Country Sights and Sounds
L ast night the woods were white with mist, age-old and woolly around the edge, with shapes that sprang suddenly dark into that wonderfully creamy light. We gazed down upon Carra, a great, moonlit silver bowl rimmed with reeds and trees and filled with rippling golden bars where her waters threw the moon apart. Above, torn clouds drifted away to the east, casting feeble shadows of their own.
Somewhere out there a fish leaped as if to shake itself free, or perhaps to look upon the spectacle.
It was a night for the great Romantics. William Butler Yeats would have worked his pen through all this light and shade, weaving his own rural idyll with which to stir the passions of man. Why, there in our glade were bright moths, and here a hazel! What else might the literary man need, other than a dusty book and a crooked inglenook filled with red coals?
Even before Yeats, James Clarence Mangan and Thomas Davis wreathed the lives of their readers about this land of which they wrote; they must have seen it thus – with the struggles of rebellion and the pending birth of a nation bathed in the kind pale glow of a waning moon.
We heartily agree with the sentiments Davis expressed when he wrote My Land: ‘She is a rich and rare land; / Oh! she’s a fresh and fair land; / She is a dear and rare land – / This native land of mine.’ … And almost throw our lot in with him at his subsequent urging: ‘No men than her’s are braver – / Her women’s hearts ne’er waver / I’d freely die to save her, / And think my lot divine.’
As if the picturesque scene before us was not enough, travellers came to visit Carra’s western shore. There again the whimbrel calls. Lonely and mournful, her voice resounds through treed islets as a foggy echo until the sound of it is swept aside by a more urgent noise, this of wings rushing from the north; more of her kind pouring sad yet musical sighs into the air until the sky itself was full and the heart of all men who heard brimmed over.
Carra casts her spell with authentic ingredients: those birds, light in stature yet utterly brave, all legs and bills; those magical sounds; wild feathers; full acres of cobwebbed fen; music that cannot be sung, a song which no man can sing, a rhyme without words and things which were not here today but are tonight and Oh! So Ireland of the Poets.
We stood with the trees at our backs until the ground grew cold under a mist kept low by colder air, listening to the wild cries of far off birds and the flutter of falling leaves.
There, somewhere back along the road, Old Man Hedgehog grumbled through the undergrowth. Anyone not familiar with the noise he makes could be forgiven for thinking a much larger animal was on the move, for he snorts and pants and struggles through long grass and sticks, pausing here and there to chomp and chew at slugs and snails and anything else unfortunate enough to lie in his path.
We have a pile of sticks left in the corner of the garden especially for him or for one of his friends (an excuse for not clearing it away). We would like to know if he sleeps there, but unless we pull the stickpile apart we cannot, and if we do and find that he does, then he will no more; a conundrum. Perhaps it is enough to know that he lives nearby. In a wild area such as this he must have a choice of beds.
Hedgehogs are good to eat. At least, I have been informed so. The method of cooking one involves wrapping it up in a ball of clay, spines and all, and dropping it into the centre of a good hot fire. By the time the clay is dry and cracking apart the ‘hog is well done. The spines come away with the clay and one is left with a good feed of tasty, dark-coloured meat.
Thank goodness we live in different times, with supper before bed and a proper breakfast this morning, after which we can retrace the steps of the night before.
How different the world is by day. Gone are those romantic perambulations and here is a grey sky over an almost empty and equally grey sheet of water, which ferries the hum of distant traffic to our ears. The mysterious shadows have vanished; in their place are favourite seats and leaning posts. Days more and the moon will be full, cold and clear, once more, and we beneath in this rich and rare land.