Ireland-Day the Second
Embraced by the Earth
The inexorable march of time seems to rear its head more frequently in Ireland, than in Mendocino County. We see miles of walls, many long since buried under a hundred generations of blackberry brambles, ivy, or simply the burgeoning vegetative growth, that is fueled by the daily wash of fresh water from the skies.
We see the remains of structures, built not from wood, but from the same stones, rocks and bricks that form the miles of walls. The roofs have long since fallen in, the cement veneer of the walls has mostly fallen off, and the walls themselves, while still standing, lean precipitously any which way but straight.
As Annie and I stood down on the pier, about fifteen minutes' walk away from the house, we gazed upward at our very own local castle. No longer accessible for viewing inside, it nonetheless towers more than fifty feet into the air. It is not a colossal structure, but I was nonetheless fixated at the image of the men who would have been involved in its construction.
Like those crumbling houses I was just alluding to, this castle was once newly-built, impregnable, and a source of haven for the same men, and their descendants, who built it. What remains now is a product of the inexorable march of time. The people who live in this region have descended from these original inhabitants. What must it be like to know that your forefathers built this castle with their bare hands, their blood, sweat and tears having mingled with cement and stones, and ended up embraced by the earth?
Up in Mendocino County, we have Jerry Drewry’s ranch house for recent past history, and we have Noel’s obsidian knife for more distant connections, but we have nothing like a castle, that reminds us of an earlier time. We have the redwoods, but man has had nothing to do with their presence, and a lot to do with their diminishment.
Here, there is much to remind the present inhabitants, that their presence is ephemeral. The people are the story. We try to tread carefully around the natives until we get some indication that they welcome our presence.
My ultimate destination this morning was the three-generational group of fisher people, spread out along the end of the pier, but only if we got a nod, smile, wave or word from any of them. As it turned out, the young man, around twenty or so, both waved and greeted us cordially, freeing me to inquire, “In a perfect world, what would be on the hook of your line, when you brought it up? What would you like to see on the serving tray tonight?”
“Ay, goo’ wone, tha’ wone. Mackerel, then, if’s for dinner. Cod, and dogfish too.”
“But not for eating?”
“No, just snap a photo, an’...” He made a dismissive gesture with his talking hand, and I could see that dogfish disappearing beneath the surface of the water.
“So how’s the outlook for today?”
“Sure an’ it’s me cousin, ten years ole he is, around the corner, just out of sight. He’s caugh’ three already, and the rest of us have caugh’ the bait. Arrrgh. Wouldn’t you know it?”
Annie was laughing, and she added, “It’s always the kids that’ll end up with the most.”
“An’ the little gueril there in the red joomper-she brough’ a crab up-sure an’ she was screamin’ her head off...funniest t’ing that...” He laughed again, as we ambled back towards the village, trying to keep on the correct side of the single lane road, so that we were on the same side as the cars coming towards us, and on the opposite side of the road from those coming from behind. It being a single lane, there was not a lot of room for error. Pretty simple stuff, huh? I would think so too, only no. I would unhesitatingly blame the cookies, except that Annie doesn’t indulge, and she was no better at it than me. I can see that I need to stick to my resolution, not to feel compelled to drive anywhere.
On the way back from the pier, we stopped at the local fish market, which was very different from the comparable shop that you would find back home. The shop was about ten by eighteen feet, though there were additional components to the shop. There were no deep, refrigerated storage units; there was not fish abundantly displayed in all directions. What there was on one end of the room, was an open display case, about a foot in depth, into which was dumped a thick layer of ice. Nestled within the ice were from 12-15 pieces of fish at the most, four of which were salmon filets. I thought maybe there might have been halibut, and mackerel also, and the salesgirl there was more in another room of the shop, but there was only what we saw on display immediately visible.
Annie took a picture of the rather rotund cat, poised at the entrance to the shop. When I referred to it, the young, nose-pierced gal who was working, laughed and commented that it was the best-fed cat in the village. She was pleasant and friendly, so when we stepped out of the shop to make our way back to the village, and we noticed the sign clearly labeling a doorway as “Crack House,” I had to backtrack to the shop and inquire,
“May I ask a typically tourist question?” She straightened up, wiped the smile off her face, and said she was ready.
What is the significance of the ‘Crack House’ label?”
“Oh yeah, we get that one a lot.”
“I can only imagine,” I said.
“Oh, and it’s nothing bad, now, you see. It’s where we take the crabs to crack the shells and get the meat. There may be as many as eight of us in here at the same time, cracking open the crab. ‘Crack House,' you see.”
Back in the village we stopped in at Keane’s, the little village store which had a pub in the back half. We had been interested in taking a peek, just to know what we did not have to go to Tesco’s to get, and it was pretty sparse. Everything was of the edible variety, except for one high shelf, which featured five non-perishable, paper towel sorts of items. The rest was canned/packaged goods, and a unit with cold sodas and soft drinks. Eric had shared an anecdote, in which he talked about looking for soy sauce, and though the proprietress didn’t carry it, she was able to produce a packet of it, that had originated in Kilkee. She wouldn’t charge Eric, and he was able to complete the meal he was creating.
Our next pause was at Claire’s, a gift shop in which Annie and I wanted to look at, out of curiosity. I did buy a deck of cards, appropriately labeled Ireland, six post cards, and a pack of Triple A batteries for our camera. I haven’t been a camera buff since I was in Korea. To save my life, I cannot see the image I am trying to capture through the lens, because all I can see is my reflection, but I aim, I snap, and I hope for the best.
This photography business is brand new, and I don’t have the wire to hook up the camera to the computer. However, I did see a shop somewhere, that was totally tech-oriented, so I have hope that I can load my snaps onto Terra Jean, to see if my point and snap strategy works. I am planning something specific with these photos, a new medium for me, a guy who specializes in painting pictures with words. You’re never too old to learn a new facet of your [right] brain.
We visited Loophead Llighthouse today, traveling possibly forty-five minutes down our little peninsula, on R487. R in Ireland stands for road, just as the letters k-i-l mean church. Eric was able to furnish me with that fact, when I asked why so many of the names included it. Kilrush, Kilkee. Kilarney, and Cil as well. All of the road signs are in Gaelic, with an occassional English translation, but many of the other public messages are in both Gaelic and English.
Eric and I just left the pub, where I was able to post both of my blogs. The television featured a rugby game that was being announced in Gaelic. Any thought that this is a dying language originated in my own little pea brain, and has no basis in reality. That is a good thing.
The road was interesting. The fact that it was forty-five minutes of single lane roadway was only part of its uniqueness. Going around the curves added to the sense of adventure. I observed at one point, that it seemed as though the Yanks slowed down, as they approached another vehicle, but the Irish seem to goose their accelerators. I guess it’s just part of the excitement of it all. In this kind of thoroughfare, drivers seemed very courteous, frequently pulling into the turnouts, well before we reached them, but it was all about those curves.
Farm vehicles were the only real obstacle, as they would cruise along at whatever speed seemed appropriate. We encountered plenty coming at us, but only once did we end up behind one, and that was only for a minute. I have yet to see any kind of highway patrol presence, but Eric says that is because the Irish use a lot of cameras, and a lot of radar devices. Makes sense to me.
We stopped at “The Nearest Bar to New York,” but we only wanted to see the inside, not indulge in the wares. Our goal was to see the lighthouse, even though none of us was inclined to pay the ten Euros to take the tour. Eric said the kids had all been out to the lighthouse, but they had been more interested in getting a look at the cliffs, than the lighthouse itself.
Unwilling to approach the edge of the cliff on two feet, they had resorted to crawling to the edge so as to be able to take pictures of the rocks below. I was content to stand well back of the mandatory ten feet clearance requirement, so there was no danger of me taking up flying lessons. An untimely rain squall determined that we were not really that interested in walking out to the point of our peninsula, so that we could then say we were as close to New York as we could be. Come to think of it, I like the notion of distance. New York does not beckon to me the way Carmody’s does. Hell, New York wouldn’t even furnish me with a drink.
I began this Day the Second, battling the forces of time, and I lost.
I had gone to sleep, my first night, around nine o’clock, and gotten up once briefly, and returned to sleep. When I awoke the second tome, I assumed it was well into the night, so I looked at the clock on my telephone, still firmly entrenched in the California time zone. Whatever semblance of normalcy may have existed, went out the window when I looked at the time. I took whatever hour was presented to me, made the necessary eight hour differentiation, and determined that I had been sleeping for seven glorious hours. Ah, this is the life, on holiday in a land, where getting seven hours of sleep at night is the norm.
I gathered up the implements of destruction, which included my SF Giants lounge pants, a heavy shirt, so as to be comfortable sitting at the dining room table while rattling Terra Jean’s keys, and my cookies. I managed to get the coffee brewing, having decided that the drip coffee system that Eric had in place would do very nicely, and I settled down to work.
I had the most productive writing session imaginable, and was writing furiously, as I waited for it to get light enough that I might get a glimpse of one of the hares, that Eric and Cecilia had mentioned frequented the grassy field, out behind the house. Well, I waited, remembering that I was told that by 6:30 or so, we could probably be able to see well enough to walk around the neighborhood. And I waited.
By the time my faculties had assembled enough for me to realize that something was not right, it was already 7:30, and it was still pitch black. Uh oh. Houston, we have a problem. I had been working four and a half hours; where in the heck was Mr. Sun? Or at least his cousin, Mr. Light? Baffled, I went into the living room to do what I should have done in the beginning. I sought guidance from the one timepiece in our environment that was set to local time. I found out that it was currently three-thirty in the morning, which was just about right-if I was just getting up.
It doesn’t take a lot of brains at this point to calculate that I had actually gotten up at 11:00 in the evening, after a total of two hours sleep. Good Buddha. What’s up with that? Seven hours of sleep was compressed into two hours? And it took me four and a half hours to figure it out? Time: 1 ; Markie: 0.
It was not the first battle I had lost with time, and it wasn’t about to be the last. I went back to bed and got up the again at 8:00, the next morning, and came out to find Eric sitting at his Toshiba, mildly amused that he had actually arisen before me. When I set him straight, I was laughing hard, but also feeling as though the last laugh was on me, as time had pulled another fast one.
Speaking of fast ones, we are still awaiting our first glimpse of the local rabbits, which Eric and Cecilia have described as looking like small kangaroos, with smallish ears, and a bulky body that exceeds in size, even the big jackrabbits that we have up on the mountain. In fact, as I stare out the picture window looking at the back “yard” of our house, it reminds me that I never gave any information about our neighborhood.
I can safely say that there is not a similar one, anywhere in California. When the developer decided to build this tract of twenty-one homes, he drove two minutes outside Carrigaholt, and found an available green quilt square. He then drew out a horseshoe-shaped form and built twenty-one, two-story homes, that were seemingly identical, including the yellow exterior color. A couple of the homes have been repainted different shades of yellow, but remain the same base color. Nighteen of the homes were completed before the housing crunch (a cousin to the crunch that hit our own housing industry back home) hit, and curtailed any additional building. The result is that two houses, located on the interior of the horseshoe, remained unfinished. On the exterior, everything is good, but on the inside, they are only shells, without even stairs to get to the upper half of each house.
The open fields dominate the landscape, but they are not rectangular in shape, so much as trapezoidal, or simply lopsided rectangles, if you will. The day before yesterday, prior to our arrival, the grass-cutting crew had been in (Eric says they materialize about every ten days or so.) They'd driven lawn mowers all over to clip these huge fields, and keep them neat in appearance. He said the wildflowers that dotted the surface of the fields, would quickly reappear as the grass regrew.
And all of the sudden, as we were sitting here in the morning, first one of these wacky rabbits, and then a second one, appeared almost simultaneously, from right within our space, and headed out into our back yard, each along its own fence. They are the most unusual critters, with a broad-humped hindquarters, and puffy white tails on the young. I envisioned donkey ears in my mind, but the ears were surprisingly small, and close to their heads. It was their loping stride that caught the eye, and their unique hump that puts their hindquarters absurdly high in the air, as they sprint across the fields. Instead of the long ears, the length belongs to those back legs, and makes one think they are kangaroos. They seem capable of attaining thirty inches per stride, and the result is, I thought they appeared more in size like dogs, or baby deer, than hares.
The other most visible sign of wildlife, is the jackdaw. We thought at first that they were crows, strutting around with exaggeratedly squared-off shoulders, as if bossing each other around. They are also two-toned with gray (or should I spell that grey, being in the vicinity of the United Kingdom and all?) patterns on their shoulders and heads. Little drill sergeants, parading around the fields, working the native fauna, the way the ravens do back home. They are such intelligent creatures, utilizing man to do their chores. They’ll find something stored within a shell, retrieve it and drop it on the pavement of the road, and wait for a car to pass over and smash the shell. Voila, your appetizer is ready, Monsieur.
And since my lifetime-long goal has been to take painting lessons, so that I could paint a picture of a cow in a pasture, with an oak tree in the background, I’d have job security here in Erie. There are cattle everywhere, in those squares of green we saw from the air. The locals move them from pasture to pasture, and the rain that falls every day, keeps those pastures lush and verdant.
Some of these big beefcakes are massive, with comically oversized white heads, and when you see one, with its front hoofs, perched up on the rising banks (I’m certain there are walls at the core, built up over generations, to the point that the weeds have decomposed to provide the soil for the banks) to get at the delicate flower morsels, it’s hilarious. And though we see a lot of farm equipment on the roads, we do not see cattle, so the cow paths exist independently of the roads. That’s probably fortunate, because the locals don’t worry a whole lot about keeping out of the way of the tourists.
As Eric and I came back from Carmody’s last night (I told poor Eric, that that was his penance for bringing me here-he had to get me to a spot, once a day, where I could post my blogs) we weren’t three car lengths away from our parking spot, before we realized that there was some serious action going on. There were cars lining the street(s) as far as we could see, and folks were streaming in the same direction, fish all flowing uniformly towards the falls, swimming up the same avenue that we were attempting to traverse.
After establishing that the garb was formal in nature, we thought, maybe a Saturday night wedding? Where were the lights? Oh. It was a funeral. Later, we determined that it was probably a prayer service, because the time of mass the next morning had been shifted an hour, and we figured it was because of the funeral. However, as we sat there waiting, eighty percent of the thoroughfare blocked by as many as fifty people, with another fifty or so in the open area on the left side of the street, the pall bearers bore the coffin up the twenty or so steep cement steps, and into the church. We were not going anywhere. Shure, an’ it’ ware foine wit‘ me, as I ha’ a lo’ to see.
Eric and I closed out the night with that quick pit stop at Carmody’s, so that I could post another “Church of the Eternal Bleacher” piece (btw, Terra Jean’s only “defect” is that she cannot italicize, poor thing, so I must either use quotation marks or underlining, for situations that normally require the “i” word. Inquiring minds needed to know that) and “Day,the First.” The owner, Mark, was behind the bar, and when Eric asked if they had coffee, he brewed him up a fresh cup, as opposed to making instant. They neglected to inform me that I had won the raffle, (unfortunately, because I had indeed, not won it) so I will assume that my prize is still awaiting me in the raffle basket in the sky, but sleep must come first. Good night-we have a lot going on tomorrow.
[Later we found out that the raffle had been postponed, due to that same funeral, and will not take place until after we have arrived back in California. Who was that in the coffin?]
[Later we found out that the raffle had been postponed, due to that same funeral, and will not take place until after we have arrived back in California. Who was that in the coffin?]