Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The young pilgrim, the maremma and the mule.
It was a day of matchless beauty. A cloudless sun wrapped morning that brought a smile to the most downcast face. The vet came towards noon. He laughed when he found Digby positioned asleep in the 'out of bounds' drawing room. ' No need to move him' . A routine of well practised warmth and tender efficiency. Patient quickly checked, hair tousled, words of reassurance given. The first injection gently administered while we held him. One last trusting look and our troubadour was asleep. The vet quietly picked up boy and basket and carried them gently down to the front door - ' too beautiful a day for him to be indoors' . There in the dappled sun, to the sound of the woodpecker and cuckoo and surrounded by his family, the second injection. The end of a long journey together.
In the afternoon a strange event. The sort of thing that provokes answers and questions in equal measure. By six we'd prepared Digbys resting spot under the shade of the old oak tree. A place of long views across the fields to the distant mountains. As I started to cover the body with earth a young man , twenty three maybe twenty four, with a mule and a large white Maremma sheepdog rings the bell at the gate. A pilgrim on his way along the old Via Tolosana to the shrine of Santiago de Compostella. A sight that was once common but is rare and jarringly out of place today.
Could he fill up his canteen with water ? Irritated by this intrusion into a private moment I somewhat gracelessly stopped my task and walked him over to the house. While 'the font' and he chatted I carried on my work, lost in thoughts and memories. The young man suddenly reappeared carrying eight of the old large floor tiles that were stored in the barn. 'We, won't need those' I snapped , angered that this stranger should seek to tell me what to do. Then a strange response - "Oh but you will. Sheepdogs don't like thunder". With that he handed me down the tiles , pointing out the best way to layer them protectively over the body. "Now he's safe and warm". He helped me move the rest of the soil and then he joined us for a quick glass of wine , a toast to our departed friend . I went back into the house to get the camera. When I came back the unknown ,nameless pilgrim was gone. I managed to catch two quick snaps of him , his mule and his Maremma heading off along the lane into the distance.
At midnight the mother of all thunderstorms. Unexpected, elemental and violent. The strength of the downpour overwhelming the gutters and downpipes. Digby hated thunderstorms but thanks to our unknown young pilgrim he was warm, safe and protected where he slept. How did he know ?