Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter Coming Down

From my unedited travel journals. A farm stay in Ireland, February 2005.

In Abbeyliex, I lapped the town. Unlike Portlaoise's curvy grid, this village had a single street with incredibly busy traffic. It looked newer, but had a few nice old buildings. I waited for my ride at Morrissey's, a beautiful pub of black furnishings which looked the old shop that it had once been. Behind the bar, various goods and bottles lined the high shelves. It all seemed out of a daguerreotype of a century ago. Since this store had opened in 1850, I wonder if any of my family had ever been in here. I sat near the pot-bellied stove, nursing a Guinness.

The farm owner, Marty, took me far out into the country. I'd previously noticed that Dublin seemed to have the world's dirtiest buses, but this guy's car deserves special mention. It was a theme matched by the trucks parked in front of the farm. There was a team of six staying here, all from various countries, all studying the sod. I had a simple dinner of bread and coffee while talking to a Scot who's working on a conservation project near Dublin. He was currently doing a one week crash course in chainsaw handling. A quick count of his phalanges told me he must be doing OK.

At 7, I went to my room. I listened to classical on the radio, read some Joyce, wrote awhile. It was noisy early on, with an old man watching TV upstairs, and someone else playing drums--badly--in the loft next door. When it settled down, I slept for 10 hours...

..well rested and well-fed, I walked a bit across the bog, listening to the ground squeak where I stepped. I peeked over a low fence into a sheep's pen to find dozens of eyes staring back at me. It reminded me of my English teaching days. Marty came through and fed them, the sheep lining up and taking their turn without shoving. They'd been sheered just after Xmas, so that when they'd lamb around March, it would be easier to see the progress if a lamb got turned around in the womb. Plus, if the sheep were cold, they'd eat more and be strong when it came time to give birth. If a sheep loses a lamb, it's difficult to get it to nurse another, so farmers would put her into stocks in order to feed another sheep's lamb, which she couldn't identify because she isn't able to turn her head to see or smell. Once her milk was in the lamb, she'd think it was hers. As Marty and I talked, it dawned on me that, with Easter about a month away, some of those cute lambs I'd seen frolicking yesterday were due for someones dinner table.

In the barn next door were a couple dozen cows with enormous heads, walking gingerly across boards slatted to collect shit. Marty stood in the doorway and explained his plans for the future. It appeared to be a pretty cool place when it wasn't booked with the sodders and their muddy trucks. In addition to hosting art events, Marty was active politically, serving as a member of the County Council. He drove me to Borris-in-Ossory to catch the bus. On the way, he pointed out sites both political--farms-- and historical--abbeys and ruins. We sped along bumpy roads at high speed, both his hands off the wheels for much of the ride. Farmers love to put their trust in faith. They know that you can't bend nature to your will. You have to learn to trust it.

On the turntable: Gogol Bordello, "Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony"
On the nighttable: Russill Paul, "The Yoga of Sound"

No comments: