There are five raised garden beds surrounding our house. They’ve been sorely neglected for a good few years, covered with weeds held in place by rotting boards. I am going to have a garden, so I set to work.
My foot rests on the garden spade and drives it into the soil. The sound of the spade meeting dirt instantly transports me to a line in the first poem I ever read by Seamus Heaney. It was called “Digging” and was the opening poem in his first collection of poetry, Death of a Naturalist, published in 1966. He was watching his “old man” digging in the garden. The line reads:
…a clean rasping sound,
When the spade sinks into the gravelly ground.
That is a perfect line. The gravelly ground is what I’m faced with now. With two days work, the garden is turned and the rotted boards are reinforced. A further two days and the onions are set and the lettuce sown. I plant cauliflower and radishes, broccoli and beans. Herbs are in the bed closest to the kitchen and the back door. Dahlias, lilies, and anemone will brighten the beds in front near our door. And now I can only wait.
We are settling into domesticity in Mullenaglemig. The front hall has a new rug and our duvets have new covers. The kitchen is now nicely equipped with all the tools we need for cooking. The St. Brigid’s Cross hangs in the lounge. Our friend, the Young Farmer, has delivered a year’s worth of wood for the stove, hauling it down the lane with his tractor, his young son and retriever sharing the cab with him in hopes of meeting the Yanks.
We’ve met our nearest neighbors and their two and a half year old daughter Ellie, who live in the house about 75 meters across the field. Ellie has fallen in love with Lucy and the feeling is reciprocated. One early morning, Lucy dashes across the field and through our neighbors’ front door. Sara takes off after Lucy, still in her pajamas. The neighbors are having breakfast with their houseguests and they are all in their pajamas as well, so not to worry. There are introductions all around with everyone pretending this happens all the time. Lucy is playing with Ellie in the lounge; she has decided to spread her joy over two households.
There is only one thing we lack in this life of domestic bliss. Although we have a washing machine of the highest caliber with multiple cycles and temperatures and rinse speeds, we do not have a dryer. This is fairly common in Ireland. Clothes are dried on a rack in the house and then they are folded and put away twenty-four to forty-eight hours later when they are almost dry. Or you can dry them on the line outside. This leaves them smelling what the Irish call “fresh”.
I must be totally honest at this point. Of all the experiences in my life, the one I never expected to enjoy is the sight of Sara pegging clothes to the line. This is not as simple a proposition as it seems. Before taking the clothes outside, the weather forecasts from at least three different web sites as well as RTE and Radio Kerry must be consulted. These are then coupled with the tide charts and the astrology column in the Irish Times. If a Druid is close by, it might pay to have him cast some bones, and a quick run down to the church to light a candle is always prudent. If all is in order, then, and only then, do you peg the clothes to the line. You can then come inside to enjoy a nice cup of tea after your labors. And at that exact point, you leap up and run madly out to the line because you realize it has begun to rain.
I walk out to the garden a few times a day, with my morning coffee or with my evening whiskey. I can hear the cattle in the field beyond the trees and the sheep on the hillside above us. The herbs are already gracing our meals. The radishes will soon be ready and the onions are pushing the small stones aside. Lettuce is tentatively peeking out, looking for the sun. The flowers will gather strength for a few more days until they make their appearance. And tonight we’ll sleep on “fresh” sheets.