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La Concha Newsletter

I have a story published in the Americans on the Camino newsletter, La Concha!

Dawning Awareness
by Robert C. Deming, Fredericksburg TX

I could hear rain through the open window, though it was too dark to make any other kind of appraisal of the weather.  I was feeling apprehensive, and I wished again for that pair of rain pants I didn’t have.  Of course there was no coffee or any kind of breakfast to delay my start, so I put on my rain jacket and broad-brimmed hat and stepped out the door onto a dark cobblestone street. I had by this time become accustomed to starting my walk an hour before sunrise, but at times the Camino seemed to be a survival exercise, maybe like one of those TV reality shows I don’t watch. My pack had a nice built-in rain cover and my boots had kept my feet dry in previous rainy days, but everyone else seemed to have rain pants or long ponchos and I just had a pair of wet nylon pants.  I walked up the hill, sort of following my German trail friends Willie and Erwin who walked so much faster than I, worrying about all manner of problems – cold legs from rain-soaked pants, the overall gloominess of the rain in the dark, and my mood becoming blacker with each step.Quickly the rain slacked off, and just as I was getting warm I came across Willie and Erwin packing up their jackets and ponchos.  I took the cue and stuffed the rain jacket into my pack.  It was still dark but not so gloomy without the rain, and my apprehension gradually subsided as the sky lightened. The Germans soon outdistanced me, but there were other pilgrims on the trail, which lightened my spirits further. To improve my mood I went to an exercise I had begun using in those quiet lonely times; I made myself aware of the world around me in every detail.  I paid attention to every sound, every smell, every sight; mindfulness I had read about but had been too busy to practice.  As the first rays of the morning sun threw my shadow on the trail, the trail turned beside the canal out of Fromista. The trees were still enveloped in mist, and there were birds singing, and it was magical.

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Assaulted by the American Christmas Machine?

I went to Mexico to find Christmas, but not the Mexico of enchiladas and beaches and pina coladas and white jacketed-waiters.  I crossed the border at Eagle Pass with an eclectic group of people in a van owned by the Mision de Candelilla pulling a trailer stuffed with boxes of gifts. The destination, twelve hours further, is San Vicente, at the end of a long dirt road on the wrong side of the river. It is in the heart of the Chihuahua desert, a place too poor for the word poverty to really mean anything. The people of San Vicente live in houses strung out along a politically impassible border, people lost in the shuffle, people dealt hands of isolation and hard work and meager belongings and cold winters and hot summers and not much electricity and no phones or internet. People with little connection to the outside world.

Were we were sent on this mission by the zealots of the American Christmas Machine? Was our task to export the craziness of our “holiday season” to those dark skinned and politically unpopular people? Was our trip to make sure they said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays?”

No, our mission was to share el amor del Dios, the love of God. Other good people bought the gifts and put them into the plastic boxes; I just helped to deliver them, one family at a time.  After each of the 35 families received their gifts we put out a dinner of sausage and beans and potato salad and fruit cocktail.  I cannot tell you what they think about the gifts or the meal; I can’t read their expressions, and I don’t speak enough of their language to count. They are shy, perhaps, and maybe they don’t know what to think about all this, and why we care, and why we keep coming back.

I keep going back because I am thankful.  Thankful that in this place I am not constantly assaulted by the American Christmas Machine. Thankful for the people in Fredericksburg United Methodist Church who thoughtfully buy the gifts and subsidize the trip. Thankful for the selfless Mision de Candelilla folks who have the connections and the resources to get us there.  Thankful for the time without connection to the outside world and for days of quiet. Thankful for the harshness of the land, the inevitable cold weather, and even for the outhouses. Thankful for nights so dark I can’t pick out the Big Dipper from the cacophony of stars in an impossibly crowded sky. Thankful to know in some way these people whose lives are so different from ours

If the American Christmas Machine is driving you crazy, support Mision de Candelilla with your time or money, be a gift donor through Fredericksburg UMC, maybe even make the trek with us next year. Whenever the assault by the Machine threatens to overwhelm me, I go back to the Chihuahua desert in my mind, and smile.

NiPSOT Strikes Again!

NPSOT

My latest story for Texas Hill Country.  We call them NiPsot.

Why I’m Not Writing Novels

Friends ask me often when I have another story coming out.  I do have a quarter of “Enchanted Rock White” written, and when I finish it will be the best story I’ve written. I also write for Texas Hill Country.com, Heart of Texas Magazine, Hill Country Visitor Magazine, and have a story in to Hill Country Art Magazine.

Someday I’ll do less with the non-profits I am passionate about.  Today I spent three hours or more working on projects for my Kairos Prison Ministry International team – which I serve at the John B Connally Unit near Kenedy, Texas. I am also a key person with The Friends of Enchanted Rock, Hill Country Historical Foundation, and Christian Women’s Job Corps of Gillespie County.

Also, my nature is the Sloth.  I have a start on a prequel to my Awol 21 novel about an Air Force pilot, set in 1975 in Thailand, and a thriller involving a KC-135 Tanker (you didn’t think it was possible to have that big old jet in a thriller, did you?).

The Sloth will get his life together soon and get back to writing. I’m planning to walk the Camino de Santiago Portugues route in May and June of 2018, and may put some thought into a novel set there while I’m walking through rural Portugal.  It is 383 miles, so that will take a while.

Thanks for your interest and support. The photo is of me and my good friend Erwin (from Germany) on the trail in Spain in May.

 

 

The Ghosts of Zodiac

My second story on this interesting place is in the Fall issue of Hill Country Visitor Magazine.

Prescience

He sat on the bank in a shady spot.  His mind was full of random thoughts coming into his mind at what seemed to him like the speed of sound.  He pushed them out one at a time.  First the concerns about the mystery of this murder; then the regret of his failed relationships; then they disastrous date with Angela; then, finally, Kathy.  One at a time he moved the thoughts out of his conscious mind until there was nothing left but the warm air moving gently over him, the decomposed granite of the dry creek beneath his feet, and the grassy bank he sat on.  He moved his mind towards the center of his being. Finally, there was silence inside his head.  He sat, not aware of the passage of time, his mind empty, open.

I wrote this paragraph in Enchanted Rock Red in 2011.  This was somewhat prescient, as this was something I thought I just learned on the Camino in Spain in May.

 

Camino Retrospective

My first story on the Camino was written three months ago while I was on the trail, this piece closes the story after reflecting on the meaning of this grand pilgrimage.  When I reached Santiago in western Spain on June 8th, people asked me “Would you do that again?”  My answer at the time was “No way!”  Now my answer is, “Maybe,” but I am definitely planning to return next May to a different section of the Camino, and walk from Porto in northern Portugal to Santiago, a mere 232 kilometers.