After all the chatter is finished and the dishes are put away and the pilgrims go to bed, I write about the ruined monastery at San Anton. Then I throw it away.
I am tired of thinking about San Anton. I am tired of the Camino de Santiago, and pilgrimage, and pilgrims, too. Instead I read a chapter in “The Barn at the End of the World,” a spiritual book written by Quaker sheep-shearer. I realize I am tired of homespun mystics, too. And jealous. I am jealous of her clarity. I am jealous that her book is better than mine. Her book is clear, and wise. And it is published.
It’s January. This happens in January. This is why the days are so short. So we can go to bed when it’s dark, and sleep long hours, and survive.
When it’s 11 p.m. at Peaceable, it’s 5 p.m. in Boston. Sometimes, late at night, my mobile phone and my computer will make a tiny, simultaneous lowing. it’s Philip, my son. He’s in his car, on his way home from one of Massachusetts´ many courthouses. He’s calling me on his hands-free phone.
He is calling me on the telephone, but the program he uses does not trigger a ringing on my end. Once in a while, late at night, I’ll see a weird pulsing glow from my purse, on a chair across the darkened room. It’s my telephone. I step over to grab it before the caller hangs up, and from the bottom of my handbag I can hear a tiny voice. It’s Philip’s voice: “Hello? Mum? Can you hear me?”
I’m always smiling by the time I answer him. Not just because I like him a lot. Because I imagine him shrunk down and tiny down there in the leathery dark, among the crumpled shopping lists and pennies and mints, calling out to me.
Philip is a lawyer. He incorporated Peaceable Projects Inc. in the state of Massachusetts. He has the keys to our post-office box, and the passwords to all our accounts, because he’s the one who set them all up. He’s shepherding our 501c3 application through the Internal Revenue Service approvals maze. He’s a good boy.
He’s a good man.
He gets that ennui in January, too. He works himself into the ground five days a week, working in the slave-galleys of the American legal profession. He´s looking now for some kind of volunteer gig to do on weekends, something charitable, something interesting to someone with an affection for history and stories, but perhaps something outdoors… he’s inside all the time. Pale. He needs some fresh air, he says.
He gets tired of law and lawyering, even though it’s what he aimed his life at for the past six or seven years. He stayed up late last night, preparing a cross-examination. The witness didn’t show up today to testify. He will not say this, but I can hear it. He is tired of endlessly smiling, glad-handing, watching for the phone call, hoping for the interview, waiting for his turn at Motions court. Casting, casting, casting his bread upon the water.
He calls his mum on his way home, and he talks about medieval Italy, and podcasting. He thinks I should do a podcast on local legends and lore. Iconography. Tall tales. The crazy things pilgrims say. Use those old reporter skills, get the geezers talking. Put it up here on the website. People love that stuff!
I don’t tell him why it won’t work, that my Spanish is not up to it, that geezers here don’t usually tell their tales to strange women, that I don’t know how to use an MP3 recorder, that I don’t have the drive to do all that research. Not on top of everything else I have going.
And he doesn’t tell me many of his “why nots,” either. He stopped a while back telling me about job interviews and offers, when too many rugs were pulled from under his feet, too many wells ran dry. He is waiting til something comes good, til it’s a sure thing. Then I will be the first to know.
We are coping. We’re working hard and doing our best, hoping somehow it will pay off someday, the good job will happen, the grants will be awarded, the dreams turn real.
At the end of the working day, we can call out from the bottom of the handbag, from the dashboard of the car on the road north of Boston: I hear you. I’m here for you. I’ll love you even if we never win.