And the trees drip and the roads run with little rivers and the mud gets slick and there is no place to go. For a bit a group of us huddled in the tiny chapel of Santa Martina but then we stepped back into it again. Packs covered, shirts getting wet, we took the detour to the trail beside the creek. Clear water rippling with raindrops, forest floor matted and damp. Every now and then we would stop and grin at each other, hair pasted to our heads. Soon enough we would be dry again. For most of our life would we be dry. About that we were sure.
October 10, 2015
As Chivas to Pontevedra
We walked beside too many roads, along highways and past lumber mills and through suburban neighborhoods where the houses had bread boxes beside the mailboxes and lazy dogs slept in the shade. Sometimes the arrow would point us onto a path lined with trees and often along the Roman road with rounded stones. The way to our hotel appeared in my inbox like a riddle: Good afternoon, as I mentioned on the phone, give some directions to the house from Redondela, you have to follow the road to Pontevedra, when already on a path that is no longer road will find a playground and a source, leave it on the right and go up the first street on the right, reach a junction with a large cross, there is a dirt road on your left, he catches it and not leave it for 2 km always on the right side to get home. We bickered at a small cafe about how to proceed, the hill before us long and steep. Finally we called a taxi. Up, up, up he drove. Best seven euros you ever spent, Chris said. I wish I could say the place was worth the climb, the food the food we had waited for all trip. I’ll only say that we headed out early and for awhile the walking was all down hill.
October 9, 2015
Porriño to Redondela/As Chivas
He notices different things than I do. The columns of steel and stone at a construction site, the small tires of go-karts stacked against a fence, the burn marks atop a toilet where men have rested their cigarettes. He bends to put his hand on the Roman bridge. 2000 years of feet passing over. All day we walk through villages with stone houses and rose gardens, through vineyards already harvested. Corn. Kiwi. Apples. Collards. He carries his pack to prove something to himself. For awhile his feet are on fire, but after coffee and vegetable soup at the tavern he is bold with new ideas. Beside the river, through eucalyptus and pine, all the way to Porriño, where he rests for the afternoon and the traffic idles below.
October 8, 2015
Tui to Porriño
It is anachronistic in the best and worst ways, this city. The stores that my grandfather could have walked out of 70 years ago, the old women clipping laundry to lines above the tourists’ heads, the whole fish served with its eyes staring your way. Though they still walk down the street carrying cell phones, little is fresh and new. Narrow walkways, cobblestones slick in the rain.
At A Baiuca they sing fado as if they really are sad women mourning their men gone to sea. Hands to heart, mouths open to plaintive o’s. All night one singer after another stepped in from the narrow lane to stand before us. The old man in a suit and tie, grandmother in a worn sweater, short skirted 20-something. They meant it, those songs, they meant every note. Even the large restaurant manager who bumped our table each time he passed. And especially Elvira, hair net and apron, plopping fresh decanters of wine on the table. She could barely keep from dancing all night. When she stepped to the front she crooned, then she led us in song. Maybe we weren’t tourists in 2015. Maybe we understood the words that she sang.
October 3, 2015
“I want to believe
that if I get the story right…”
Nick Flynn, “Father Outside”
Sunday I sit at the computer pulling my words and photos into a new form, something palpable. A book. January and February already feel like a lifetime ago, back when I took photos of my funky shoes against the yellow and cream floor tiles or christened the year with my stated intentions: Practice. Reverence. Play. The cats atop the refrigerator, another tumble of vegetables chopped on a vinyl cutting board. It may be a thing of midlife, this awareness of how quickly my days scamper into the past. Already I’ve left behind the birthday cake Britt and the kids baked for me in Fort Collins, how carefully Lewis spread the frosting. Already FG and I have lost our tans. Already those students have gone; new ones have taken their place.
And so I’ve been saving them, those days, tugging them toward the page one paragraph at a time. The night Maryjean brought over four paintings of Annabella and propped them on the counter. The weekend I spent folding clothes into black trash bags before handing them to a cheerful man at Goodwill. The white peacock strutting a South Austin street. Even as I slip into the future, the past keeps creeping forward. My father had been gone four years when I photographed his pale blue cap. The thickets of winter brush had been cleared before we spent a mild March Saturday planting. James had left his house empty when the wisteria floated its purple tendrils toward the ground.
I’ve chosen not to wear a wristband that tracks my steps and heartbeats and how often I roll over at night because I say I don’t want to know so much about myself. Really I don’t want another form of self-examination through which to filter my days. I take a photo. I write a paragraph. I capture the bright noon when I read a poetry manuscript over a bowl of bi bim bap. The twirl of a woman’s dress as 8 ½ Souvenirs spun its jazz. I want to believe that if I get the story right I’ll hold onto some of it, this moment smack dab in the middle of my life. Not too old. Not too young. It is only September, month when the nectarine’s skins wrinkle too fast. I want to remember, to really remember, what it meant to be right here.
September 15, 2015