In meeting these people and working my hands through the wind-beaten earth of this place it is as if I’ve forgotten myself-- In only the best way possible. I am a different person within the confines of the language. Maybe it is because it is not easy to describe my involvements back in the states or even more so, they do not matter here. It is interesting to be fully Sarah, but not the Sarah that is known at Wake Forest or in Raleigh. I hope I am not scaring any of you. No new piercings, I promise. While these people do not know about my love for Mat Kearney or even the shores of Lake Huron, I gain the chance to know them. I hope to introduce you to the people and the place and with this, I hope you come to know some of my favorite stories this far.
The morning starts leisurely as Sybil and I roll out of our beds and cross the path to the old schoolhouse. We use this space as our common room, dining room, laundry, and kitchen. Striking a match, I light the gas stove and fix ourselves a cup of cafe. Here, we use the pour-over method and I am thankful. Conversation is scarce. We have grown close enough—if only in days, to sip our cafe in silence.
Sybil heads with Adrian, one of the two guides here, to the Petrified Forest with one of the guests. It is still early in the tourism season and if there is extra space on these trips, Sybil and I get to tag along. [[I struggle to write all this. I sound pretentious or even ridiculous, but it is difficult for me to find my normal writing rhythm as I have been consumed by Spanish. Hang with me.]]
After breakfast, I cross over and open the heavy blue door to the main kitchen. Pablo looks over; his eyes widen if only for a moment of question, and quickly crinkle into a knowing smile. Pablo is the chef. He is young and likeable. I am always asking him to describe his favorite dishes and he is always returning to the meat portion of each dish which is “rey-bellisimo.” He brings a lot of youth to our group. If there is ever an opportunity for humor in conversation, I always look over at Pablo so we can laugh together.
After collecting the compost for the chickens, I head for the garden. The chickens wait for me. I have a suspicion that with the sun they know how to tell time, or at least meal time. On cloudy days I always seem to surprise them. I have to say it is more fun to speak to clucking chicken in Spanish.
The wind is relentless. It’s been so for two days. I will be short with things in the garden. Although my journal is filled with realizations and ponderings about what I am learning as I work with the Earth, I believe what is life-giving and meant to be shared is the community of this place—the people. So, the garden. Concisely, I encourage anyone who searches for purpose to enter garden gates. There comes an addiction to removing weeds and “watering like a light rain.”
We water the soil that is “resting” too--where no seeds are planted and apparently, it is lifeless. Yet each afternoon, Sybil and I water this Earth generously. We know the promised abundance of the future and prepare readily. I pass along a raised bed that for days has disappointed us. Sybil planted Remolacha days earlier, but still no growth. Maybe it is bad soil? Maybe it was a group of bad seeds? With a final hope, I crouch low and find green beacons of promise sprouting out towards me—beautiful, glory-filled defiance.
I return to the school to find the rest of the group beginning to pass plates for lunch. I cannot help but use Wendell Berry’s word—a membership, as I describe the way we all pitch in gathering utensils, cups, and water. We joke about how luxurious butter is to us now. Sybil and I remain with Franco and Adrian the two guides at the end of lunch. Somehow, we launch into a grand discussion of religion and the plausibility of a universal moral code…all in Spanish. Franco, a blond, sea-loving guide from 3 hours south of BB, fights passionately for the case of a clear good and evil. He worked as a missionary in his teens and while he has written off the religiosity of Catholicism, he believes strongly in people who live for the example of sacrifice. Sybil, a fellow anthropologist from France instigates flaws in Franco’s case. Sybil loves to disagree in the best way possible. She provides us avenues to think and entertain ourselves with ideas. She and Franco are constantly seeing things differently and it provides Adrian and me moments to situate a compromise. Adrian is engaged to Paula (who helps in the kitchen and the office.) It is their second season here.
Finally, we break the debate to wash dishes and head for the siesta hour.
Around 3, I wander down to the coast and catch up with Franco at the “Cruiseta” aka the old beat-up Land Crusier of my dreams. There is extra space in the “Penguin Expedition.” We hop in and pick up Matt, a guest from the UK. Matt enters the car and suddenly, out of nowhere, Franco speaks clear perfect English. I am sure he could see my jaw drop, even from the driver seat. It is as if we are different people in English. I become “myself” and am freed to joke and explain my personality in ways I have almost forgotten. When Matt tells us he is from England, without missing a beat, Franco asks “do you live near Hogwarts?” Franco won all the points then and there. I explain to them both how I taught Sybil my favorite trail game, where you “hide” somewhere in Harry Potter world and we ask yes or no questions to find you. This idea of hiding within Hogwarts leaves Franco grinning. His left hand on the wheel, all I can see are his big blue eyes filled with wonder.
We visit the penguins nesting and fight to walk against the wind. Nearing the evening, we stop at a secluded cove and Franco passes Matt and me mate. I love the sharing involved with this ritual. As we drove homewards, a dusty golden veil drops across the horizon line.
Again, my favorite time of day comes—when we are all together. We tuck in to the big wooden table as Adrian and Franco tell stories of driving the Crusitas. Their eyes widen and hands flail about as they supply an abundance of sound effects and demonstrations.
After dinner, one of us fixes the rest tea and we cross our fingers the wind will die down long enough to watch a bit of futbol. As Franco says “futbol es la religion de Argentina.” Paula walks in and curls up against Adrian. They are both petite, but feisty. Adrian is constantly sneaking food off Paula’s plate and she is constantly giving her fair share of wet willies. They explained to me they work here to get away from the city. I can only imagine how content they must be—to sit together, Paula reading but still keeping up with the score of the game.
Mate and Life Jackets make for a great combination
Home is in North Carolina. But, I take seriously Wendell Berry's imperative, "Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction."