Where am I?
Entry 31, December 25th, 2011
The family is at home right now (almost exactly right now, actually) opening presents and eating breakfast. I just crested the top of the pass on the way to the monastery of San Juan de Ortega. We may not stop there, because it's probably closed – Agés is the next city. We'll see.
I'm so glad to be here, even though I'm missing Christmas.
We passed through an old forest on the way up the mountain. In the stark winter light, the trees are black and white splinters, crackling in the brisk air. Fragile brown moss covers everything and crumbles to dust between the fingers, draped over branches and stone alike. The only green is a bit of long bladed grass and the clusters of pines scattered here and there. A hint of red bubbles through the undergrowth – stinging nettles.
An old, twisted forest – a muted palate of browns, grays, and reds. The clay is laced with frost underfoot. Winter in Spain.
Expenses, Day 31
Albergue, Dinner Menu, Breakfast (Agés): 20.00
Trip Total: 705.83
The albergue at the monastery was closed, so we moved on. I did stop and take a look inside the basilica, though. It is not every day that one has a basilica to themselves on Christmas.
San Juan Ortega is mostly in the Romanic style, with a huge Gothic sepulchre in the middle. Everything was in white stone – with the brilliant, washed-out winter light coming in it was quite beautiful and absolutely quiet, like a forest after a snowfall. I sat in front of the tomb of San Juan de Ortega – a plain, unadorned thing (1080 – 1163), and lit a candle.
Who would have guessed a year ago that I would be here adventuring, visiting the tombs of saints and sleeping in caves!
I could have asked for no better Christmas present than an afternoon of quiet moments, and that's what I got. There was a hill later with a meadow and a scattering of old oak trees that I sat under for a while. It is nice to know that there are still quiet places in the world, places beyond McDonald's and the internet . . . places with meadows and oak trees.
I crossed the ridge to see Agés, pop. 50, nestled in the valley below. The albergue is a maze of warm rooms and good smells – the last of the family have been departing throughout the evening from last night's Christmas dinner. We have a big pan of paella to look forward to, the eight of us. It will be good after today's 28km.
To read: “The Art of Possibility,” Benjamin Sander