The walk from Estella to Los Arcos (approximately 21km), passes by the ancient monastery of Irache in Ayegui, which has two fountains: one for water, and one for wine. More than 100 liters of wine are dispensed in the wine fountain each day for pilgrims passing through, and I’m not going to lie: despite my non-impressive wine tolerance (after a couple glasses I’m a high-pitched comedian), I was so looking forward to this wine fountain. The rest of the walk passes through small villages and vineyards, but there are no services for the final 12km into Los Arcos, so you’d better come stocked with your own water (and wine).
It was always my intention to keep a travel journal on this trip, in which I would write at night or early in the morning, when normal people sleep but I read, write or lay awake hating myself for not being able to sleep. I was going to post some pictures on Instagram and write long newsy posts on my FB author page, and like and share the posts from my fellow travelers and feel particularly accomplished for having experienced so much and felt so much and grown so much.
^^ This is the bitterness of pandemic life talking, as I write from my tiny house, my narrow window on the world since March 12. It’s not just the experiences that didn’t happen, but it’s the memories that weren’t made. We may get back to Spain and the Camino someday, but until then, we won’t have our giggling stories about the wine fountain or how far off the trail I had to go to find a private place to pee before Los Arcos. There will be no travel journal to thumb through later, when I want to reminisce.
And there won’t be, a year from today, a FB memory popping up: a smiling selfie, a snapshot of the monastery, a group picture at second breakfast, the pilgrim’s dinner at an albergue.
We hope you enjoy looking back on your memories on Facebook, Paula.
Facebook is good at reminding me of things that I would have forgotten, like the time a bird sauntered into our house through the French doors, or the time we won two pitchers of beer at the pub on trivia night. Sometimes heart-wrenching things pop up, too, like the note about putting our cat down after his terminal diagnosis, or the memorial service for a dear friend.
Four years ago today, Facebook tells me, I was speaking in the Bay Area for a short leg of my Drowning Girls book tour.
Two years ago today I was in Manorbier, on the southern coast of Wales, enjoying the lead-up to a friend’s wedding in the town’s medieval castle. It was a dream in a week of dreams.
And then, there was a year ago.
I was sitting on my front porch, watching wind billow through the Modesto Ash trees that were once lovely (and are still sometimes lovely) but which the city refuses to remove or properly care for. They are now hollow tinderboxes, and the gusts of wind were threatening to bring them down.
My neighbor came and stood next to me, and for a while we looked worriedly at the trees together. Eventually he went back inside his house, and almost immediately there was a horrific crack and a giant limb fell onto his son’s truck. I raced around the fallen limb to get my neighbor, who apparently listens to the television at a very loud volume and had missed the big event. We moved the branch, he moved the truck, and I called the city to let them know that the rest of the tree was in bad shape.
Due to the high volume of calls…
And then I phoned Will, who was en route from Oakland airport in thick traffic and right then climbing the Altamont. In case I’m not home when you get here, I told him, don’t park near the front of the house. The trees are--
And then he said, “Oh, shit, shit, my car just exploded, I have to get off the phone.”
I called him back, and it went to voicemail. I texted What’s going on? Are you okay? I called my friend Adam in a panic, and he told me to calm down, not to worry, he would come over.
Another gust of wind hit the tree with the downed limb, and another. I watched it sway, brittle and creaking, and then with a giant snap, the whole thing came down, hitting another tree on the way and taking out a massive limb.
And reader, I started to bawl.
As Jane Austen wouldn’t say, I started to absolutely lose my shit.
Will called back ten minutes later. His car had suddenly died—a blown head gasket, we later learned, and goodbye chocolate brown Mini—in the middle of stop-and-go traffic, and a passing motorist had helped him push it to the side. I told him about the tree, around which most of the neighborhood had gathered, snapping pictures with their phones.
“We’ll be okay,” he said, soothing my tears although he was the one on an overpass with a dead car and no hope of a tow truck for hours. “It’ll all be okay.”
I didn’t say all of this on Facebook, although I posted my own picture of the tree, its carcass splayed in the street for an hour or so before someone came to haul it away. (It was another week before the Mini was towed from a service lot to our house, and that carcass stayed in our driveway for months before someone came to haul it away.)
This is the problem with snapshots, of course. They only tell part of the story; they only capture what’s in the frame. That moment can be perfect while a few feet away, the world is falling apart. That moment can be perfect, while tragedy is coming around the corner.
Still, they serve as reminders. I was here. We were here.
Paula Treick DeBoard