Holly Not Holly
24 December Saturday
I am avoiding the Mass Path. I am worried about the killer dog. I do not like having him control my movements. I do not like this fearfulness. John told me that I am Planking It. I think Planking It is a way of saying that one is very nervous. Or maybe it means one is terrified.
23 December Friday
The Farmers Market took place today instead of on Saturday because they thought people would not want to come out on Christmas Eve. It was too windy for the market. A sign had been put up near to the entry with the single word TODAY. It was early when we arrived but TODAY had already been destroyed by the wind. The threatened storm named Barbara was encroaching. Very few tent stalls were in place. Stella was selling her bread and cakes out of the back of the car. Jim was packing up and leaving. He had only a few turnips to sell anyway and he had no patience with the wind. He was worried and he wanted to go home. Everyone was sort of frantic. They wanted to get their food stuffs and go. The girl from the Apple Farm was happy. She was in the back of a horse trailer with her apples and juices and vinegars and ciders. She was out of the wind. Her feet were warm for the first time in weeks and weeks of market days. The rain was coming from several directions at once. Everyone spoke of Barabara as if she was someone they knew. There was the very real worry that we all might lose power. We had a quick coffee before heading home. Someone had wrapped fairy lights all around the railing on the stairs at the cafe. It was not possible to walk up or down the stairs without grabbing onto wires and lights. Electrocution by Fairy Lights seemed a very real possibility. It added to the manic feeling of the day.
22 December Thursday
I bought the bunches of holly from the man at the market last Saturday even though I knew the bunches of holly were not holly. He knew that I knew so neither of us used the word holly. We just made our little transaction. He was selling the bunches of greenery strapped together with black tape as a bit of something extra and seasonal along with the wooden bowls and egg cups which he usually has for sale. I knew the holly was not holly but I was pleased to see red berries in such abundance. I can step into the woods and cut loads of holly but there are never any berries on any of the holly I have ever found. Maybe it is the particular breed that grows here. I brought the holly which was not holly home and left it on the table outside the kitchen while I decided what to do with it. In the day or two of lying around the birds have eaten every one of the red berries. If the holly I purchased had been real holly the birds would not have touched those berries and if they had eaten them they would be dead. So now I have some shiny green leaves which are not holly leaves waiting to be used in some kind of seasonal way. I have no red berries. I should have just gone out and cut some real holly and tied little red ribbons on to it which is what I usually do.
21 December Wednesday. Winter Solstice.
Today is the shortest day. Today is the day which brings with it the promise of longer days. I kept meaning to go for a walk and I kept putting it off as I found other things to do. In the back of my mind was the apprehension about the big dog. I worried that he might be out again. I rang PJ Shine who is the neighbour up there. He said the dog should not be out. He was surprised and not happy to hear the dog was loose but he felt it was probably not too serious. He told me not to worry myself. PJ only passes by in the safety of his tractor so he did not feel particularly threatened. Then I saw the other PJ who said he had walked up by there the day before I did. He said he had been shocked to see the dog in the front yard. It was barking and snarling but it did not come out on the road. He felt unnerved by the dog. I decided to go down and walk the Abbey walk. I decided to do the Abbey walk to avoid any chance of meeting the dog. I parked at the cemetery and noticed that I had left it all a bit late. The light was really dropping. I walked as far as the ruins of the Abbey and then I told myself I would just walk to the farm gate. Then I said I would walk the track to the first barn. Then I walked on to the lower gate. But the time I got there the sun had dropped behind the mountains and it was dusk. I walked up hill with the light dropping by the minute. There were no lights anywhere. No street lights of course. No house lights. No houses. I walked the last part with a sense that the road was there. I could kind of see it but it was more about feeling it. I was not afraid. There was nothing to be afraid of. The dog was far away and on another road. There was nothing else to be afraid of. By the time I reached my car at the top it was fully dark. If anyone had asked I could have answered There is No Fear in Me.
20 December Tuesday
Early afternoon broke through bright and sunny. The whole day looked different. It was suddenly cheerful. I walked up the mass path to enjoy it. Sometimes it is gloomy walking through the wooded path. I like all of the mossy rocks and fern and the secret quality of the shaded rocky trail. I even like the dangerous rotting rolling apples. Little rays of sunshine through the trees are a bonus. There were views across Cooney’s fields where a fox has broken through making his path. I knew that arriving into full sunshine up on the road would be a fine thing. And it was. It was a fine thing. I pretended that I actually could feel heat from the sun but really it was the heat of my up hill exertion. It remained a cold day.
Before I got very far along the road an enormous dog came rushing out of Carbuncle’s yard and lunged at me. It was a scary dog. It was big and it was scary and it was barking and growling and baring its teeth at me. It was either a Bull Mastiff or a Rottweiler. I know very little about these dogs. Carbuncle always has two large guard dogs inside the fenced in area behind his house. When he built his house the land he bought was advertised as having panoramic views. It was true. The aspect across to the Knockmealdowns was spectacular. It turns out he neither needed nor wanted a panoramic view as he quickly built high fences and filled his yard with cars. Smashed up cars are piled high. Some cars are not smashed but they are not visible over the fence. These get worked upon, repaired and sold. He keeps two dogs in the fenced in area all the time. They prowl around and bark when someone walks by the house. They are protecting the good cars and the smashed cars and all of the tools and machinery which I assume must be in there. One is a big Alsatian and the other must be this monster on the road. I do not know how he escaped. I do not think he was supposed to be out. I tried to speak sweetly to the dog. I used a gentle voice and I said nice things quietly. I told him he was a good dog even though I was certain he was not a good dog. I was terrified. After several attempts at stepping along the road I gave up and turned around. I walked slowly away from the snarling dog. I went back down the muddy path looking behind me every few steps. I feared he might rush after me. I had no doubt that he could tear me to shreds. There was no one around. No one would hear if he tore me to shreds. No one would know.
I was still shaking when I arrived home. I went over the fence and made a perimeter walk through some of Joe’s fields. I needed to calm myself and I still wanted to be outside in the sun. I tried to remember when was the last time I had met a dog that scared me. Most of the dogs I see daily are walking free with or without a person. They are friendly gentle dogs. They are simply going about their business. They are as happy to see me as I am to see them and if the dog I see is a stranger I can always speak kindly and the dog will respond with a wagging tail. I am shaken by this aggressive dog in my day. I am nervous about my next walk up the path. I am never happy for dogs to be locked up but I am really frightened by this dog being out on the roam.