How Far Away Is Spain?

It is the distance of diesel fumes sharp on the nose in the morning, the distance of grela growing on tall stalks beside houses. Spain, Spain is an espresso cup stacked and waiting, milk in square boxes. For days we walked in Galicia where the corn was harvested, only the darkest, sweetest grapes still waiting on the vine. Mist and eucalyptus and the tapping of my sticks on the road. This is a different Spain than the one that gave us gorgonzola and apple croquettes on a bustling square in Madrid. Old women in smocks stood with shovels in hand, dogs didn’t raise their heads when we passed. So many chickens. If I could I would return to the small bar where they made us a fresh tortilla and a table of Spandex-clad cyclists stepped away to reveal leaning men at the counter sipping coffee. I’d walk again down the giant hill past white goats, away from the hotel where they served us greens from a can. Dawn breaking, a bakery a half hour away already stacking their plates with pound cake and chocolate donuts. How much sugar can a morning contain? How much sweetness? Spain is green olives, toasted bread spread with tomato. It is Roman Road XIX winding us through pine trees and over fast rivers. How rounded the stones. Vermouth on tap. Another dinner at an empty restaurant while the locals wait, wait. It is a shuttered afternoon that opens onto evening clatter, so many people talking on benches, such a long way from this quiet couch in the morning.

October 20, 2015

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Arriving 

 Whichever way you come, it’s a long way to Santiago. Hills and high roads and all the varieties of water running beside the path. Sheep and goats and horses and ponies, a burro, a black pig, chickens and chickens and chickens. Dogs who don’t care. Dogs who do. Cobblestone and roman road and highway and driveway and asphalt and dirt path and back roads rutted with mud and pine matted forest floor. Wherever home is, it is far away, the concerns of the day more primary — food and feet, rain, the next yellow arrow and the next. A year after my first Camino I walked with my love, surprised to find us tromping the last kilometers past business women and school kids in the Santiago afternoon, then reuniting with those we’d met on the plaza. We all stared up at the cathedral, still partly shrouded in scaffolding, but waiting here all along.

October 14, 2015

Padron to Santiago

When Walking


There is a rhythm that comes — not in the first steps or maybe in the first days — pole foot foot pole foot foot – a rhythm that is the sound of your own body moving itself through your own life. You can only go forward. Pine needles under your shoes, shadow of trees. Asphalt and fast cars and glimpses of wild mint in the ditch. Pathway empty and waiting. There is a line between figuring it out and following the arrows where they point you. Pole foot foot pole foot foot. Catch a glimpse of what’s ahead. Keep going.
October 12, 2015

Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

You Could Journey Here Too

0706151Wherever you look, another pathway inviting your feet, another sidewalk, cracked or not, another street to cross after double checking both ways. Three miles one direction, three miles the other. Up the steep hill toward Travis Heights, how the slope slows you, reminds you your legs were once stronger. Pride of Barbados a shock of brightness. On the other side of the street, a girl who once sat for your cat doesn’t notice you. Waiting for the beep. Choosing the shade. A suit of armor painted red in a backyard. A giant wooden chicken by the front door. Shrimp plant. Old marquee. Drifting scent of pizza. The curly-haired cyclist with the basket on her bike passes you both ways. Does she ride this street all day? Let me know.

July 6, 2015

My Own Private Yaddo: Day 3

“Everyone deserves a chance to walk with everyone else.”  — “Hero,” Family of the Year

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I spend my third day wandering and remembering how wandering connects me to my creativity. Seven miles in and around the city, past the crowds and down quiet pathways. Out the boardwalk and into the city center, onto a stool at the counter of a loud diner where I read The Sun and drink coffee. Into a store or two and back out, down past the construction cranes. Then I sit with a watermelon agua fresca at the cafe of the disgraced cycling star and the story begins to come. It’s like it was when I was a graduate student, me and my notebook and a table somewhere with the music I didn’t choose piped in above. Words on paper that might become something. On a Sunday afternoon in almost-summer Austin, I am one of many women in a tank top and skirt, cap on my head, women on bikes and on foot and walking with daughters wearing the same outfits. We have somewhere to go, or nowhere to go. Later, on the Congress bridge, I help two older tourists find their way to a CVS. I walk past so much of my history up on the hill and through the streets of Travis Heights. Back home I lie on my bed, cats at my feet, looking for the first time at the paper. I’m not ready for the book review, for all the novels I may or may not read this summer.

May 31, 2015