After checking in, we left again to dine in town on the veranda of a Southwestern cafe. Our orders were taken at a bar over the clatter of pool tables, which only added to the ambiance; plus the food was good. A short time later, our appetites satisfied, we returned to the B&B. Now we were ready to settle into our long weekend. That’ when we realized there was no TV in the room. How could we settle without television?
That was the owners’ point, I think, and we came around to it. TV watching is more of a reflex for me, anyway—a simple distraction at the end of mind-numbing days. This B&B de-emphasized it. Rustic, with two levels, the place held the ambiance of a lodge with huge fireplaces in the great room, as well as in the common room of the lower level where we stayed. A TV sat in an alcove beside the fireplace there, but we decided against watching it. Other items caught our eyes.
A small buffet offered snacks, a mini-refrigerator, a computer-printer, hot water and an assortment of teas. And books. Many, many, books filled shelves, stacked around the TV, piled on the fireplace mantle, and overflowed end-tables. It seemed our B&B hosts shared our taste in literary decor. Books were everywhere, including the great room upstairs. Though mid-August, I imagined a cold winter’s day there, with guests gathered around a roaring fire, reading and conversing. The TV, out of the way on a shelf, would be off.
We began to peruse the stacks like library patrons. The subjects were diverse, as if collected at random. Well, maybe not quite so random. Romances and mysteries predominated over other fiction. There were a good number of nonfiction works and even a few short story collections. With no ordering by subject (or anything else), we just examined every title until something struck us. Donna found several novels that caught her fancy. I had trouble finding something to suit me until a title grabbed my attention: Fumbling by Kerry Egan.
I pulled the little hardback from the shelf and immediately connected with the cover photograph of an expansive wheat field surrounded by misty mountains. The earth colors contrasted with small inset images that struck me as familiar. The subtitle confirmed them as such:
A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief, and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago
Wow. Serendipity. How apropos. In this congenial place at a time of celebration and honoring of a life milestone (our 26th anniversary), I find this memoir on a subject that had captured my imagination of late—pilgrimage, especially of the Camino de Santiago. The pictures were of places along the Camino, similar to those I had seen in other books and on the Internet.
We carried our literary finds to the veranda that wrapped around the B&B. Painted chairs around tables with ceramic tops filled the porch. Potted plants and antique farmhouse items provided a homey ambiance. The porch overlooked a garden on a hillside that quickly descended into woods. Through the trees, we could see a winding path that crossed a bridge over a meandering creek. We sat with our books, mugs of tea, and chocolates.
This was not just relaxation; it was spiritual renewal. In that moment, in the gathering dusk that mirrored the start of our lives’ final acts, we reaffirmed our bond in mutual communion over stories and cups of tea while birds and butterflies played before us in a rustic garden.
A mellow peace invigorated me like an Old World wine, as did the unexpected literary slant our stay had taken. I could imagine writing there. Sitting on that porch, pecking at my notebook computer, cup of coffee at hand, with my wife reading beside me amid bird songs and pine scents, I would construct ripping tales and expound on eternal truths for discriminating readers.
Or maybe I was writing—filling my subconscious with themes and images that would balance out in future works. All of it, underscored by the chance find of an account of one pilgrim’s journey to balance her life by more classic means.
We were soon captured by our engrossing reads: Fumbling for me, and Sanctuary, by Nora Roberts, for Donna. We made good starts but didn’t have the time to finish them on the trip. We couldn’t take them home, of course. I would not mar the hospitality or peace of that place with petty theft, so when we returned home, I ordered copies from Amazon-dot-com.
I spent many weeks with Fumbling, savoring the author’s story of her enlightening journey. It impressed me as a worthy addition to the Camino literature and I wrote a review of it. I considered such a literary act a fitting benediction for our trip.
Isaac Asimov, the noted science fiction writer, once said: “The thrill of unexpected discovery can’t help but stir the blood.” It can also feed the soul. Especially when it’s part of a melding of impressions and energies that highlight where you are in life, what you’re doing and why. It can help you make re-connections where you need to, and inspire you to continue the journey that’s yours to travel.
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You can find my review of Fumbling [here].