On a barely sunny Thursday, I walked down to the shore. There are piles and piles of tiny shells along the beachy estuary. Tiny, brightly painted fishing boats bob in the tide from their ropes tied to trees. No one is around. No one is ever around in rural Spain, it is easy to find peace.
I found a place to lunch, surrounded by hungry locals. A seafood stew with noodles, an entire fried fish, eyeballs and all, steamed potatoes topped with gremolata, and a cake with whipped crème between the layers. It cost me 8 euro to sit there for almost two hours, taking my time with each course, finishing with a coffee. No one cares. No one cares at all how long you sit at the table in Spain, as long as you’re out by siesta.
Most days I walk the 30 minutes into the next town, following a wooded path along the river. I’ll buy a piece of chocolate or fruit or something small from the store for something to do, browsing the shelves wondering what people do with shredded, pickled carrot, slabs of salted cod, or soft, unsalted cheese that’s packaged like yogurt. I spend an hour at my favorite coffee shop, it’s really a pastry place, choosing something different each time. I stopped ordering a pastry because each drink is served with a generous sample, this morning I got two croissants for free. I like watching the old ladies and gentlemen come in to buy their daily bread sometimes staying to chat over coffee.
The bread here is varied and wonderful and fresh. Some loaves are round, some long and skinny, some dark, some white, some dense and made with corn. I like to split the bread, toast it in the oven, and experiment with toppings. Mayo and thick sliced tomato gets topped with pan-fried jamon Serrano (a mortal sin in Spain, to be sure) and arugula. That salt-less soft cheese pairs nicely with honey, sautéed apple and a little salt. Stuffed with a plain omelet and gooey Galician cheese would make anyone swoon.
Everyday before noon, the bread truck comes around, honking his horn through the little village. All the old ladies with aprons pop out their front doors to make the day’s selection, baskets brimming in the back of a white van. Church bells ring at all hours. Black cats cross my path every time I take a walk. A very old ox pulls a very old cart full of corn. When the sun comes out, I sit on the bench in the churchyard and read. I make fresh lavender and mint tree, scavenged along the trailside. The neighbors take walks down the street at exactly the same time every morning, noon and night. They stay up much later than I do.
A mule lives next door. The forest is full of weird mushrooms. The coffee is roasted with sugar and tastes terrible. I haven’t spoken English (except to the cats) in 5 days. At this very moment, I don’t care much for the future, even less for the past. I’m just leaning into these quiet days. I often pray for God/Jesus/a Higher Power to let me know him/it. It occurred to me while sitting by the river sparkling with sunshine, that he’s already shown me. That we’re surrounded all the time by that presence, that knowing, that’s so hard to pin down. Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are loved, you are absolutely coated in grace.