We have climbed the mountain trails and entered Galicia, famous for the maritime wind and rain coming in off the Atlantic. It has been said that some weeks… it rains five out of seven days. We pilgrims must be blessed: we have just completed our third day, and rain has threatened, but the threats have been a bluff. Nevertheless, evidence of rain is everywhere. The rivers run at full throttle and springs ooze water that keep the paths wet. Ferns compete with moss in a landscape that feels like a rain forest.
Enormous chestnut trees tower over forest paths littered with shiny, newborn, Hershey’s chocolate chestnuts and their spiky, splayed, green baby-buntings. Oak trees are numerous, and if I am not stepping on chestnuts, I’m stepping on acorns.
lage women happily gather the nuts in baskets. Old World grannies (dressed in layer upon layer of clothing) gather the hems of their Mother Hubbards and carry the nuts in their aprons. We came across one pre-teen, sent out to gather nuts; he was not happy. Pre-teens, so put-upon by parents, are recognizable in their universal funk. M
are everywhere, and these too are picked by locals. Pilgrims gather them as well. Most of the abergues have communal kitchens, and the mushrooms that are picked during the day reappear in risotto at night.
Centuries-old barns and homes call out for renovation, not just in Galicia, but in all of Northern Spain. Built of stone, they are here to stay. Unless they are neglected. Suitably impressed, my husband dreams of returning home to build the three-hundred-year-old house. I am so glad that I am past my building years. I am too old to milk a cow in the morning and make the cheese in the afternoon.
I find myself thinking alot about the labor involved in building the dry-stacked stone fences that surround the perimeter of the hard-won pastures cleared of stone and trees so many centuries ago. Maybe the top stones are only a couple of centuries old, but how old are the stones at the base? Who laid them and at what cost? The cows are herded from pasture to pasture to barn daily. The cow paths and tertiary roads are slick with manure.
It is late. It is pouring. Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps I’ll have an opportunity to experience that famous Galician rain.
(Sorry about the unsightly formatting. My Tablet has a mind of its own.)