The Elements

by ericavanhorn

20 December Sunday

There is a green smudge down the center of the road. It’s there every winter.  Dampness makes a little low moss grow down the raised middle of the road.  Car tyres straddle the smudge because we all drive the narrow road as if the road was only ever meant to be a single lane. I love the smudge. I love how it glows from afar.  I enjoy the smudge as I am walking along.  It has one kind of brightness from a distance and another kind of brightness when I am just upon it.  The smudge cheers up the greyest of days.

19 December Saturday

I locked Simon into the printing shed.  I did not plan on locking him in. It just happened.  It’s been another wild and blustery day. He was inside setting type for a small job and I went to ask him something before I left for the post office.  He had the bolt closed from the inside and he let me in when I shouted.  When I left I slid the other bolt from the outside. It was so windy that the door would not stay closed unless it was fastened from one side or the other. I went to the village and did my posting and bought the papers and dropped things off at one house and then at another house.  I refused cups of tea and kept moving as I felt rushed. The incessant noisy wind made everything out in the world seem imperative and slightly crazed.

Simon was not in the house when I returned.  Nor was he in the book barn.  I went to the print shed.  I saw his head through the small window.  Then I saw the closed bolt on the outside of the door.  I knew right away what had happened. He did not say a word.  The situation was grim. There is not much light in the shed nor is there any heat.  On a day as gloomy as today there would have been barely light enough to print.  But, of course, he could not print anyway because the things he wanted to print were down in the book barn.  He had the type set and the platen inked and ready but he was locked in.

The printing shed is about 6 x 10 feet and there is very little floor space inside.  There is a tall unit full of drawers of type, a big cast-iron folding machine, a counter with shelves underneath, another homemade set of shelves and a wooden unit holding the small press and more type and print furniture drawers. When we cleaned out the book barn early in the autumn, we filled the print shed with big boxes of old cardboard and paper, all for a big bonfire which we never got around to lighting.

With all of the things that are always there and then all the boxes of things to burn, there was barely enough room to stand and print. There was no room to sit. Simon spent a lot of time thinking about breaking the door down but he spent an equal amount of time thinking about having to replace the door himself.  He just did not feel like doing that. He spent a lot of time thinking about why he did not have a phone with him. He waited. He stood up and he waited. It was lucky for Simon that I was gone for less than two hours.  It was lucky for him that the day was windy but not cold.  I fear he has not yet had enough distance on the whole event to see either of these two things as lucky.

18 December Friday

Nora is outraged that those people in Paris think that they have the power to control the Elements.  She said there is no kind of agreement they can sign that will stop the rain and the flooding.  She said, “They can sign what they like but not one cow in the whole of Ireland will ever eat a single blade of grass off a field that has been flooded.  It is a known fact. But sure how would people in Paris know a thing like that?”

17 December Thursday

She had to wait for her friend.  It was raining hard and she was in a town she did not know at all.  She said she needed to Put Down an Hour which was another way of saying that she needed to kill some time.

16 December Wednesday

I could not get into the village yesterday.  The road beyond the bridge was completely flooded but that was not the reason.  There were cars parked all along that bit of road.  They were parked in the knee deep water. When I got close enough to see the church I could see that the road in front of the church was blocked by a hearse with a coffin being unloaded and dozens of umbrellas and lots of flowers.  A man in a reflective vest was signaling for me to turn and go away or to stop and just get out of my car.  He did not know if I wanted to attend the funeral or not. There was no traffic moving through the village.  I returned an hour later and there were still many cars.  The service had ended but the burial had been right there in the churchyard and now everyone was walking up to the hall for refreshments.  Cars were still parked everywhere. The cars were parked and they were double parked. I did not know the elderly woman who had been buried.  Pat said that the reason there was such a crowd was because she was being laid to rest in a fitting way by A Lifetime of Family and Neighbours.

15 December Tuesday

I sat in the waiting room with two extremely old people and one older man and a youngish man.  The five of us filled all of the chairs.  The older man was looking out the window and he commented on the big building across the road.  He asked the room at large if the nuns were still there and if the convent was going strong.  No one answered him, so I did.  I told him that the few remaining nuns had gone off to a convent in Carrick-on-Suir or to residential homes and that the building and land had been sold.  I told him an auction had been held and that the building had been bought by an order of Egyptian Coptics.  He listened carefully. He said nothing but he listened. The two very old people said nothing.  They were both badly bent over with some spinal deterioration but I could tell they were listening too. The younger man had drops in his eyes and had been told by the doctor to keep his head well back. When I finished telling all I knew about the former convent, the first man asked, “So, are you here on holiday then?”

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