Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I spent a lot of time there, over a seven year period, with my ex-husband, in his "holiday home" in County Mayo. In a house overlooking a saltwater cove, in view of St. Patrick's holy mountain, and sheep-filled pastures. And islands. And horses.
My forays there abruptly ended, another casualty of divorce. And while I'm extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend so many glorious days in a landscape that was to become for me a great source of inspiration — counting my blessings! — I'm still in a state of shock and withdrawal knowing the likelihood of returning is slim. I've not yet written to my friends in the cove; every attempt at a letter ends in my holding down the delete button until the screen is white.
Sitting in front of those photos, I imagined walking into the Ireland house: the tricky lock on the front door (lift the handle and turn the key to the left), the "whoosh" of the door opening, wiping my feet on the mat. The sharp, piney-smell inside.
Dropping my luggage in the bedroom, the sound of my shoes clicking on the wood floor.
Emptying the bags of groceries. (Inhaling the scents in the produce department at the grocery. Weighing the apples, affixing the weight sticker. Finding some Carrowholly nettle cheese. Pushing the odd cart.) Slipping the apples from their plastic bag into a basket, holding one to my nose and inhaling an orchard. Hearing the sound of the wrapper on the soda bread, a soft crinkle. Putting a fresh box of tea in the cupboard. Assessing the pantry for the unexpected leftovers from previous guests: brown beans, a bag of lentils. Instant mashed potatoes.
Wanting to take it all in at once: the view of Clew Bay and the 365 islands. Opening the sliding glass door (which always sticks), standing on the patio facing west. Inhaling, the Atlantic stretching out for 2800 miles in the distance. The constant wind.
Sitting on the worn leather sofa, the way the leather sticks to the skin. Feeling the itch of the two wool throws on the sofa. Taking out the teapot collection, remembering where each was purchased, from which artist in which village.
Walking up the stairs to the three upper bedrooms, laying in succession in each bed, taking possession. Opening every closet. Looking out each window.
Opening a drawer in the hutch, taking out the collection of ordnance maps, begin planning a back-roads search for holy wells and druid cooking sites, standing stones.
An overwhelming flood of sensations, wave upon wave.
And not realizing the absolute perfection of each of those moments until now.
On my last trip there, I took a walk one afternoon along the far side of the cove. The tide was out and I could meander across mudflats and under barbed wire that was usually inaccessible when the bay pushed its sparkling waters high up onto the bank. I found an alley-way of sorts, between unmown fields of hay, blackberry and fuschia hedgerows on either side. I picked my way up the hillside and somewhere along that way, lost an earring. I doubled back to try to find it, stepping slowly and with fierce intent, but to no avail.
A half-mile-or-so-away, a farmer, in tilling a field, had once upon a time unearthed a 5000-year-old gold bracelet. In comparison, my vanished earring was unremarkable: a pearl, a blue glass bead, silver wire. I returned the next day and retraced my steps, checked low-slung branches of stickery gorse, checked weeds and tipping meadowsweet blossoms. Nothing.
But that afternoon of the lost earring, up that passageway and farther, cresting the hill between two coves, in a rare burst of sunlight and cows lumbering to the fence-edge to investigate the unexpected wanderer — that was an interval of complete and utter contentment, of conscious momentary perfection.
I don't want to relive it, nor do I want to relive my time there. Doubtful that I could revisit those county Mayo back-roads without a truck-load of buried sadness unburdening itself on my shoulders.
Those memories, I think, will exist in their own category of appreciation where I was the recipient of innumerable generosities. Necessary to sift out the good from the cruelties of failure.
Ireland, old love, my muse.
I'm not ready to seek out your replacement.