The joy of anticipation was as good as the anticipation of Christmas from a child's perspective. Our paternal grandfather emigrated from New Ross, Ireland, in (I believe) 1912, and only one sister other than me has visited the country of our ancestors. I'm fortunate to possess dual citizenship. For this last Christmas, in anticipation of this journey, I created for my sisters a hand-bound, hand-sewn ten-copy edition of a chapbook, Fiddlehead, Heron: Notes from Carrowholly. It contains photographs from one of the most magical places on earth -- a place wherein resides a large portion of my heart -- as well as journal notes from my many visits there.
I wished for a blue-speckled eggshell
to place at the feet of Our Lady of Flotsam.
The previous June, in a hazelnut copse I’d found one,
but it’d disappeared since our last visit here.
And I hadn't a clue where I'd find another;
So this afternoon, when Paul called out,
There's an eggshell on the patio,
No! It's a snail shell!
(Thinking it was the leftover bits
from a sparrow’s treat.)
T., I know a bird shell from a snail shell!
He was right:
not an apparition
but a perfect half-shell, blue & speckled,
amidst scattered seed.
Not fallen from a tree,
because there is no tree in the yard.
It's as if a bird was doing an exchange:
shell for seed.
The universe was granting my request—
Not a miracle, but a gift.
Upon the shattering news I received three weeks ago, this trip fell apart. No longer staying in the property owned by my husband, two sisters were forced to cancel. I can no longer afford to take time off from work. Two other sisters are still going, but on a very different itinerary. This trip of a lifetime -- five sisters stepping back in time to embrace a long-sought heritage -- is off.
I'm not seeking sympathy here -- my trips to Eire have been numerous and replete with generosity. But the cruelty in this decisive blow on the part of one person, the capability to throw what seems like a single stone into a pond, and create a tidal wave of consequences -- is profoundly disturbing.
I don't know what else to say except that my heart -- that 300 gram muscle pumping life through this human husk -- continues to shatter.
More from Fiddlehead, Heron:
I wonder, when it rains hard here
and all the low bogland and shallow fields
fill with water, if suddenly on ordnance maps
there appears additional evidence of lakes and ponds?
Over-spilling, and everywhere the constantly
changing sky reflected on the surface of the earth.
There is a beach several coves away
where broken pottery washes up—nothing
particularly special—cheap plates flung to bits.
Beautiful in their disarray, every year more,
and I gather pocketsful and place them
on my kitchen sill. But flung from where,
and by whom? A deceived wife in splintered rage?
Fallen from a boat in a move from island to mainland?
Out of fashion teacups cast-off to sea?
My neighbor Pat tells of an elderly island man
whose body was strapped to a door
and towed to town behind a dingy when he died.
(There are 365 islands in Clew Bay,
some as big as a wink.)
These shards remain a mystery.
I've put my requests out to the universe, which, though not without its gifts, remains ever a mystery.