A Little of This and That

We are under construction- or demolition more like. Trapped upstairs as they jackhammer our old fireplace and pitch it into a truck parked on the lawn.

Very traditional Galician country fireplace

This was the photo from the real estate listing. So that stuff isn’t ours. Nor the IKEA light fixture. But you can see this gigantic fireplace dominates the entire room, yet it’s amazing at heating both the entire downstairs and the upstairs. I’d like a little less brick, stone and copper.

Our new fireplace will be sleek modern white stucco and have built-in book shelves on either side. My dream house would be bookshelves on every wall. The walls will be a dove grey and the new floor will be polished concrete, but they won’t do the floor until next year as it requires us to move out for four months to add underfloor heating. And I can’t make myself do that right now.

This winter Jeff is constructing an office in the barn. He’s going to add a room for us so we have a warm space while they do the flooring.

They are putting on the new roof starting tomorrow, and the black rain gutters. This will match nicely with the black framed windows. Eventually, I want French shutters but I haven’t found the perfect ones yet so they will have to wait.

They’re moving our well pump into the laundry out building, and replacing it. Just in time, too. It started going out the moment I got home last week. Water issues always happen whenever we return from a trip. I swear. Even in Valencia.

So we are living in a construction zone for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we did an interview with Leigh Brennan, who runs the YouTube channel The Camino Cafe. It’s geared towards the pilgrim and all things Camino related. She just posted it. If you want to check it out you can do so here. We had fun talking with her a few weeks ago. Reminiscing about my Camino in 2017 and talking about moving to Spain and living on the Frances. If you have any appreciation for the production value, you can thank Jeff. As per usual his attitude is ‘If you’re gonna do it…’ One slight correction. I misspoke and showed my age. I had my cafe logo designed in The Czech Republic, not Czechoslovakia (which no longer exists). Sorry about that. 😉

Anyway, time for ear defenders and some Paracetamol to combat the headache from the jackhammering. Jeff’s conference calls should be very interesting today. 😳

It’s Nuts!

Fall has come early to Palas. Storms roll in one after the other. This week we have the sun back, but last week was fireplace weather, wellies and fisherman’s sweaters. You can smell the air has changed. It makes me want to go to a pumpkin patch or a Fall farmers market.

Our hórreos. If you’ve never been to Galicia, every home has one. It’s like an elevated corn crib. Some are ancient and made if carved stone – 100’s of years old. Ours is just a few decades old.

We are stocked with wood. Except our fireplace is getting ripped out and replaced. After a summer of gorgeous weather, the week they were to replace the roof and add rain gutters was the worst since we arrived at the end of April. Ugh. So they are back this week.

Storms are the perfect weather to be laid up, looking out the windows as they blow through. Cozy and snug inside. Perfect weather to make a pot of chicken and vegetable soup. Between the garden bounty Maria Carmen bestowed upon us and the remnants of my potted garden, including my verdant herbs, we have a crock pot bubbling happily on the counter in the kitchen. What we don’t eat we will freeze for another day. The two fridges in the barn are filling up.

And we got nuts. Lots-o-nuts. Coming home last week, the first thing I noticed was all the castañadas (chestnuts) in their pods, which look like baby Star Trek tribbles, littering the ground. They’re everywhere, and no wonder. We have 50 chestnut trees. I know the nuts are in there but it will be painful getting them out! Ouch.

And we have hazelnut trees. I did not know this until they were all over the ground by the car. But the dark brown fluffy-fairytale squirrels knew it. We are their newest favorite place. Running and hopping around. Digging up the yard. Their little babies are so tiny and so cute.

But summer isn’t officially over and we have peach trees still producing fruit. Oddly. Several of them. I love peaches so I’m in heaven. They’re a smallish variety. Bigger than an apricot, but much smaller than a normal peach. But still yummy. Maybe I’ll bake a pie. I could take it to Marie Carmen. Along with the nuts.

Today, I made another pilgrimage into Lugo to the HULA, to see my Ortho Dra. She’s lovely and very hip. Sporting high waisted bell bottoms and groovy statement glasses. Note to self: Must step up my fashion game for appointment next week. I got a steroid shot into my knee and she thinks I won’t need surgery on the knee. Just rehab.

‘In one month you will not be limping. Soon you can resume your walk. But we see how rehabilitation goes.’

So I am to enjoy the first days of autumn getting my knee stronger. But the Lyme deal is kicking my ass a bit. Like I have a weird flu. But not all the time. This morning I was fine going to the Dr. It’s the afternoons where it starts to get bad. Such a weird thing. I feel like if I never ate food again I would be perfectly happy. I hope that stops sooner than later.

But I refuse to let any of this harsh the vibe I have going during my favorite season of the year. This year, unlike in Valencia, we get a proper Fall. Leaves 🍁 turning. Cold, frosty mornings. Warmer afternoons. Time for my Barbour gear to come out of hiding. My favorite knitted sweaters from our last trip to Scotland. With Irish wool throws on every seat in the living room. And thanks to Marie Carmen, our hórreos, while not full this year from our own garden harvest, is stocked with enough veggies to keep us going until Christmas.

Finally, the 40 or 50 oak trees are dropping their acorns. You can hear them hitting the ground sitting on the porch. Hope in a nut shell. They say you should carry one around all winter and plant it in the springtime for good luck. I already have one in my pocket. Because from small things, great things emerge. We have big plans for next year. We can use all the luck we can get.

Never or Forever

Jeff and I had to go into Santiago yesterday morning to the Correos office next to the Cathedral. To collect a package left for us by a new Pilgrim friend. The streets were empty, but it got busier as shops started to open and Peregrinos awoke. Some just entering the square after a long journey. Whenever I walk (this time hobble) through the warren of streets in old Santiago I can’t help but think of Emilie. When she and I entered the City in July of 2017 it changed everything. So I was thinking of her a lot yesterday, sitting in a cafe drinking my descafeinado con leche.

And I felt her presence on the climb up to Orisson just a few weeks ago. Stopping to send her pics along the way.

‘I remember all that.’ She wrote back. ‘I know just where you are.’

It made me smiley and teary all at the same time.

And now, I can hardly believe I am saying this, but Emilie is coming!! You heard me. After nearly two years of being apart, our daughter is coming to Spain.

The last time I saw Emilie, we were standing in front of The Westin Hotel in Bellevue, Washington. She was getting into a Lyft heading to SeaTac to catch a flight. I hugged her and said ‘I’ll see you soon.’ But if 2020 taught us anything, ‘soon’ could mean never or forever. As we boarded our flight to Paris the next day, Jeff and I had no idea that soon would take a very long time.

That last day in the US was a weird day. It was the last time I would ever see my Dad. The last time we saw our kids. Like we stepped off the end of the world. If I had known then what I know now I would have hugged her longer while standing in front of that hotel. I would have said something profound, or maybe just said ‘Screw school. Come to Spain now. In three months you’ll start remote school for at least a year, anyway.’ But we didn’t know a storm was brewing as we stood there that day. And the storm clouds were coming our way. None of us could outrun it. So the months, and nearly years, have ticked by.

And perhaps it’s good she stayed in the US. Safe and sound. If she had come to Spain she would have gotten sick, right along with us. I would never have wanted that for her.

In times like these you have to keep yourself in check. You deal with one thing at a time or it’s too overwhelming. You talk to your kids long distance. You text and DM. You keep the worry to yourself. And you keep it light. Because there is no alternative to how all of you are living. And no chance you can change it. Just one thing at a time.

But, now, Emilie got the time off from her job. And she texted me the dates. And she can come, if she follows all the rules that the US and Spain have laid out. So I took a deep breath and went online to Expedia, and I booked it. Hitting that final Purchase button, and getting the confirmation that it was done, was like a crack in the dam. Everything I had held back for nearly two years came pouring out. Finally, I didn’t try to stop it.

Ridiculously, I sat there and cried looking at the Expedia screen. Because this one isn’t just a travel itinerary. This represents so much more. Its hugs, and saying face to face all the things I didn’t when we were standing outside the Westin and the Lyft driver was getting impatient. This itinerary is about family. After all this time, it’s about everything.

The people working at the Santiago airport will probably call the police when Emilie comes through the Arrivals doors. Because there will be squealing , tackling and crying of epic proportions. But, between now and then I get to let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding and let all these pent up emotions go. Because, now I know 100% for sure. Never or Forever is finally here. And Emilie is coming.

A Sliver of Facebook

My disdain for Facebook is well documented. For me, any upside has always been overshadowed by the deep dark downside.

I’ve watched people I really like become people I don’t like so much after watching them on FB. I’ve been shocked to learn of some I respected spewing conspiracies, or revealing their secret, more extremists views. While others use it to exclude and mock their supposed friends. It’s like high school if high school was 1000x worse. And all of it has broken my heart.

When we moved to Spain I got off of Facebook. The expat groups in Valencia cured me of the platform. In groups that should be about helping each other navigate a new culture, a new country, often people were mocking or dismissive. Or down right mean. Going for the jugular on innocent questions or comments. I had a woman I have never met call me ‘a stupid bitch’ in the comments after I asked a simple question. Then other people who knew her piled on. What?!? Why?

In every context of life, I’ve always felt it was our duty to reach back and help those who come after us. Not to try to kick them down a few rungs, or push the whole ladder away. So, FB and I broke up. And my mental health is better for it. Especially during the elections in the US, and Covid. But now, it seems if I am to participate in the world of the rural ladies of Melide I will need to join FB. I shiver just thinking about it.

My friend, Conchi, is insistent if I want to expand my neighborhood social circle I must get back on FB so I can join 3000 women in my area who belong to the mulleres rurais de Melide (rural women’s group of Melide). A local non-profit.

This group has yoga, pilates, dance, and a host of other stuff. They sew, they knit together. They bake and help each other when tragedy strikes, or someone has a baby. It sounds amazing, right?

So today, I will make a Facebook account. Again. And I will do as Conchi says. She is right. I should put myself out there. Belonging will help with my Spanish and to build stronger ties to the community. I just wish there was another way, other than FB to do that. But who knows? Maybe this group is immune from feuding with each other on FB. Or from what I call ‘Facebook Mean’ altogether. Maybe, because its a small town, reputations will stop that.

I’ll give it go. But I draw the line at having the app on my phone. No posts of my toes on a beach. Or shopping in Paris. I’m using it only for local community involvement. We moved here for peace. The noise of the world can stay where it is. Because I’m only agreeing to the teeniest tiniest sliver of Facebook.

Marie Carmen

Sitting in Navarra wishing for a different result was unproductive. As you all know, Albergues are no place to recuperate from a long term injury. And after spending three nights in a hotel in Pamplona icing my knee with frozen peas, hotels aren’t either.

I am back home now, following the prescribed treatments, just until I get the green light to resume my Camino. Luckily, I live in Spain. The distance for Jeff to drive me back and drop me off is like going from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Not a big deal. Or I could take a bus or a train.

Because I am not as cooperative a patient as Jeff would hope, I drove myself to our local farmacia in Melide to get some prescriptions filled. Using my new cane. And who do I see there? My next door neighbor, Marie Carmen. She’s dressed to the nines and looks fabulous, sporting the cutest shoes, too. She has the tiniest feet I’ve ever seen, and can purchase any shoe she wants in Spain. Me? I’m better off shopping in Scandinavia or Germany, where they make shoes the size of dog sleds.

The women who work at that farmacia have always been circumspect with me. Professional but not warm. But that all changed when Marie Carmen greeted me warmly, and I her.

‘What happened?’ She asked. Pointing to my inee.

I reiterated in español as best I could.

‘When did you return home?’ She wanted to know.

‘Hoy.’ I told her. ‘Medio hora.’

‘Uf.’ She replied. She had been keeping an eye on the house.

Then, it was my turn at the counter so we both moved on.

I went home and lay down with my knee elevated. Walking with a cane is tiring. I suddenly had a knock at the door, but didn’t get up. If it was a delivery guy they could leave it or come back. Jeff was on a call for work he couldn’t get off of to open the door. We both forgot about it.

This morning, the gate opened and there was Marie Carmen with her wheel barrow. Filled to the gills. I am unsure of the number of pounds of potatoes from her garden, but it’s a lot.

And the largest whatever-this-cauliflower/broccoli thing is. With some heirloom tomatoes and peppers. I just love this woman.

But the kindest part was when she came back and left these on the front porch.

It’s easy to think of luck in terms of money or stuff. Having everything your heart desires from a material perspective. But, for me, I think we hit the jackpot when we moved here and got Marie Carmen in the bargain. Five months ago we didn’t even know her. But now she is such a gift. An important part of our lives. Funny how that happened when we weren’t looking.

I was sad to surrender my Camino and come home to Galicia, early. But not anymore. No matter what, I am very lucky. Because I have something you can’t buy. I have Marie Carmen.