And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. Luke 2:40
CHAPTER I | IN THE BEGINNING
The legend of San Diego and the Blue Fire is an elusive story which is by this time, hundreds of years old. There have been many different tellers of this Basque legend. And for this reason, the legend’s details may vary from person to person. Nevertheless, the story now told is the one true account. To be sure, this account is not to be confused with the devout Saint Vincent Diego of Roman Catholicism. No, surely this chronicle details a much more obscure fellow and a fateful adventure.
To begin, the setting of this story takes place on the southwestern French border of Spain in the late 1500’s and very early 1600’s. During this time in men's history, the small Baroque French city of Bayonne was barely perceived by the collective post medieval consciousness. Still, Bayonne was a city steeped in sentiment and family tradition. The daily convention of regaling fantastic yarns and parables remained the pastime of the lowest to highest rank of society. In truth, there was no bed-side, nor barstool where fables beautifully built of air and imagination were not told. The legend of San Diego and the Blue Fire was and is no exception to the well-established custom.
The city of Bayonne’s love of lore was matched equally with its dedication to work and ancestry. It was a city founded by Roman conquest based on its strategic geography in relation to Spain’s border. Be that as it may, Bayonne was also a beautifully partitioned city with seven glorious gates of entrance; Most notably was its southern-most gate. Its urban foundation was situated comfortably between two rivers called Nive and Adour. One might have said that during this time, Bayonne was a city of prodigious aspiration. A few miles southwest of Bayonne, there lived a young man whose time had come to begin his life as an adult through divine mission. This young man’s name was Diego.
Diego was born and raised in the Basque city of San Sebastian, Spain; which was also known as Donostia. San Sebastian was a town that bordered northwestern France in the Bay of Biscay. The shared Pyrenees Mountain-like hills appeared as a natural divide between the sister cities of Bayonne and San Sebastian. The Pyrenees mountain range also served for lucrative trade routes and passes for local merchants. As a small annotation, those very profitable routes were also a marginal breeding ground for lingering and undesirable bandits.
Resembling Bayonne, San Sebastian was a city held fast to traditions of romance and family in spite of its tumultuous political carousel. Just the same, during this time San Sebastian was the more industrially developed city of the two. Both walled cities were regionally known for their varied trade. However, San Sebastian maintained a greater franchise of diversified goods. Even so, its primary commerce stemmed directly from the city’s dynamic fishing industry. Moreover, because of San Sebastian’s close proximity to Bayonne, much of the culture, language, and even trade overlapped between the two cities. As mentioned before, these shared traditions and customs were regionally known as Basque.
Despite the fundamental Donostian customs and traditions of the beautiful Basque countryside, Diego was primarily versed in the Spanish language of Castillo, also known as Castellano. Shamefully, he spoke only a little Euskala, which was the original Basque language of the region. His Euskala negligence was not due to his poor application to learn it. No indeed. His naiveté of this dynamic language was based on the ever changing political agendas of the region during his developmental adolescence. Even so, there were a few select words and commonly used phrases Diego used in day-to-day context. Moreover, during the interim of his multi-cultural upbringing, the times fortunately insisted he also learn to speak conversational French.
During Diego’s developmental years, his father Pablo taught him the “art” of fishing and its many methods. He was also taught agriculture and basic animal husbandry. Moreover, there was a strong belief in a daily work ethic instilled in him. Likewise, Diego's parents were fundamentally pleased with him and his development.
In fact, Pablo loved Diego and his potential so much, he was the primary financier of Diego’s property and stock. This particular plot of land was purchased just a few miles west of the walled city of Bayonne. The property Pablo audited for Diego was previously owned by a farmer and his cousin. As an interesting side note, the back story behind this newly acquired property was somewhat surreptitious in its discovery.
It seemed that once upon an earlier time, there was a farmer and his cousin who previously owned Diego’s quality but neglected plot of land. During one of the many sieges of the city’s properties, the farmer’s cousin was suddenly accused, convicted, and jailed of a false crime. It was widely rumored amongst his neighbors this farmer’s cousin was not guilty of the crime for which he was punished. However, it was also rumored the farmer’s cousin was a subtle practitioner of the dark arts of mysticism. Notwithstanding, there was also gossip the farmer’s land held some coveted value to its neighboring nobles. It was said those selfsame nobles were indirectly responsible for the accused farmer’s cousin’s imprisonment.
With the capture of his younger more able bodied cousin, the elder farmer could no longer maintain the property. He therefore, moved into a smaller home closer to Bayonne’s city center. From there, he was able to frequently visit his jailed and falsely accused cousin whilst keeping a marginal lifestyle. Nevertheless, upon his departure, the property was sold to one of the covetous nobles ;who as justice would have it, died two weeks after its wholesale purchase. Abandoned for years hence, the property was desperately in need of perimeter repairs. Just the same, the home’s strong foundation was firm and its surrounding estate was likewise fertile.
With the purchase of his quaint country home, it was Diego’s every intention to continue his parents’ legacy of hard work and responsibility. Moreover, Diego was fortunate to embark on his adulthood at a time when political peace was beginning to develop between France, Spain, and its neighboring countries.
The beginning months of Diego’s parental independence were without incident or accident. Visits with his parents in San Sebastian were relatively convenient in spite of his unincorporated French Bayonne residency. Still, there was an ever increasing personal desire for Diego’s own house to become a home. For that, he would need the soft company of a woman.
Back then, Diego knew a young lady who lived in Bayonne by the name of Belle. She was a woman of moderate stature and mild temperament. Her unassuming demeanor and modest countenance caused Diego to adore her. Their courtship was not long but sincere in relation., And soon after they met, they were married. The ceremony was also unassuming in that it included only their close friends and family.
In the first year of his independence, Diego had everything he hoped for from life. He was married to a wife who loved him. His animals were in good health, and crops were growing strong in the way his father taught him.
Put simply, Diego was happy and grateful for his life foundation. He was so grateful in fact, that every morning before he began tending to his daily responsibilities, he found a small space outdoors to declare an open solemn of appreciation to whatever grace was allowing his good potential to manifest.
One day, Diego awoke from his nightly sleep earlier than usual and troubled by the previous day’s events. It seemed as if after a routine check his the horse’s stable, Diego found a small rusted crack in its sheet metal roof from the seasonal rain. Diego wanted to reduce chances of his three horses to become susceptible to virus. Therefore, when Belle asked why Diego was getting out of bed so much earlier than usual, he explained to her his resolve.
That morning, just before the rooster crowed, Diego visited the stable in full stable work garb to further assess whether yesterday’s leak had expanded under the morning dew. To Diego’s disappointment, the small rust of the sheet metal ceiling expanded somewhat within the livestock pavilion.
Notwithstanding, Diego maintained his devotion of prayer for grace before he attempted to resolve his stable dilemma. When he finished his morning prayer, he had a decision to make, ”Do I travel to San Sebastian to ask my father for assistance with repair of my stable roof, or do I purchase the metal myself from one of the town smiths?”
Diego finally concluded he wanted to prove to himself he could be wholly responsible for his own household. So, he explained to Belle the situation and his resolve. He further explained that with traveling mercies and graces, he should return home by tomorrow evening. Then he mounted one of the horses and rode to San Sebastian to purchase new sheet metal from the local smith.
Diego was already familiar with the San Sebastian marketplace areas and their wares. When he was younger, he would ride to the marketplaces with his father for basic supplies or services. Outside of the marketplace’s occasional nuance business (which would come and go with the seasons,) the basic goods and wares were continually available. Diego knew this. Not to mention that in season, he would make available to the commonwealth his own goods and services within the marketplace’s open bazaar.
That day Diego was not interested in the innovations of any transitional businesses or other available commodities . He was there for one thing and one thing only; sheet metal.
One of the local smiths maintained an ongoing business relationship with Diego’s father and subsequently a relationship with Diego. The local smith was an older man in his late 50’s. But very fit from the labor of being one of the region’s few high quality smiths. He was of moderate stature,and his excellent artisanship was renown amongst the local peoples. The speech patterns of this Smith were that of the working class dialect. He was Diego’s father’s favorite metal smith because of his honest scales and personal regard to grace and society.
At the sight of Diego, Barneo excitedly exclaimed,
“Diego! It is good to see you, my boy. You sure have grown. How is that pretty wife of yours?”
“ She is fine, sir.” Diego calmly responded.
“ Did your father send you out here to get something or are you looking for something yourself?”
“ Senor Barneo, would you happen to have some sheet metal, about twelve by twenty four inches in size for my stable roof? One of the older pieces has begun rusting and likewise started leaking. I do not want my only horses to achieve any illness due to enhanced cold…”
“I do not have any available now but if you allow me some limited time, I can have them ready in that size. How thick did you want them? “Mr. Barneo cordially asked.
Diego brought a small piece of the roof with him for reference and showed it to Barneo.
“About this size should do.” Diego said.
“Not a problem. Oh, and by the way, if you are on your way to see your father while in town, relay salutations to him. And tell him that I have your mother’s pendant ready.”
“Yes sir, Good day.” Diego said as he confidently departed from Barneo’s smith shoppe.
Diego was never the type to over inquire in matters not concerning him. Even those quiet matters which were near in family relation were to be respected. It was for this reason that Diego’s mission was to relay the message to his father without further inquiry to Barneo about the pendant.
Diego and his father Pablo had a relationship mixed with admiration and affection. After all, Diego was Pablo and Maria’s only son. And though they wanted more children, they were fully content with only Diego as their offspring. Nevertheless, as Pablo aged, he regretted Maria was only able to bear one child. The labors in the early household became somewhat more physically taxing as Pablo grew in years. In his early adult years, Diego explained to his parents that he wanted to have his own home outside of the family estate. It was with disappointment that Pablo sold his four-acre land to finance his son’s future foundation. Still, because of Pablo’s love for his son, his disappointment was countered with consolation for the potential his son already demonstrated.
After the family estate sale garnered a moderate profit, Pablo and Maria moved closer to town for convenience. The convenience that day contained more than one advantage; Diego had a place to visit while Barneo was completing his work. Moreover, it had been several weeks since Diego had been home to visit with his parents. He was looking forward to it. His excitement grew as he rode closer to their small home . His arrival on their doorstep was like a Christmas present waiting to be opened.
“Mother ! Father ! It is me, Diego !” He yelled while knocking on their door.
“Diego, is that you ?“ Maria asked through the door in a delayed response.
“ Yes, Mother it is me , is this a good time?”
“ Of course it is a good time for my perfect son. “ She warmly greeted him as she opened the door.
“It sure is good to see you, Mother.” He said as he hugged and kissed her on both cheeks.
Pablo cried from a dank distance, “Is that Diego?!! “ .
“Come and say hello to your son,who has come all the way from Bayonne to see us,” “Maria maternally commanded.
“Well, well, if it is not my only boy who has become a man.” Pablo declared as he came closer to the doorway and as Diego came indoors.
Hugging his father, Diego said, “Yes sir, it is me,”
“What brings you all this way ? Is everything all right? Do you need money?”
“Everything is fine father, I was just want to visit with you and mother while Barneo, the smith makes sheet metal for my stable,” Diego calmly stated.
“Mr. Barneo? Who is Mr. Barneo?”Pablo asked.
“He is the smith we used to go to sometimes. You remember him of course?”
“Of course I do, just a temporary lapse in memory is all. How is he?” Pablo inquired.
“He is fine but he said that mother has a pendant ready? Do you know what he was talking about?” Diego asked addressing his mother and father simultaneously.
“As a matter of fact, I do.” She said as they all began walking toward the dining area.
“I had this dream about two weeks ago that Belle came to me and asked for some soup but I insisted she take this pendant I had been keeping instead. The dream was so vivid that I was sure it was real. Unfortunately, I had no idea what it meant. But I went to Barneo the metalsmith the next day and asked him if he could re-fashion my own mother’s rose pendant into a heart with a small cross in its center, like I saw in the dream; He told me he could do it. But it would take a while. And so I left it with him.“
Diego was endeared by his mother’s countenance but still somewhat disassociated when he said,” I will pick it up when I go back to get my sheet metal. I am sure Belle will be more than glad to receive it.” Suddenly and very seriously Maria retorted,” It is very important she wear the pendant immediately after she cooks her first meal of the day. Tell her I do not know why, I just feel it is important.”
Diego signified he understood his mother’s sentiment. And with the same regard and reverence a disciplined son would show his mother, he complied. After the family greetings were over, he spent the remaining time with his parents in nostalgic bliss as they shared a mid-afternoon meal. In a regrettable departure, Pablo and Maria sent their son back to Barneo with the money to purchase the re-fashioned pendant.
The original state of the pendant was in a stained rose silver. It was small in size and had two concentric holes atop its trimmed fixture. The holes were designed to place a string necklace through them. The pendant barely resembled a traditional pendant; it more looked like a charm. Whether charm or pendant, it was beautiful in its original state. Diego could only imagine what the re-designed one would look like.
When Diego reached Barneo’s smith shoppe, he arrived just in time for its closing. Barneo was locking up and on his way out of the door when Diego petitioned for his wares.
“Mr. Barneo , I am deeply sorry for holding you up. I became distracted in visiting with my parents. May I still purchase the metal and the pendant?” He asked in a penitent manner.
Barneo had known Diego from a boy and felt a sense of community obligation to comply with Diego’s request. And so, with a reluctant sigh he said,
“Of course, my boy. Come in and have a seat...and I will get them from round back.”
“Thank you, sir.” Diego said. A few minutes passed and in a ponderous tone, Barneo echoed from the back room of his shoppe, “It is well. How are your parents? “
“They are fine. They asked about you , and I told them you were good so…”
“Well, I appreciate the vote of confidence, I just so happened to be good as a matter of fact. Then returning from his back room with the sheet metal under the crook of his arm and something else in his hand, Mr. Barneo then forwarded,
“Well then, so here you are…” Barneo handed Diego the metal but deliberately held back the pendant to give Diego special conditions for its care.
“Here is the metal and it should be fine. If not, then just bring it back and I will cut it to size. Now, here is something I want you to remember when handling this pendant, I have engraved a cross in its center and expanded the necklace holes as your mother requested. But here is something extra I added that I hope your mother will not mind.” Barneo stated as he showed Diego the small snap-able compartment added to the back of the heart shaped pendant.
“I am sure it will be fine, Mr. Barneo. And besides,I do not want to keep you in delay of closing. And so, I guess I will be on my way.” Diego flatly replied as he laid the money on the front room countertop.
Diego left the shoppe and stated his gratitude to Mr. Barneo for his patience and accommodation before he mounted his horse for the long ride home.
The ride home was uneventful though the pendant did evoke food for thought. By the time Diego arrived home, the hour was well into the night. Belle reasonably maintained the estate duties it seemed throughout the day. Whereas the roof of the stable was still without a full covering, the labor of repairing it would simply have to wait. The morning for Diego would provide the light of day and a better labor effort. Not to mention, Belle’s gift from his mother could also be better presented under the brilliance of daylight. And so, upon Diego’s arrival home, he put his wares away and entered the bed with his wife until the morning.