“Like I said,” began Marina, “I was born in 1583, in a small village in Lapurdi called Sara — the French call it Sare. It’s just across the border from…”
“Zugarramurdi,” interrupted Kepa. “I’ve been there. It’s a cool little town.”
Maite just shook her head at him.
“Yes,” continued Marina. “My parents lived in a small baserri just a few kilometers from the center of the village. My ama, Clara, was known for her skills with herbs. People from the neighboring villages would come for poultices to cure wounds, for love potions, and, most of the time, for advice. She became quite well known in the area as a sendatzaile, a healer. My aita, Vicente, spent his time tending the gardens and gathering the ingredients that my ama needed for her work. I was an only child, very rare at that time, and I helped them as I could, slowly learning my ama’s craft, the secrets of which herbs and ingredients were needed to heal a cold versus the ones needed to mend a broken heart. My ama taught me the recipes while my aita showed me where to find the most prized mushrooms and how to raise the toads used in the most powerful potions. I soon became their apprentice. We had more work than we could handle, even with my help. There was always someone knocking on our door. We weren’t rich by any material measure, but we were comfortable and, most importantly, we were happy.
Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!
“One day, my ama sold a love potion to the wrong client. A young man in the neighboring village of Azkaine was infatuated with the girl next door and bought a love potion from my mother so that the young woman would return his affections. One evening, he stopped by his neighbor’s house on the pretence of delivering some extra bread that his ama had made. The etxekoandre, the young woman’s ama, invited him in for a glass of wine, as she also hoped that the two would find a spark. The young man, when the two women were busy in the kitchen, poured the potion into one of the wine glasses. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong one, and he watched in horror as the ama picked up the tainted glass and drank down the potion. As her eyes gazed upon the young man, her heart skipped a beat and immediately belonged to him. The young man was petrified as the ama sat next to him, her hand on his chest, her voice whispering in his ear. The daughter, who had also been secretly in love with the young man, fled the house in despair. The aita of the family returned home to find his wife in the protesting arms of the young man. As he confronted the two, his wife declared that she had stopped loving him and was now in love with the young man. Of course, the young man wanted no part of the woman’s advances and rejected her in the strongest possible terms. Shattered, the woman also fled the house. The aita tried to follow, but lost his wife in the woods. It was a few days later when the bodies of both women were found, the young woman at the bottom of a ravine and the ama, seemingly drowned by her own hand, floating in the river.
“The aita, besotted with grief, nearly killed the young man in his rage. As blow after blow fell on the young man, he revealed that he had slipped the aita’s wife a potion, claiming it was only meant to cause the woman to fall asleep so he could talk in private with the daughter, claiming he must have been given a love potion by mistake. He of course blamed my parents for the mistake. We soon found the aita, in the company of several of his neighbors, at our door, literal pitchforks in hand. I’ll spare you the details, but I escaped to a cave in the woods my aita had shown me as he held back the mob for a few moments.”
Marina’s voice cracked as she continued. “Unfortunately, my ama and aita were not so lucky.”