The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: July, 2016

Possibilities of a Lemon

28 July Thursday

Joe’s cows are in the adjoining field.  They are unusually quiet today. There is no jostling or mooing or bellowing. They are standing and eating grass.  Quietly. The morning is sunny and windy and cloudy all at the same time. Clouds are racing across the sky.  At moments all goes dark and overcast and then the clouds keep moving and the day is all over bright again.  The only sounds are the wind in the branches, a far-away chain saw and the tearing of grass.

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27 July Wednesday

I am delighted with my lichen cards.  I have been collecting lichen on every walk up the mass path for years now.  Some days, like Monday when the walking was such hard work, I do not even think of lichen but most days my eye is drawn to the little pieces which get knocked off the branches by birds or wind or time. Every pocket of every jacket has been full of dried up crumbling pieces of lichen.  Sometimes I fill a bowl with the silvery green-ish pieces and enjoy having them in the house with me.  Now I have printed a folding card with a square in which to glue one piece of lichen.  I have been rushing up and down to the barn with my glueing and weighting down of the glued pieces and then the checking to make certain that the card with the weight upon it is not sticking to the lichen and ripping it off.  I glue up five cards at a time. It is slow work because the dried and pressed lichen is so brittle.  I am becoming skilled at judging the delicacy of each piece.  I thought I had an enormous supply saved under pressure but of course the old stuff in my pockets was useless.  Now I return from a walk and carefully place any new samples under a weight to flatten them for a few days. I do not leave any in my pockets.  I am nearly through with what I believed was an enormous cache of lichen.  Actually, it was not so much. Now I must plan walks for the hunting. Picking up scraps of lichen is no longer just a whim.  It is a job.  I have glued about thirty cards so far.

26 July Tuesday

Peter ordered fresh mackerel. It was served with potatoes and a gooseberry sauce. Three potatoes arrived in a side dish which was placed to his right.  He took the potatoes off the small side dish and put them on his plate.  Then he took the skins off the potatoes. He moved the skins onto another small plate which was to the left of his main plate.  He enjoyed the potatoes so much that he asked the waitress for more.  She was neither surprised nor bothered by his request. She was happy to bring him three more potatoes. He performed the ritual of moving and skinning the potatoes and then moving the skins away again. The potatoes broke up as he removed the skins. He mashed them a bit with his fork. He added plenty of butter. He asked for the salt. I passed the salt and I offered him the pepper mill.  He looked at me in horror.  He said You do not put pepper on potatoes!  I said that I did put pepper on potatoes.  He said NO NO. Salt and butter are the only things to put on potatoes.  I keep thinking I know all there is to know about the Irish and their potatoes but it seems there is always more that I do not know.

25 July Monday

For walking up the mass path I wore two long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.  The morning was too warm for that much clothing. Everything was overgrown all the way up the path. No one has walked through in quite a while. I should have taken some clippers.  I should have taken a stick to beat some of the vegetation down.  I should have worn gloves. Both the brambles and the nettles got me right through my clothes. I got tangled in the sticky weeds.  It was a struggle from start to finish.  It was not really a walk, it was a battle. When I reached the open road at the top I felt like a survivor. I had many stings and I had ripped flesh. I enjoyed every minute of it.

24 July Sunday

I made the mistake of rushing down to the village to buy a lemon. I thought I could get there and leave quickly just before everyone came out of Mass.  I was too late. The road was full of people leaving the church and talking to one another. The sun was out and no one was in a hurry. The shop was full of chattering people.  I found the only lemon available and I waited my turn and I bought it.  I left the shop with the lemon in my hand. I passed a man sitting on the ledge. I had passed him on the way in too.  I knew the man and he knew me. He shouted out Oh A Lemon!  You’ll be having a whiskey then!  I said There is more than one thing to do with a lemon and anyway it is kind of early in the day for whiskey, isn’t it? He said Whiskey is the only place I have ever had a lemon and that only when it was A Hot Whiskey. He said, I like A Hot Whiskey with lemon. I was in a rush so I did not stop to discuss the many other possibilities of a lemon. This man is a talented man with the spoons and with a mouth harp but he cannot read nor write and he cannot do numbers.  I decided that what he did not know about lemons was just another thing he did not know  What he did not know did not bother him.

22 July Friday

They Have Skin in The Game.  I am guessing that this is a way to say that someone has a lot  invested in a project or a business so he cannot give up.  He cannot give up because he has too much to lose.

21 July Thursday

An Post raised the cost of postage today.  It went up in July last year.  It went up in July the year before too. I am not certain about the year before that.  The price of postage never goes down.

20 July Wednesday

The lights went out at about ten o’clock last night. The lights went out and everything else went out too.  I used the mobile phone to ring the electricity company.  The first thing the woman wanted to know was where I was calling from.  Then she asked me to tell her the account number off our last electric bill.  I said that I could not look for a bill because there were no lights in the house.  The woman said okay and then she told explained that the power was down in Ardfinnan and it might be back on soon or it might not.  She thought it was something to do with a cow and a pole and a branch, but she was not certain. It was dark so we went to bed.

The Things We Want To Have

19 July Tuesday

The high temperatures continue.  Half the county is paralyzed by the heat. The other half rushed down to the sea.  They came home disgusted. The coast is completely fogged in and it is not warm.  It is chilly.  In the village, boys are jumping off the hump-back bridge and into the river.  After they come out of the water, they hobble over the rough field and onto the dirt path. They climb over the wall and out onto the road and up the hill that is the bridge to cheer on the next boys and then to do it themselves again. There might be girls down below but there are no girls on the bridge. I do not know if the water is deep enough to be jumped into from that height.  The current is fast. There are a lot of big rocks.  People often drown in this river but usually they drown at night and in winter and mostly after taking drink. Now it is as much summer as it ever is.  The boys are hopping up and down on the hot tar with their bare feet.  They are waiting for their turn.

18 July Monday

Silence hangs over the land.  I can hear tractors in a far field, but just barely.  Even from this distance, there is a sort of rushing intensity about the sound because there is the need to get the hay in. To get the silage in. To get the grass cut. Or the barley. Or the corn.  Sunshine brings imperatives.  Being a far off muttering of machinery, the sense of imperative is not my imperative. I scarcely hear these sounds unless I really really focus my attention in that direction. Everything close by is quiet and motionless. There is no reason for me to seek out noise and activity elsewhere, but I like to know that it is there.  There are few birds making any sounds at all.  Bees and flies are barely audible. The heat has silenced everything.

17 July Sunday

The dead bird is gone.  I saw him yesterday from inside the barn.  The long window is waist height for me, but it is on even level with the ground outside.  I was inside and the bird was just outside. We were very close to each other with just the glass between us. I was certain he was dead and not simply stunned from crashing into the glass. He had flies all over him.  He was lying face down so I could not tell what sort of bird he was.  This morning he was gone.  There were no feathers or boney bits to be seen.  Maybe he was indeed only knocked out and he recovered and flew away.  Maybe he was eaten.  I do not think foxes eat things that are already dead. They prefer to make the kill themselves.  Maybe it was a sparrowhawk.

16 July Saturday

This might be the best ever year for figs.  The branches are heavy with them.  If the heat continues I think there will be loads.  I check them every day because I know the birds are checking too.

15 July Friday

They say that the recession is over and that employment is picking up all over the country.  John told me that the truth is a different story. He told me that he does not need a bulletin off the radio to tell him how things are.  His voice while he spoke was loud as he got angrier with the telling. He told me that Gerry had a robbery in his workshop last week.  He said the only thing stolen from the workshop was some lengths of copper pipe.  John said copper is easy to resell.  He said that copper gets a good price.  A lot of Gerry’s tools were lying around but none of his tools were stolen. One of the drills was new and another nail gun kind of a thing was not only new but it was German.  John assured me that it was a good brand.  John said it had been Savage Dear to buy. He said he knew that For A Fact.  The tools were not stolen and John said that that tells him more about the lay of the land than any words the politicians are telling.  He said that no one is stealing tools because no one is buying tools.  No one is buying tools because there is no work.  He told me that if there is no work there is no need for tools.  He told me these were the facts. He told me not to waste my own time listening to any news off the radio or on the paper.

14 July Thursday

Two small boys were in the shop. They were together in the little toy section which is behind the vegetable section.  They were examining the bags of plastic farm animals and the fencing and the various tractors on display. They were looking at all the things that they see in their lives everyday.  In the toy section of the shop everything is the same as it is out of doors but it is all on a smaller scale.  One boy said: Here we have all the things we want to have.