A Walk Down the Lane

 The days have been brilliant here in Mullenaglemig. Blue skies. Plump white clouds. Gentle breezes and temperatures in the low sixties. Sara has the sheets out on the line and the windows are open to freshen the house. Fine weather makes our cocooning more tolerable. And we’ve been able to take our long walks, weaving up and down our country lanes, staying within our 2 km isolation zone.

The greening hedgerows hide tiny spring flowers in Easter pastel shades. Hawthorns are blossoming, dropping white petals on our path. Fuchsia is starting to leaf out; in a few months they’ll turn the sides of the lanes crimson. Entry gates sport a line of bluebells. And the gorse blossoms are like brilliant sunshine, so bright you almost need to squint when you look at them. But behind those blossoms are deadly thorns.

We stop and watch the newborn lambs find their legs in the fields as they learn to run. Each day they grow bigger. Their mothers keep a careful eye on them. We watch the heifers as they move to their pasture after a long winter in the sheds. There is no joy like the joy of cattle as they are let out to the fields. They arch their backs like the happy cows they are and buck and jump and roll in new spring grass.

But, still, there is a pall over it all.

When we pass neighbors on our walks, we hug the sides of the lane, murmuring a furtive “fine day” as we keep walking. In other times we would stop and chat, asking “how are ye keeping” and exchanging local news. There are few cars for us to salute as they pass us by; there is, sadly, nowhere to go. Farmers still ride their tractors down the lanes but don’t stop and open the cab doors to say hello; they just nod as they putter past. We acknowledge them with a raised stick. Joan in Baile Riabhach waves to us from her front window.

We look up to the ancient oratory where we should have joined our neighbors for Easter morning mass. It has only sheep and lambs for company.

Other days are better. We chat with Mary, down the lane, who has the fairy garden near the wall in front of her house. We are two meters away on one side of the wall and she is two meters away on the other. She is a bit younger than us and can get out to the shops. She insists that we take her phone number and call her if we need anything.

“I go to the shop in Ventry every morning and can drop anything into ye. Call me if ye need something. Sure, there’s only two answers I can give ye,” she says, “yes or no.”

And Thomas, the young farmer up the hill, speaks to us from his yard. We pass news of relatives that have been affected and discuss the effect of the virus on cattle prices. He suggests we walk to the top of the hill behind his farm to see the sea on all sides.

“Just go through the first gate on the left at the top there and follow the track. It’s where I go to clear my head,” he sighs. “When this thing is over, we’ll have a pint together,” he adds. “Maybe two.”

We stroll on, heartened.

A line from Seamus Heaney–from an interview in 1972–has become the guiding light of this crisis here in Ireland:

“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.”

Yes, we can.

I suppose it’s the way of the world, isn’t it? There are good days and bad days, but together we will muddle through.

 

Bad Days

A Walk Down the Lane

 

Rhythms are awry,

The world is out of kilter.

 

The man across the road,

Who should be playing in the pub at night,

Bows a mournful air

With a birdsong counterpoint.

 

Two lonely bachelor farmers,

Who should be leaning on a gate mulling cattle prices,

Pass in the lane, hugging ditches.

“Strange times,” says one. “Tá,” sighs the other.

 

The dead are denied

Their wake and their families the comfort of

Shouldering them to the grave.

Their plots go unattended.

 

The oratory on the hill above,

Where the village should gather on Easter morn,

Is surrounded only by Toose’s sheep and

There is no one to drink his tay.

 

Rhythms are awry,

The world is out of kilter.

 

 

Good Days

A Walk Down the Lane

 

The hill above us

Is not afraid.

The oratory is undaunted.

 

The hedgerows green

And hidden flowers bloom.

The brambles protect them.

 

Lambs leap and play

On the new grass

With the courage of youth.

 

The little girl next door sings and

Dances in her fairy garden,

Wearing her princess dress.

 

The water flows from the holy well and then

joins the stream by the lambing shed and then

passes the field where the heifers graze and then

into the forestry of pine and ash and then

beside the triplet bungalows and then,

and then, alongside the distillery to the sea.

Gathering strength all along the way.

Nothing can stop it.

 

The butterfly emerges

From her cocoon,

And flits from flower to flower

Without fear.

 

At one point on our long walk, just where we turn from the high road onto the old Ventry road at Ceathrú an Phúca, I can make out the shape of ancient potato drills on the side of a hill. In the next field the walls of a famine cottage still stand. The broken-down drills have not been used since that famine 175 years ago. As we pass, I think, “People have been through worse, haven’t they?”

We turn and walk home to our cocoon.

May our good days outnumber our bad days as we walk down our lanes.

8 thoughts on “A Walk Down the Lane

  1. You brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful and heartbreakingly hopeful.

    But luckier than most, so no complaining allowed.

    God bless you. Love, Margie

    The Table Makers Will Always Overcome the Wall Builders

    >

    Like

  2. Another gem, Jim….I eagerly await your next writing, knowing how real and eloquent it will be. I feel like I am right there with you and Sara taking that heavenly walk. We will all get through this.
    Hugs and love to you three (Lucy included!)

    Like

  3. Hi Sara & Jim, I really enjoyed reading about the fields and the flowers and your kind neighbors. I think people are a lot kinder now.. I do hope you have many more good days. I liked your poems. Take care, hoping this virus is gone soon. 💕Marilyn & Greg

    Like

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