Often when I walked I was moved by the sense of community I observed in the Spanish pueblos. People in small towns battened down against the elements and the swirling forces of global economies, swapping tomatoes and jokes, bread and comfort, chorizo and chat. They knew each other’s most intimate details, gathered for births, deaths and fiestas, and committed to wading through the tough times together, and celebrating the joys.
The life of a village has always been seductive to me – the idea that we are all responsible to those within the sound of the church bell. Walking across Spain, there would be mornings when I would hear bells from all sides, in all notes, ringing out to me across the fields. I loved it, though it did occasionally make me lonely. I was reminded that in spite of kindness and welcome, I was an outsider, a pilgrim passing through.
It’s easy to forget that I inhabit a village.
Mine isn’t a picturesque camino pueblo with adobe houses, or white-washed walls, or a town square. It isn’t focussed around a church or a community centre or a bar. It isn’t in a physical space at all, although there are places where I can locate deep connection. Places where I have history on the earth, like the house in which I type these words, and the neighbours and shopkeepers nearby.
But that isn’t it.
My village is located in the ether. It lives in the space and time alignment that we call love. It has been forged through travails and triumphs and poems and wishes. It is often glued together by laughter, but tears have cemented much of it too. Loss has also shaped this village, so when there is a gain, we all rejoice.
This last week has reminded me of the depth and breadth and potency of my community. As the book began to make its way into the world, my village has been holding a fiesta! Photos arrived in my Inbox – people I love holding the book, shouting its praises to the skies, and spreading the word as though it was their own. And of course it IS their own! I’ve learned that my book is no longer mine. Maybe it never was. It has its own life, and to see it snuggling into the hands of my village, my beloveds…Well that is joy unexpected and unparalleled.
My villagers have become ambassadors, mailing information to journalists and peers, chirping to the twitterverse, group emailing their fingers raw, and waltzing into bookshops and libraries demanding they stock SINNING ACROSS SPAIN.
“Everyone in Claremont will want to read this book!” one friend said to a bemused bookseller.
Now that is faith!
I was even sent flowers for my opening night! Some of my village know the traditions of the theatre live deep in my bones, and that although there is no curtain or lights up, “attention must be paid.”
Well attention has certainly been paid.
I’m sitting here at my keyboard, the most confounding, wonderful, frustrating view I know, trying once again to suck words from the air to express my gratitude for the miracle of my village life. For the mystery of love, and that I get to wallow in so much of it. For the fact that my journey is your journey. That your days create my days – colour them, infuse them, light them. That we all hear a bell, and move toward a village square that exists in the space between our hearts.
We have a centre. A forum. A meeting place. We know where it is.
And we flock there. Every day.
Thanks for gathering for me this week. Thanks for ringing the bell.
I bow in gratitude.