Tesoros del Camino

My husband, the pilgrim, returned from a long walk of 863 kilometers across northern Spain. He walked westward from the Spanish-French border to the Atlantic Ocean. He followed the Camino De Santiago (the Way of St. James), a pilgrimage that has been walked by thousands before him since medieval times.

This was his trip, not mine, so I cannot write about its spiritual significance or the physical endurance required to make the trip. That is his story to tell, or not, in his own time. What I can relay are snippets of experiences and sights that he shared with me along the way.

The first day was the hardest. It was an uphill climb through ankle-deep mud in the pouring rain and winds that blew horizontally along the path. He told me that there were crosses and makeshift memorials covered in stones marking the places where pilgrims had started and ended their walks.

On his way from Roncesvalles to Burguete, he walked through the Sorginaritzaga Forest. Before entering, he came across a sign written in four languages. The caption read “Brujería” or “Witchcraft.”

The Sorginaritzaga forest, whose meaning is “oakwood of witches,” was where some of the most well-known witches’ covens of the XVI century were held, …

As he walked through the forest, he came across the White Cross placed there to protect the pilgrims from witches.

Sorginaritzaga Forest

Despite this ominous beginning, he found time to send me photos of the countryside and of sheep grazing in the fields. He spotted this flock of sheep near the Basque town of Zubiri.

Near Zubiri

He told me these were Manech sheep. They are black-faced free roaming sheep known for their milk and from which “ossau-iraty” cheese is made.

Manech Sheep

He even snapped photos of some of the yarn stores he happened to spot in the towns he came across. Mercería Nhilos is in Nájera; Lanas Lany in León.

Along the way, pilgrims stay in albergues. The albergues provide a bed and usually a meal, sometimes a community dinner or a light breakfast. Curfews are strict so as not to disturb the weary pilgrims. The bunk beds shown below are in a pilgrim’s shelter attached to a local church in Belorado. The albergue was run by German nuns. The bed was free although a contribution of 5€ to the nun’s fund was recommended.

Another albergue was at St. Mary’s Nunnery in the city of Carrión de los Condes. According to my husband, one nun will tend to your feet with an extensive first aid kit and all the patience in the world. That evening, they held a pilgrim’s mass with a blessing of the feet followed by a community dinner and some singing and entertainment for the weary travelers. The following day would consist of a brutal 20-mile walk in desert-like conditions.

Within 58 kilometers of Santiago de Compostela, my pilgrim made it up the side of a mountain in the province of Galicia where this stone marker is located.

El Camino Collage Summer 2014

This albergue was situated near Itero de la Vega in a medieval structure run by an Italian religious fraternity. The simple refuge had no electricity, only candles to light the way.

Albergue San Nicolás

In Burgos, he had a clear view of the magnificent cathedral.

Burgos Cathedral

Halfway between León and Santiago de Compostela, he stayed in the town of Vega de Valcarce, population 800. It was there he spotted this statue of an old woman knitting.

Statue @ Vega De Valcarce

From Ezcaray, arriving precisely on my birthday, he shipped this exquisite blanket woven with 73% mohair and 27% wool from Mantas Ezcaray.

Mantas Ezcaray

When he returned – a little sunburned, a bit achy – he came bearing gifts. For the boys, beautiful picture books about the Camino de Santiago and a myriad of stories, both funny and painful. For me, this book, Tejeduría Tradicional Galicia, or roughly translated, Traditional Weaving of Galicia. To complement this gift came a bookmarker knit by a local artisan made from a linen yarn spun from locally cultivated flax.

Tejedería Tradicional Galicia

We hope our boys make this journey some day. Perhaps my pilgrim and I will travel it together.

A Sweet Surprise

an unexpected package arrived in the mail
from across the ocean

Jaffa Cakes 1

it contained all sorts of sweet surprises
light little cookies with a coating of chocolate on one side
and a burst of orange inside
called jaffa cakes

Jaffa Cakes 2

and chocolate bars
lots of them

Chocolate Bars

then the best surprise of all
a hand made knitted book marker
that also has a pocket for a pen
(i happen to be one of those people that reads books
with a pen in hand)

Knit Pen Holder / Book Marker
the gift was from idiosyncratic eye
who received one of the “made in China” care packages
she had already written a wonderful thank you post
so the last thing I expected was a care package in return
it certainly is nice to give and receive

My Knitting Library

This was an early holiday gift from friends. They know me so well! I had paged through the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook at the bookstore and became engrossed with the back story of all those wonderful fibers. Now I can read it anytime!

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook -Sample

Just in time for the holiday break, there is this collection of stories about knitting. If it wasn’t so warm out (you know, Texas) I would kindle a fire in the fireplace and start reading now.

Knitting Yarns

This made me think of other knitting books I’ve collected. There aren’t that many but each one has a purpose – spinning, dyeing, intricate color work, knitting art, and gift ideas.

Knitting Books

I also realized I had a few quilting books from prior attempts. Quilting with Japanese Fabrics has photos and instructions for stunning silk quilts. I picked up Hidden in Plain View during a trip to Gettysburg. I found it fascinating how quilt patterns were used as signs on the Underground Railroad.

Quilting and Sewing Books

What’s in your knitting library? Any favorites you recommend?

The Ice Princess

Of late, I have been captivated by Scandinavian literature. I love the sense of place, the cold, the darkness of the settings. While I had read some Scandinavian authors years ago, it was the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson that brought me back. I discovered the series by watching the first movie in an old theatre with sticky floors that shows mostly independent films. It was the original Swedish version with Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. The sense of place of the Swedish landscape and the complexity of the characters were so palpable I could almost touch them. I immediately found all the books and devoured them. I’ve been on a Scandinavian literature kick since.

I had not heard of Camilla Läckberg but thought I would give her a try. The Ice Princess is Camilla Läckberg’s first novel – her first four novels have been bestsellers in Sweden. I like that the novel plunges you right into the thick of things in the opening pages. A man checking on a neighbor’s house during a cold winter finds a dead woman sitting in a frozen tub, with icicles hanging from her hair, and one of her arms dangling over the edge with frozen blood pooled on the floor.

{Source}

The rest of the story unwinds to reveal characters that seem real with human foibles and redeeming qualities. You meet Erica, whose parents have just died and who is in town to pack up their home. There’s a sibling rivalry between Erica and her little sister, Anna, who seems to tense up around her husband. There’s Superintendent Mellberg, the incompetent bureaucrat and chief of police; and Patrick Hedström, the detective who just wants to solve the crime. There’s a murderer. And there’s Alex, the ice princess, who happened to be one of Erica’s childhood friends.

One of my favorite parts of this novel is the setting. All of Läckberg’s novels take place in the remote fishing village of Fjällbacka on Sweden’s west coast. Fjällbacka is the author’s birthplace and she seems to know the town’s roads with all its twists and turns very well. As I read the novel, phrases like “15 degrees below zero” stayed with me. This is Fjällbacka in winter.

{Source}

{Source}

I highly recommend reading The Ice Princess. It will draw you in immediately with solid character development, an element of mystery, and a chilly setting to get you through these hot summer months.

My Review ★★★★☆

The Boy in the Suitcase

One activity that often competes with my knitting is curling up with a really good murder mystery or psychological thriller. You can do many things while knitting – listen to music, watch tv, have a conversation, sing – but you can’t hold a good book (or electronic reader) in your hands and read while knitting. I just finished The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis. It’s a #1 international best seller and won Denmark’s Best Thriller Award.

{source}

The title piqued my curiosity. It turns out that the book does revolve around a three year old boy found curled up in a suitcase, that was stashed in a public locker, inside a busy train station. Who he is and how he got there is the crux of the story.

The opening chapter instantly drew me in. An unnamed female struggles to push a heavy suitcase to a parking lot. Before heaving it into her car, she opens it and discovers the boy inside, barely moving but alive.

The ensuing pages weave the story introducing new characters with each new chapter. I made it about halfway through when I lost interest. It was hard to keep the characters straight. I kept having to flip back to old chapters to remind me of each character’s storyline. I think the culprit was poor character development. Even when I reached the end, I found myself questioning the character’s motivations. They simply didn’t feel plausible.

The story did start to come together more meaningfully in the last few chapters. I liked that the ending left the characters with possibilities for redemption. Also, the reasons why there was a boy in a suitcase are revealed. (As you can tell, I am deliberately avoiding spoilers).

There are some interesting aspects to this book beyond the main story. It seems to contain a social criticism of the plight of refugees in Denmark, particularly the exploitation of women into prostitution and child trafficking.

Overall, I would give this book 3 stars out of 5. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the prose or left with memories of endearing, memorable characters, but it’s a good read while relaxing in my comfy chair, with my yarns and needles on the floor beside me.

My Review ★★★☆ ☆