Friday 7 February 2014

Manfred of Camelle: The calm between the storms

So very sad...

On Christmas morning 2013, lightning struck the Sanctuario in Muxia, and within hours the roof and interior had been gutted. Had it been any other day fishermen would have alerted the firefighters in Cee, and maybe, just maybe they would have got to the fire faster. Too late now. Add to that the devastating seas which almost made a true boat of this most enigmatic of churches, and the damage is complete.  The walls remain, the towers, and irony of irony, the futile and heartless lightning rods remain,
along with the crosses that shadow them.
I was away at the time, down south with my family. I saw the news, open-mouthed and crying. It took me over a month to visit the Sanctuario de la Virgin de la Barca in Muxia. I did it today. It reminded me of a hole where something used to be. I was sad. I watched the shuttered window swing to and fro; in my mind’s eye, I saw the Sanctuary drift out to sea…like a ship, unmoored, unanchored, adrift for lack of real hindsight and maybe too many lies. The tiller held in a dead hand with little treasure left to salvage...
It all seemed to be pre-destined: a sanctuary built on pagan rocks. Time takes on a different meaning from the point of view of Stones
I left and drove to Camelle

What I was even less prepared for, was the despair I experienced when I saw what the most recent “Temporal” (Cyclone Petra) had done to what was left of Manfred Gnädinger’s “museum” near The Little Fox House, my pilgrim retreat: his garden in stone is all but destroyed. His iconic round tower is a heap of perfect stones, reducing in circumference. His testimony to the broadcasting age: gone. The tarpaulin was already in shreds, torn in the storms of New Year. I have here in my house a jar for donations to replace it: photos, pleas…* But what is there left to reconstruct now?
"Man" died in 2002. They said he was the only human victim of an environmental crisis caused by 70,000 metric tons of highly toxic oil. The fate of the Prestige is not so much about money but honesty, even – given the conundrum of Margoules the captain – loyalty, and fear: fear of growing old and useless.
Manfred didn´t have that chance. But in his will (which I have seen) he makes it clear that his Museo – built with literal sweat and tears – should be left entrusted to the Estado de España. Oh, along with what is said to be 120,000 euros too, which no one, subsequently, wants to explain the disappearance (of).
Man, I cried for you today. I stood on that unsafe wharf you protested so vehemently and wept. Your work may be lost forever. I am an optimist by nature, but even I would not know where to start. Perhaps (and I hope so) you legacy rests on the natural force which eventually destroyed the loving art that the oil from the Prestige could only tarnish. Maybe you knew all along that the unleashed power of the sea was greater than the exploits of man, and even you, “Man”.
Will those two little black redstarts be there the next time I visit? I have noticed then often and haven´t seen them anywhere else. Will your spirit inhabit this place, not in what was there, but in what lies on harmony with nature. Until she closes the book.
Your body was exhumed; you were cremated, supposedly according to your wishes. Ask most people now: where is Manfred and they will look confused, or somehow have to leave. Wherever you are – and I have a feeling I have glimpsed you once or twice - RIP: Manfred.

You will always be in my heart.

(*SeeThe Story of Man: blog post 08/01/2012 for background on Man's story)
Extraordinary photo by Marcos Rodríguez