Friday, October 13, 2017

Memories of Rabé


El Camino wanders through agricultural land west of Rabé de las Calzadas 
Luz would come in and clean the house of my friend Albino Jimenez. Albino was busy being an executive for a global manufacturer of car components. More than a typical cleaning lady from somewhere nearby, Luz had come to Burgos, Spain from South America, Columbia, I think. She made her way through the world by her keen wit and hard work. You could see her character in the patient and thorough way she cleaned the house. Her name means “light.” It was the fall of 2012.
Luz was a friend of Albino. I suspect he gave her the cleaning job to help her out. It helped him too. He had a spacious two-story house that required considerable maintenance. With her weekly help, he kept it spotless.
While Albino was at work, I was a hanger-on at his house. In the mornings, I'd go for a run on el Camino de Santiago, which goes past his house. After lunch I'd read or take a hike up on the mountain behind Albino's house or go out for a bike ride. It was a king's life.
You could see eagles soaring in the thermals over the mountain. A well-built trail wound and snaked its way up the mountain. You could run it but stretches were steep as stadium steps. Once on top I could look down on the small town of Rabé de las Calzadas and make pictures of golden trees in autumn foliage in the vista beyond the town.
Sometimes I'd borrow Isabel's bike from the garage. She had invited me to use it. Albino's novia then, his esposa now, Isabell worked and stayed in another town during week days. I rode to a nearby creek called Rio Úrbel, where I could sit in the shade and watch trout holding like vanes against the current in the clear water. I thought about rigging up a fishing pole and illegally catching some for supper, like Hemingway, but I was not so bold.
Instead, for supper Albino and I would drive into Burgos and have lamb and wine. There were lots of bars there. One played Americana music. I remember Johnny Cash and Screamin Jay Hawkins, and an antique metal sign on the wall that advertised Harley-Davidson. In agreement with the US and Tennessee vibe, I drank Jack Daniels on the rocks. No one but Albino and I were in the bar that night. We paid for our drinks and left. At the door I paused to hear a little more of “I Put a Spell on You.” I looked back and gave the barkeeper a thumbs-up. He made a wide smile and waved. That bar was near the great Cathedral of Burgos.
One night Albino and I walked over to Rabé for a beer. The barkeeper gave each of us a tiny medallion to tie onto our packs. He thought we were pilgrims on el Camino. In a way, we were. The medallion had a saint embossed on it and a string already attached. There is an albergue in that little town that has been giving pilgrims food and shelter for 800 years. I still have the medallion and I keep it attached to my ultrarunning pack.
One day I returned from my morning run and found Luz cleaning the house. I made lunch for both of us. It was pure improvisation, and food you'd expect a guy to make. We had cold cuts and chips with a side of canned tomatoes. For dessert we had a banana soaked in syrup and drank hot tea. It wasn't bad, and she seemed to enjoy it. I asked her if I could make a picture. It's the one you see here.
Looking back across the years, it's just a memory I have. It seizes me occasionally. And it means nothing to anyone but me. I'll likely never see Luz again, or run el Camino, or see eagles soaring over the mountain.
Albino and Isabel would welcome me joyfully, I know, and they have invited me several times. I treasure their friendship. But I'm older now. Dimming eyesight and fading hearing make arduous travel harder. I consider long trips more carefully now than I once did.
So, on balance, all my recalling means nothing and benefits no one. No one but me, I should say. It's true and it lingers. It's just a memory I have.

Luz at lunch. Her name means "light"

My favorite picture of Albino, standing in his kitchen after a day at work

Flowers decorate a window in the 800-year-old abergue at Rabé

Overlooking the town of Rabé, trees in autumn gold framing its southern side

I have attached the medallion from the bar on el Camino in Rabé to the pack I use in running the so-called Last Annual Vol State Road Race, a continuous multi-state race 314 miles long