After leaving Oviedo the Camino passes through a number of small ‘market’ towns to which I could relate as a country-dweller! Even Tineo with a population of 11,539 (really???), does not seem that big when entering and leaving on the side streets taken by the Camino. For a country-boy places like Grandas de Salime (population 1,186) is somewhere that he can call ‘home’. Yes, there were road works with diversions and road walking in some places but for kilometre after kilometre I was surrounded by peaceful countryside.
I had (and still have) a mental and spiritual conflict over the this!
In many of the smaller villages there were ruined or neglected houses and barns. Some of them bearing the legend “SE VENDE” (FOR SALE), often in faded lettering. Time after time I thought “I could do something with that!” or “Wouldn’t that make a super albergue?”
I would guess that the younger members of the family had moved away in search of education or work, leaving the old folk in their ancestral village to struggle on in the old ways until they were too old or infirm to continue. The land only lends itself to ‘subsistance farming’. Would I really want to live there with my wife and children, dependent on the vagaries of the weather. And so I find myself mired in Geo-political Theory! Re-distribution of land, namely “3 acres and a cow” doesn’t work when people see better prospects in the towns and cities.
In the poem from which the following is an extract,William Roscoe gets carried away in eulogising ‘Mother Earth’.
From her exhaustless springs the fruitful earth
The wants of all supplies; her children we,
From her full veins the grateful juices draw,
With life and health replete; nor hard return
She at our hands requires, nor more than suits
The ends of health and pleasure; yet bestows
On all her offspring with a parent's love
Her gifts impartial:
William Roscoe: The Wrongs of Africa: 1787
But what if the returns of their labour does not satisfy the longings of human hearts? What if the earth is not fruitful? What if the return is hard - very hard? What if there is no “health and pleasure?” What if farming these small holdings just doesn’t work? What would God have me do?
Well, I did say it would take me a long time to work through my ‘Camino experience’!