On October 31 there is a man who climbs the Catedral Nueva in Salamanca. Without assistance or security he makes his way up hundreds of narrow staircases. His first summit is the clock. He peeks his head out a tiny door in the face. He begins to tell a story. It’s about his family. It’s about how generations before him have checked the tower every year since a devastating earthquake in Lisbon put permanent fissures in the cupola all the way in Salamanca. His pride is beating like the drum he carries with him. The crowds below cheer him on, although a good half or more are foreigners, like me–struggling to understand why a man would do this. In ruffly, restricting clothes, with ungainly baggage, he pushes to the top. Stopping at intervals to literally proclaim his story from the rooftops. It is his life. And we are his captive audience. The atmosphere below is traditional dances and food, crowds and bustle, and in this moment he gets to shout through the ordinary why what is happening matters. And for the day we join in. Stopping to stare at the man 92 meters high with silly clothes and a drum and a flute and a dove in a cage. But I think I get it. I want people to know me and my story and my family. I want what I do to be important. I think we all do. And I think there is a story most important that everyone should know. And even if it was just for a day, if I got to tell the world those things, I too would climb recklessly high in funny clothes with random objects to shout it from the cupola. I would move far away from home for a long time and leave all I know, all I hold dear behind to tell stories about why it all matters.
Every night the streets of Salamanca are washed clean. If you missed seeing the trucks and hoses, you could believe the city wept every night. Why is it weeping? There are so many stories in a place this old. There is hate and tragedy as well as laughter and peace. Perhaps it is crying in joy as much as sorrow some nights. But it must be hard to have so much of oneself forgotten. What is it like to see the years pass and things change and have people remain much the same in so many ways? Is it happy to see people’s lives? To be an observer of the chaos and beauty of the world? Stepping forward to share your life with another person is hard and warrants tears. Entering their pain and happiness is no easy task. But it is so worth it at the end you could cry for the experience of it all and the new burdens you share with grace and joy. I don’t know why Salamanca is crying. But her people are something I want to share my life with, despite the weeping and because of the laughter and in the midst of it all.
Turn on some music. I recommend The Lumineers or something folk.
Sit in a kitchen chair with about 4-5 apples and begin slicing and dicing in even chunks.
The chunks go in a medium saucepan. Take your time. It takes longer if you can’t find the cutting board, and the knife you have has a bent tip.
Finish cutting the apples at the same time the album ends.
Put about 2in of water in the bottom, a little bit of butter, a little sugar and a lot of cinnamon. Also a pinch of salt.
Stir it around, and put the pot on medium heat.
Continue to relax for the next hour. Stirring occasionally.
Patience is key. You may have to add more cinnamon or water or a touch of milk.
Keep it simmering. Keep tasting, and wait until the apples are good brown, and only a third or less of the apples are still holding shape.
Spoon some out in a bowl, and jar the rest for later.
Enjoy the music and smell of home for the day. Let it seep into your bones.