The Holidays are Really Over Now

Yesterday Cristina and I went to Antequera to do a little tourism. It was a cold day but we had fun. This was my second visit to the Church of Carmen since its restoration and I found it just as amazing to see as the last time. Always new details to admire. The photo above is a little detail from the pulpit. After that taxing visit we went into the Poor Clare's convent to get some of their baked goods ("Ave Maria Purisima" I greeted the nun hidden behind the "lazy Suzan". "Sin Pecado Concebida" she responded. Then we could get down to business.) After a quick cup of coffee at a nice little bar, we visited the city museum and were fortunate enough to have a great guide. She pointed out several details I had missed in earlier visits, including a chasuble that was created in the early fifteenth century from a flag of the Moorish kingdom of Granada. Incredible! There is lots of other liturgical paraphernalia and art that I find fascinating, including a 16th century life-sized sculpture of St. Francis carved from a single piece of pine by Pedro de Mena. And lots of other amazing "stuff". Our visit had begun with the megaliths just outside town and in the one with the deep well at the center, a "modern" work, I couldn't resist contributing a little of my spit to the pool at the bottom. Plip! And I couldn't help being reminded of Basho's famous frog haiku, which for some reason I had come across a few days ago in an essay. Here's Allen Ginsberg's translation: The old pond / A frong jumped in / Kerplunk! On our way out of Anequera I slammed on the brakes when I saw that the church of Santiago had its door open. Fortunately there was just a little space to leave the car on the side of the narrow street. I had never been inside and didn't want to miss this opportunity, as it seems to usually be locked up. Cristina stayed in the car and I told her I'd be just a minute and to come get me if there were a problem with the car. There was just one elderly lady in the church. She was sitting in the back pew, praying. I wandered up towards the main altar, which was presided over not by Jesus or Santiago, but my a huge Virgin, in this case Our Lady of Good Health (La Virgen de la Salud). I was just standing there when the old woman startled me by tapping my lower back. She was about four feet tall and looked to be well into her eighties, if not nineties. She asked me where I was from, then took me by the hand and started to lead me right up to the altar. For a moment I feared she thought I was a heathen and she was going to make me get down on my knees and repent. But no, she got out some keys, unlocked a little door hidden in the wall and pushed me up a tiny staircase which led me up behind the main altar to where the Virgin stands under an unbelievably densely decorated baroque cupola, her chamber. Fun! Then my octogenarian friend asked me if I might like to have an image of Our Lady. Would I! So she brought me into the Sacristy and got me a little photo which is now in my wallet. Then she got out the collection basket and suggested I might like to put something in it for the upkeep of the church. Not a problem. Apparently satisfied with my modest contribution, she took my hand again and led me over to a little side chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Work. (La Virgen del Trabajo, not a common devotion! Damn, it was if I were nine years old again, opening up a pack of baseball cards and lo and behold there's Mickey Mantle!) In this chapel she pointed out an old baptismal font in which the year 1611 was clearly carved into the white marble. Cristina could hardly believe her eyes when she saw the old lady accompany me out the church; she wanted to point me in the direction of the next church I should visit. But I spared Cristina, as it would have been ecclesiastical overload for her. On the way home we stopped and had lunch at a local classic: Venta El Tunel. I write this having just returned from taking Cristina to the airport. Now it's just Waldo and me.

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