I wheeled the trash bin back inside the gate. The snow was shifting to rain, it pelted down, and there on the edge of the N120 dripped a pilgrim. He did not respond to Spanish, but he knew what "tea" meant.
He followed me down the muddy garden, doffed his poncho in the laundry room, sat down in the warm kitchen.
He did not care that the kitchen was messy.
He smiled, wrapped his fingers around his mugful of tea, bobbed his face over the rising heat. He smiled at the cookies and the apple on the plate. He picked up the cookies in a stack and sniffed them, like he´d never seen cookies before. He ate them that way, all three at once. The apple went into his pocket, for later.
Paddy came home with the wet dogs. Tim and Rosie wagged and greeted the pilgrim on their way to the woodstove. They threw their bodies down and steamed their wet-dog stink. The windows started to drip.
The man said thank-you in gestures. I helped him get his poncho on over his pack. He went back the way he came in, through the mud, out onto the side of the highway.
It is that simple.
I do not need to join the Association of Christian Welcome at the Benedictine convent in Leon, nor the Amigos del Camino in Logroño, nor trouble myself with the American Pilgrims on the Camino FaceBook page. I do not need to bemoan the demise of "the camino spirit" on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage forum, nor spend next weekend down in Villalon with an over-caffeinated gang of Spanish hospitaleros, touring dusty convents and swapping high-decibel tales and shmoozing -- fun as that might seem for a while. I do not need to go back to school and get my deacon credentials in order. I do not need to write any more camino books or guides or plans. Other people, worthy people, can do all those things better than I can.
I do not need to put my fingers into all these pies.
The Camino is right here, outside the back gate, in the rain.
The pilgrims are cold and wet, and our kitchen is warm, and we have apples and cookies and tea.
It´s that simple.