The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: September, 2017

Two Fox Morning

23 September Saturday

A Two Fox Morning and it is still early. Several have been through the yard. The first was the old scruffy looking fox climbing uphill and moving slowly. It is hard to assign this fox a colour. He is messy and sort of brown and dirty and his tail is half cut off. It looks like his tail was caught in something and cut with a straight line down the middle. This tail does not come to a point anymore. This tail ends with a straight line. I have never seen a tail cut like that. I have never seen any fox with his tail cut. The second fox moved quickly and gracefully almost like a dancer dashing quickly from place to place without any sense of rushing. The second fox was beautiful and red with a perfect white tip on its bushy tail.

22 September Friday

The raspberries keep ripening. The blackberries keep ripening. I pick them. We eat them. I give them away. I freeze them. I feel like I am constantly picking berries. We gathered all the wild damsons and made an enormous quantity of thick sauce. It is a beautiful colour and it tastes wonderful. We will be able to dig it out of the freezer for months and months. There is a lot of it. There are rose hips and elderberries and sloes.  I am not even dealing with them. Andrzej and I went up to Johnnie’s orchard on Monday. We took four buckets with us. We returned with one bucket only partly full. Thwarted optimism. My apple trees are not the only ones that have suffered a dreadful year. It does not make me feel any better to see so few apples elsewhere.

21 September Thursday

It was Jim who said it to another man. He said it with a great laugh. Everyone laughed so I smiled along though I did not really understand it. I have thought and thought about this expression but I still do not understand it. He said “You’re lovely up front like the back of an old dresser.”

20 September Wednesday

They promised rain for today and said it would be Turning Persistent For a Time. Once the rain started, it rained without stopping for the entire day and into the night. Persistent seems a polite word for this kind of downpour.

19 September Tuesday

A Nominated Neighbour Scheme is being introduced. From what I understand, older people living on their own will receive a card to hold up in a window to tell a visitor that they are not recognized and therefore they should go to the Nominated Neighbour whose name and address are displayed on the card. The neighbour will then check the callers identity and maybe even return with the caller to the persons house after having been satisfied that they are genuine. Of course, this all depends on the Nominated Neighbour being at home when a stranger calls. It also depends on the stranger not being a complete lunatic.

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A Right to Strong Suction.

 

17 September Sunday

It has been there for a while now. Maybe it is already four or even five months. For a while I assumed it was a temporary solution. I thought it would just be there until something more permanent could be found. Now I realize that the waste bin is going nowhere. It is tied to the front gate with rope. It rests against the inside of the gate at an angle. It is silver and the kind of bin with a pedal on the bottom. It is made so that a person can step on the pedal and open the bin. There is no need to touch the top flap to open it. But a foot pedal is no help for the postman. I doubt he could reach down inside the gate and push it with his hand with enough pressure to open the top. Even if he could reach in and press the pedal, I fear the opening of the top would slap him in the face. And anyway, now a flood gate apparatus has been put across the front of the gate so it will be even harder to lean in and reach the pedal. No doubt the postman just opens the bin with his fingers. And anything he places inside will stay good and dry even on a desperate rainy day when no one goes out of doors to check the post anyway.

16 September Saturday

Mary was at the market this morning. She does not look well. She too has had her cataracts done recently but she is not happy. She says that her vision is all wrong. She looked like she might cry at any moment. She studied my eyes carefully to try to see how they are. She did the same thing to Jim who had his done last year. I am not sure what she was hoping to see. She also had a knee replaced in the spring. I think she is more than a little exasperated about getting old. She is annoyed with various body parts that have always worked properly and are now demanding endless attention. On top of all that, she is angry at the European Union. They are discussing, or maybe they have already passed into law, something about the power and the energy consumption of vacuum cleaners. Mary is outraged that Those People in Europe feel they can intrude on this aspect of her life. She complained to everyone she saw. She asked again and again, “Whatever are you to do if you feel you have A Right to Strong Suction?”

15 September Friday

I entered the room. I heard a thud. I looked up. There was an owl looking straight at me. He was pressed up against the outside of the window. I was just inside. We were very close to one another. His right wing was spread out in a flying position and the left one was down beside his body. He must have flown into the glass because of the light. We stared at each other without moving for several seconds. Then he stepped backwards off the window ledge and into the darkness.

14 September Thursday

Evening is a constant challenge. I tend to think of evening as the soft time before full darkness. It is the time before night. Evening is the few hours between afternoon and night. Around here, if a man tells you he will deliver something in the Evening, he means he will be with you any time after dinner. That means you can expect him any time after your lunch, which is his dinner. The time after dinner can extend right up until night. Evening is then Evening. Sometimes it is possible to pin a person down to a specific time, but mostly you just have to wait.

13 September Wednesday

I am hoping that Michael has found a new place to call his own. I do not know if the other robins chased him away. There are two robins who still stop at the table regularly. They both have fat bodies and strong straight legs. They are not Michael. I was worried about him in the wild winds but the winds have stopped now. I thought he might be sheltering but if that was the case he should be back. I have spent time in the places he used to go with me. I have picked raspberries and talked to him as if he was nearby. I hoped that if he was hiding my voice might encourage him to come out. I have done some weeding. I have sat on the kitchen bench and I have drunk tea out at the big table always hoping and hoping he might appear. I have been hoping his curiosity would make him come along to see what I was doing.   One day I sat on the bench in the rain under an umbrella just in case he felt the rain provided a safe time to come out of hiding. Most birds are not out in the rain. I hope wherever he is that he is happy. He might not remember our voices and our treats. The brain of a robin might not hold onto a past. Maybe the present is enough. I still look outside for him many times each day. I hope he is not dead.

Never not in my ears

11 September Monday

The wind never stops. It never stops. It is exciting and it is completely annoying. I cannot remember how long it has been. It seems like it has been windy forever. I feel we could be blown away. We might end up in another country or at least another county. The sun has come out and in between glorious bright sunshine there are small amounts of rain. The rain falls while the sun shines. Every few minutes the day is different. Some robins have appeared around the table. They are here to eat crumbs but none of the robins are Michael. I am looking carefully at their markings and their legs which are all strong and straight. I am looking for the crooked tail feather. I am worried. I thought maybe all the robins had gone away but that is not the case. I wonder if Michael has been chased away by bigger birds or if he has been blown away by the wind or if he has been the victim of a bigger creature. Some of the robins are here. Where is Michael?

10 September Sunday

The woman walked into the waiting room and waved to the receptionist. She shouted “It’s Myself!” as she plopped down into the chair nearest to the door.

9 September Saturday

Billy the Wood came and delivered several loads of firewood today. We had far too many phone calls back and forth to get this delivery arranged. It seemed to be unusually complicated to get a time organized. When I had to ring him, I thought maybe it was his wife answering the phone. Even as I say this, I do not even know if Billy has a wife. I do not know anything about Billy. Billy’s voice does not really sound like a woman’s voice but it does not sound like a man’s voice. It does not sound like any other voice I know. It is a strange and most particular voice. I find it just as strange when he is standing in front of me as I do when I am on the phone and I do not know if I am speaking to a man or a woman. The wood that Billy brought is half ash and half birch. I was wondering whether to cover the pile with a big tarpaulin but the rain started lashing down before I decided. This wood has been wet before so I cannot worry about it being wet again. And anyway, any kind of a cover would have been difficult to hold down in the wind. I would have needed a lot of big pieces of the wood on top to hold it down and then all the wood piled on top would all get wet anyway.

8 September Friday

The winds are wild and gusty. We are being buffeted about. The sound of the wind is never not in my ears. It is always in my ears. I hear it when I am inside the house and I hear it when I am outside the house. I hear it while I sleep and while I eat. I hear it while I am thinking of other things. I am worried about Michael. I have not seen him all day. I hope he is tucked away somewhere safe and out of the wind. I think he spends a lot of time under the rosemary bush. I hope he has plenty to eat.

7 September Thursday

The two-sided sign at Kilnabutler which was wrapped in black plastic all summer has been unwrapped. The honey is ready.

6 September Wednesday

I am taking Jessie and Molly out for a walk every afternoon. We have been walking in the same field each day. Today is the eighth day. It is a walk I do not have a name for yet. We walk through a gate and up a track to get to the field and then through another gate before we get to the field. We go all around the perimeter and the rejoin the track near the second gate. On one side there is a small house which has been empty for as long as I have been here. The doors and windows are broken in. Most of the house is covered with green growth: brambles and bushes and trees. We can see this building from the road at certain vantage points. I wish I knew whose house it once was. The field is owned by a man named Murphy but the house might have nothing to do with him. The hay or wheat has been cut so we are not walking on a crop. The remaining stubble makes a clacking kind of sound when we step on it. When both dogs are close to me we sound like an cartoon orchestra but mostly the dogs are rushing around at high speed and I am clicking and clacking through the stubble alone. I am trying to find the right word to describe this crunching hollow noise. I am trying to find a word for the noise and I am trying to find a name for the walk.

Frank’s Shop

5 September Tuesday

Frank’s shop is closing. Today is the final day. Frank is in hospital.  He is in intensive care. He had surgery last week. If the shop is closing it is all very serious. The shop is Frank’s shop. The family lives in the house connected to the shop but I have never seen Frank’s wife working there. I never saw Frank’s wife at all. Or if I did see her I did not know who she was. His son worked in the shop sometimes. Last time I saw the son in there I asked for a lemon. The son asked why would I be wanting a lemon. I bought milk just so that I would be buying something since I had gone there for a lemon but there were no lemons to buy and I felt I could not leave without buying something. The shop has been a center for local news and for couriers dropping off parcels for people who live down long hard to find lanes as well as a place for basic groceries and newspapers. It is the only shop in the village. There is the shop and the church and the school and the community hall. That is the entire village center. Frank used to have a post office counter in the shop but that got taken away a few years ago. Now there is only a post box outside. There are also two pumps, one for petrol and one for diesel. I am sad about the village without the shop. I am worried about the old dog who walks there every day for his treat. I am worried for Frank’s family. I am worried for Frank. We are all worried for Frank.

4 September Monday

The physiotherapist was happy with my hand. She sent me home with more exercise instructions and a piece of rubber. It is three months since my fall and fracture. I feel I am healed. She said it will be a few more months before I regain full strength. She said there was no need to see her again but even so there is a good chance that I will see her again as she lives just up on the road in Grange near to where the old dog walks the middle line every day to go to Franks’s shop. We spoke of the old dog and we spoke of Frank and his recent surgery. Now that we know who each of us are and we would recognize one another we probably will indeed see each other often. There is a good chance we saw one another before but since we did not know each other then we did not know that we lived sort of nearby.

3 September Sunday

Michael sits on my knee. He sits on Simon’s shoulder. He has not sat upon my shoulder and he has not sat upon Simon’s knee. Today he sat on Maud’s foot. He is completely happy to be near us and on us. Sudden movements frighten him but mostly he appears to like the sound of voices and the presence of people. He made a diving attack on some other robins who showed up and started to eat some of his crumbs so I am less worried about him being able to survive than I was. His leg is bent but it does not stop him from flying. It does not dangle from his body in such a useless way.

2 September Saturday

Last Saturday we had a stall at the market. We sold our books and cards. Jim brought a table and a canopy kind of cover for us. It did not rain so we did not need the cover but it was nice to have it just in case. Catherine loaned me the postcard rack from the shop. She said I could take it if I took all of the cards out and then put them all back in when I returned the rack. I asked what would she do if someone needed a postcard while they are all shoved into a box. She snorted and said “No one is after buying postcards anymore.”

The stallholders at the Farmers Market try to offer some things to interest the busloads of visitors who arrive every Saturday morning. Sometimes as many as five buses arrive. The tourists might be from somewhere else in Ireland or from England or they might be from France or Germany or Israel. They could be from anywhere. Once there was a load from China. They come to see Cahir Castle and the Swiss Cottage and the tiny John Nash church. It is always nice if lots of ducks are in the river. The visitors love the ducks. The trouble with busloads of tourists is that they are driven from place to place and that usually involves a lot of eating stops and a big breakfast. They have no need to buy plants or raw fish or vegetables. Stella makes some small single portion rectangular cakes with them in mind as well as scones, which are popular. Traveling types might purchase apples, berries or a jar of jam. They might buy a wooden egg cup or a bowl or a tea cosy.

Pat likes to have different tables now and again just to vary what the market offers. I was convinced that the visitors would be delighted to see some of our cards on offer. We filled up the rack with a fine selection. The rack held about 24 cards. We tried to bring things mostly of local interest or of Irish interest. Catherine was right. Not much of anyone wants to buy postcards anymore. A busload from Dresden spent a long time looking at every single card but they did not buy any. They did not look at the books. We did sell some things and we had a lovely morning. We came home with gifts of a cauliflower and green beans.

When I returned the postcard rack to the shop Catherine said someone had been looking for a postcard that morning for the first time in months and no one knew where the boxful off the rack had been put.

Today, customers of the regular sort, not the visiting sort, asked us why we were not there with our books again. They are asking when we will return. This week we were just customers but maybe we shall borrow the table and the canopy and the postcard rack and do it all again sometime before winter comes.

1 September Friday

My eyes are seeing colours in the new way all the time now. Most greys have a lot of lavender in them. I was afraid two eyes done would return me to the old colour range but blues and lavenders are now more prevalent than blacks and greys. Sometimes I need to ask someone else how a colour looks to them. I cannot close first one eye and then the other to test by myself anymore. The world looks a lot more lively. This morning the entire valley disappeared in a thick white fog but even the white fog had a nice bright tone on it. By the time the sun cleared it away I sort of missed the look of the world ending at the fence.

31 September Thursday

Michael was being badly bullied by some bigger fatter robins this morning. He walked into the kitchen so I fed him some cracker crumbs on the floor. He ate in his sitting down position in peace and quiet.

30 August Wednesday

As I drove to Kilkenny a sign appeared several times on trees and posts. It was not until the return trip from the hospital when I was not allowed to drive that I realized that HAM SANDWICH was not an announcement for something to eat. The big black letters had a date printed small below it. That was when I realized that HAM SANDWICH was the name of a band.