The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: November, 2016

Always Home

28 November Monday

The bright light across the fields has been disturbing.  It is an odd kind of light. It is a different kind of bright.  There are house lights in the far distance but they are nothing like this raw harsh light.  At first I thought this light was a light in someone’s farmyard.  I could not tell from this distance whose farmyard it might be.  I thought the light itself might even always be there but that I was only noticing it now maybe because leaves had fallen off the trees between here and wherever it is. Maybe I am only seeing it because it has been freshly exposed.   In a straight line – as the crow flies – the light is probably two kilometres away.  It is some kind of terrible bright halogen bulb. It is bright white.  From here we cannot see any of the area it illuminates.  We only see the small stabbing glow.  After only a few nights of seeing this light I was already depressed. I felt sad that I might be seeing this ugly light every single night from now on.

Last night we suddenly figured out that the light was down on the Dungarvon road. It was standing on a dangerous corner where a road crew are now working.  We had noted the work the other day. When finished, the road in that spot will be straight or at least it will be straighter.  Darkness falls early so this light might help the workmen at the end of their work day.  It warns the drivers who all travel too fast on that stretch.  The workers go home at the end of the day, but the light stays on all night. It is now a comfort to know that when the road work is eventually finished, and the corner is straightened, the light will be removed.  Our thick dark night will return.

27 November Sunday

Each time I step out the back door I see a mouse.  It has been three or five times now.  I am not sure if it is the same mouse each time or a different mouse.  I am not sure where exactly the mouse I see is going but I am fairly certain it is hoping to come inside for the winter.

26 November Saturday

This is the third day in a row of deep impenetrable white fog. On Thursday the heavy fog was burned away by sun in the middle of the afternoon.  On Friday and today there has been no sun.  There has been no burning off.  Just a deep cold silence all wrapped in whiteness. We cannot see any distance at all.  We drive with headlights which do not make what is up ahead any more visible. The headlights are mostly so we might be seen by another car.  It feels best to just stay home but even while here we cannot even see across to the barn.

24 November Thursday

I was wide awake in the night.  I finally got out of bed and went out into the big room. I was too tired to do anything.  I did not want to read nor to watch television. I did not want to turn on the computer.  I made a cup of tea and found a deck of cards. I played solitaire.  I was really cold even with pyjamas, a bathrobe, a shawl and a pair of heavy socks inside my slippers.  I did not want to turn on the heat.   I thought about Jack London’s story To Build A Fire.  People dying of the cold usually fall asleep before they freeze to death. I wanted to fall asleep.  I thought about other Jack London stories. I continued playing solitaire. I kept score with myself on a piece of paper, buying the deck for each game with an imaginary 52 euro.  I lost hundreds of euro. I did not care about the winning or the losing. I enjoyed shuffling the cards.  I am good at shuffling cards. The deck was old and soft and did not really shuffle as sharply and snappily as I would have liked.  I made another cup of tea. It was chamomile tea but it failed to make me sleepy.  I started to get tired of playing solitaire. I wondered what I might do next. I needed to engage myself but slightly bore myself at the same time. After two or three hours, I heard a cow bellowing up the hill.  It was the only sound I had heard except for my cards on the table.  The cow sounded like it was up the steep hill on one of Johnnie’s fields. It was too dark to look out a window. The cow moaned and gasped.  It is hard to describe the noise. Maybe it was more like a sort of honking.  After about twenty minutes, the cow stopped.  I listened for her to start up again.  When she did not, I went back to my cards.  Eventually boredom and the cold sent me back to bed.

22 November Tuesday

I was tired coming off the plane.  I was tired and I was not yet awake.  It was 5.30 in the morning.  One line of passengers waiting to go through passport control was long. That line was long and disheveled and there were a lot of cranky children in it. I was glad that my passport allowed me to pass quickly through the other line.  The EU line was short.  The man at the high desk looked down and asked me how I was.  I told him I was tired.  I said I am tired or maybe I am just sleepy because I have not really woken up yet.  His voice dropped and it became very soft.  He said ‘It’s Okay. Everything is Fine. You are Home now.’

Home is a big thing here. Home is a place and Home is an idea. At Cork Airport there is a little fireplace with a gas fire burning and a little one-person sized bench just after you come through passport control.  It would be easy to smack your shins against the stone bench because it is so suddenly there in front of you.  The fire in the fireplace serves as the symbol of a being welcomed home.  There is Home and there is Home Place.  There is a lot about both Home and Home Place which makes me feel a little confused. As someone from somewhere else, I think I shall never fully understand it. But no matter what else it is, a fire is essential to the idea of Home.  Shannon Airport does not have a fireplace nor a little bench, but the soft dropping of the man’s voice and the kindness in his welcome made me pleased to be home.

Taking the Bloods



2 November Wednesday

Yesterday I saw two vehicles with small dog trailers parked down by Cooney’s wood.  Later I heard gunshots.  November 1st marks the start of shooting season for pheasants and woodcock and wood pigeons. If I had heard the gunshots earlier I might have been startled but the little trailers that the dogs get transported around in gave me the warning.  There are never more than one or two hunters who wander around these woods but it is a good idea to start wearing reflective vests when we walk out just so we do not get shot. At about nine o’clock last night I heard a thumping at the kitchen door.  I looked out and there was Oscar pushing and turning to make himself comfortable as close up to the door as possible.  He had knocked down the walking sticks in the corner so he was having an awkward time getting settled with sticks all over the place. It is unprecedented for Oscar to come down here at night and especially to come down without a person.  I tried to send him home but he ignored me. I rang June and she was puzzled too.  She was puzzled but she was fearful to drive down our boreen at night so I offered to take him home.  Oscar is a big black Labrador.  With age, he has gotten fat.  He could not jump up and into the jeep so I had to ask Simon to help me to hoist him up and in.  I drove the mile up to Oscar’s house with his head jutting out between the seats and resting on my shoulder.  He was happy to be home and jumped out easily.  He did not return again last night but I still do not know why he arrived in the first place. I wonder if the days shooting disturbed him.

1 November Tuesday

Condon’s, the undertakers in Cahir, have repainted their premises.  The front of the building is now glossy black with enamel paint.  The windows have been edged with bright red. On a sunny day like today the shine off the black paint is blinding.

31 October Monday

Taking Care of Your Own is the term used for the duty towards anyone who is elderly or sick.  It is one thing to give care if someone is your own blood relation but if the ailing person is only related by marriage it is something altogether different.  Responsibility apppears to have limits.


30 October Sunday

There are lots of brown crunchy leaves underfoot and there is no mud.  Every walk up the track is noisy with the leaves underfoot.  As soon as I write this, I am reminded that there are stretches with lots of yellow not yet crunchy leaves too so the contrast between walking noise and walking silence is great.  I was walking the Long Field today and saw some garish orange pellet stuff spilled onto the soil.  At first I thought it must be some kind of poison. Then I decided it might be seed.  Some farmers have planted winter wheat so the fresh new green shoots give a sense of springtime in this peculiar autumn. We have had day after day of mild, bright days with no rain.  Birds are singing like crazy.  The birds are behaving like it is spring. None of them seem to be flying south. The cows are out in their fields all day. Nothing feels right or normal. Nothing feels like it is almost November. Last night we changed the clocks so as of today darkness will fall earlier. The weather may or may not change.


29 October Saturday

Dilly is insisting that the little shrubs on her banking get cut back almost to the wood.  Some of them she wants pulled or dug right out of the ground.  She is adamant that these things get done before the winter comes on.  She cannot do these jobs herself as she keeps telling anyone who will listen but even if she is not Able For It herself she wants it done her own way. She cannot bear for two plants to be touching one another.  Dilly likes to see a lot of nice cleared and clean weed free soil in between each plant. She cannot cut these plants back and she cannot dig them up and out of the ground and she certainly cannot bend down to pull the weeds and rake the soil clean, but she is determined that all of these things be done. She is instructing John to do all of these jobs and she insists he do the jobs her way.  He is grumbling about her demands but he is allowed no say in the matter. She says The Bare Look is the only way to give a plant the attention it deserves.

28 October Friday

Simon had a morning appointment with the nurse to Take His Bloods. It is usually not possible to Take Bloods on a Friday because of the weekend.  He offered to deliver his own blood to the hospital so they said okay and had him come in at 9 am.  While the nurse was labeling his tube and putting it into a bag, she asked if he would mind also taking the bloods of the Lithuanian woman who had been in just before him.  The woman had to rush off to her job and anyway she did not have a car so she was not able to take her own blood up to the hospital. Simon was hungry.  He had been fasting since the night before.  He asked the nurse if he had time to have some breakfast before going to the hospital.  She said No Problem. She told him to just be sure to deliver the bloods to the lab before midday.  At the hospital he was directed to walk down several long corridors to drop his own blood and the blood of the Lithuanian woman into a hatch cut into some hard plastic.