that the conventional place where I grew up would judge me harshly. My family already thought I was strange. And high schoolers – even five years on – weren’t going to come up with a kinder assessment. Never mind. Robert Frost’s Biggest Fan From an early age, I could clearly see that going in the same direction as the crowd meant you would never do anything interesting. Just exactly what they were all doing. And it was boring. In high school, I cut my own hair, pierced my own ears, and generally invented my own unusual – ok, sometimes embarrassing the my family -fashion sense, which I have now unleashed on the small pueblo of Melide in Galicia. I can’t say they love it. Or even understand it. But that is because they don’t understand where I came from. The 1980’s in suburban America. You’re welcome, Melidites! Growing up, I always felt like I didn’t belong. Even in my own house. But in a good way. I knew I would leave and never look back. And in school it was no different. I knew these were not my people. We would not be friends after graduation. We would not push our children down the sidewalk together in matching strollers. I knew this because I would be living on the other side of the world. Maybe not right away, but it would happen. Because the thought of staying within 200 miles of where I grew up was soul crushing. I had things to do and none of them could be done locally. I remember my high school English literature teacher assigned me Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken. At a fork in the road he looks at the well-worn path, then at the other one covered in long grass. The one few have tread. And he chooses. Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. It was a revelation to a teenager looking for validation. Choosing to take a path others never consider is, in fact, the right path. It was as if this poet was telling me, it was OK. I was OK. Not strange. Not crazy. I was like him, and I could choose. I had this poem engraved on a brass compass and I gave it to my son, Nick, as a gift. I am not sure if he appreciated what those words meant to me or what I was trying to convey to him. But this poem changed my life and my perspective. I wanted him to know that we can all choose. Intuition Today, on the farm we had the production team of an Australian movie that is filming on the Camino. An exciting project. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have them here. I love being around people who dream big, then execute. I don’t like the talking part. I like the doing. And these folks are doing it. But, more than that they are extraordinary people. I felt as if I knew them instantly, and their director and I quickly entered into a deep conversation about what the Camino means, the energy and the subtext. The pillars of life. It was intense. It was after they left it hit me. Not once did they ask Jeff or myself why we moved here or why we were doing what we are doing. They didn’t have to because they already intuitively knew. ‘You live on a river of energy you plug into.’ Bill, the director, told me matter-of-factly. Not a question. A statement. As if this couldn’t be clearer. Remarkable. And I’m not sure any of them understood just how extraordinary this is for me. I am a fan of the sharp left turn. If everyone is going right, I am going in the opposite direction. Doing things that people will often tell me I can’t do, or I’m crazy to do. Leave a job. Take a different one. Move house. Move across the world. Start a business. I’ve heard ‘You’re doing what?!’ or from friends ‘People ask me – What’s Kelli doing?!’ too many times to count. But I pay them no mind. You can’t explain yourself and what you’re doing if other people can’t see it. And, frankly, the older I get, I’m not interested in trying. But to be around those who don’t even ask, because they don’t have to, is remarkable. I knew the moment I met Jeff that he was the same as me. His sister-in-law once told me ‘You guys are always doing something unusual.’ I’m not sure it was a compliment – but I decided to take it as one. And my Mom was shocked I married introverted Jeff. ‘He’s a nerd.’ But what she didn’t understand was that quiet and well considered doesn’t equal boring or unadventurous. It just means he make moves that no one sees right away. Until they turn around and he’s already done what other people, mainly extroverts, are still just talking about. As I said, I prefer doing to talking. I’m sure there are more sharp left turns in our future. The unexpected, but not unplanned. We’ll strap on our boots, once again, at the fork in the road, taking the one into the tall grass. But I prefer that. It’s quieter there. A place to think and dream as we progress. On a destination to where fewer travel. And along the way we’ll meet our people. Those who have chosen the same overgrown road. No explanations required. And that will make all the difference.

Let There Be Light!

The sun is shining. I’m planting lavender. And the solar panels are here. Diego and crew were here today and so were the solar panel workers. We inch closer to completing one thing – the first thing – on our project plan. And it’s a biggie.

Our business footprint needs to be as gentle on the environment as possible. Our well water will not be cleaned using chlorine, or other chemicals. It will be sanitized with UV light and water softening tech to extract any farming related chemicals – think fertilizers and livestock poo – ick – and it will pop out the other side fresh tasting, complete with all the things that makes Galician water so good. It is supposed to be installed next week. They promise. No really, this time they really promise. Pinky swear!

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

Our twenty solar panels, infrastructure, and anchors have arrived. All the wires have been tunneled and run through conduit into the barn where the switch will reside and a battery array and rack will sit – when we can get a battery array next year. We focus on one thing at a time.

The guys are at lunch right now. When they come back they will begin assembling the panel structures inside an old animal pen so Sir Fergus, Lord of Destruction keeps his paws off them. Our animal pens are all ringed with concrete that goes three feet down like a maximum security prison. The rabbits have no chance of getting into my vegetable garden, or a hope in hell of digging down and coming up to chew on the wires supplying our home and business through the miracle that is the solar array harvesting the power of the sun. I love it!

Jeff is bound and determined to augment our leaning towards environmentally friendly off the grid living with wind turbines, but I have slowed that roll a bit. We need to walk before we run. And while I am fine with a long term plan that allows us to generate our full power needs year round, I just think we have other things we want to do before that becomes the first thing on the top of an ever growing list. I need the business entirely built out before we distract any one of these companies by focusing them on residential wind power.

Deep Breath

All my lavender starts are here on the hottest two days of the year so far. I have to get them in the ground, while at the same time not fainting as I plant them in the shadeless field where they will nestle year round. It hasn’t helped that I lined the furrows with black agricultural fabric to keep weeds down and keep them warm in the winter. And white gravel to reflect the heat. The plants and I are wilting a bit. Now, I need to go into Santiago to get loads of drip lines to supply them with water directly as we head into summer. This time last year it was cold and wet. This year it is more like June. But I won’t complain.

I was chatting with some American Pilgrims at the gate today. From California. They were sad we aren’t open. Diego, our contractor, had news today, as well. The Patrimonio discussed our project yesterday. We should know any moment if it is approved. We are all on pins and needles with our fingers and toes crossed. Please, please, please – let them approve it in total, and call me on the phone to tell me we are a-go!

A Dot On The Horizon

I find that it’s important to have short term goals and long term goals. Something to look forward to. My three month plan is to get the business back up and going. And to have the cabins and camping under construction. I have adjusted my expectation that we will not be accepting guests before October. That’s OK. But, after the past winter and all it wrought, I need to have another dot on the horizon. Something to smile about when I am deep in frustration with the pace of everything on the farm.

I have decided to walk the Via de la Plata in January of 2024. I’ve wanted to walk it for awhile and I’m not getting any younger. No time like the present. It’s time to take on this challenge. And I’ve asked some friends to come with me or join me at points along the way as their schedules permit. They have responded with an enthusiastic ‘We’re in!’ I love these guys.

The Via de la Plata begins in Seville and ends in Santiago de Compostela, entering the city from a completely different direction from the Frances. It’s a smidge more than 1000 kms and a quiet winter Camino. I won’t walk it like the published stages, some of which are more than 35 kms in one day. I’m not up for that. I will take my time, and likely between 50 and 60 days. This walk would be brutal in summer so I will leave right after Epiphany in January. Ready to complete the trek before opening the business up again for walkers on the Frances. I know very little about this Camino, so I have time to research and dream. To plan for the cold, but also to remember I can’t plan for everything and will have to roll with it as it comes. My favourite kind of Camino.

After decades being me, I know myself pretty well. Having mileposts over the next year, things I can hit, is important for me. I like forward progress. And now I have more than a few sign posts to help ground me. That doesn’t mean there won’t be other trips and other adventures. We’re already talking about a few. As well as additional hiccups with the biz. I’m a realist. But a few full diary pages gets my brain spinning with possibilities. Energizing. My sweet spot. But first, the solar panels. Let there be light.