Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Visiting a Dweller in the Mountains

  © 2014  by Cecily Lynch
                                                   Vanishing Ireland

(Dedicated to all those who dwell in remote areas of Ireland and lead a traditional life). 

My aunt, who lives deep in the country, brought me to visit her friend. The area is exquisitely beautiful, mystical and heart-breaking. We trudged uphill through the forest till we reached a clearing where a traditional thatched house stood, surrounded by barns and outhouses. Hens squawked as we approached. A cock crew. A sheepdog barked frantically. Pungent odours surrounded us. Farm instruments, rusted and neglected, lay in the outhouses. My aunt called out "Clodagh, here we are!"

A very old lady came to the door, wearing a black cloak and a knitted black cap. The room was almost in complete darkness, for the tiny windows, covered by faded lace curtains, admitted no light. The floor was earthen, the walls of bare stone. A small turf fire burned in an ancient fireplace which held a large black pot on a hook. The homely smell of turf and boiling potatoes permeated the room.

There followed an old Irish welcome, of the most warm and hospitable kind.
"Dia bhur mbeatha-sa." said Clodagh, speaking the Gaelic of Munster, soft and lilting. "Ach na bac leis!" She added, as the enormous Irish wolfhound sprang at me, then retired head hanging, as a stream of commands hit him "Suigh sios, a phuca, a amadáin!" Clodagh ordered. 

The oil cloth on the table held a huge array of soda bread, with large teapots of strong tea to wash the meal down. Clodagh sat on a stool, almost into the fireplace. She threw her head back and recited "Caoine Airt ui Laoire", that most passionate song of lament of a young wife for her murdered husband. 
"My heart is frozen, like an old trunk whose key is lost."
The fire flickered, the Gaelic rose to a crescendo of sorrow and passion, all the pain of life seemed centred in her voice. 
She thanked us warmly for coming. I felt as if I had gone back in time through several centuries that afternoon. The way back through the forest was difficult, but at last we saw the motorway through the trees. We had regained the 21st century. 

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