The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: October, 2019

Disembodied Hands

14 October Monday

The announcement is at the entrance to the little park at the Old Bridge. THE FAMILY THAT PRAY TOGETHER STAY TOGETHER is freshly re-painted every year. I love the disembodied hands. The fingers made of concrete get thicker and more stubby looking with each new coat of paint.

The Virgin and her surrounding structure, which is somewhere between a boat and a bathtub, are also repainted regularly. It is the same shade of blue that is used for any painting of grottoes and statues.  I think of it as Virgin Blue. The stones in the stone wall are painted white.  The halo which used to be a glowing blue neon is now just a wire structure. The glass has been broken and It has not been replaced. If I pass by at night the halo is no longer illuminated but since I remember that it used to be lit, my mind keeps the glow going. The wire looks more like a lampshade than it ever did when it was supporting the neon.

12 October Saturday

A lot of rain. A lot of wet. There is mud everywhere. I drove around the corner and slid from one side of the track to the other. I had no control of the vehicle. The mud was in charge. John watched me slide. When I got out of the car, he said, “You Got Taken.”

11 October Friday

The days are getting cooler and Alma’s dog is getting older. The old dog spends most of her day sleeping in the Hot Press. Alma is getting older too so she understands this need for sleep. Alma’s biggest worry is that she will close the door to the Hot Press and forget that Susie is inside.

10 October Thursday

His appointment with the nurse was cancelled due to A Bereavement. He will have to wait God only knows how long for another appointment. Everything stops for A Bereavement and the How Long part is never clear. Grief is not a finite thing. There might be travel to be considered and there may be obligations. No employer can deny how much time can be taken off work for A Bereavement. I think two or three days are considered normal and after that things are up for negotiation.

9 October Wednesday

Alistair visited from Orkney. We walked together up the mass path and stopped to collect horse chestnuts the top. I was filling my pockets with bright shiny conkers and he was collecting the ones barely visible and still in their prickly outer husks. He told me that there are no horse chestnut trees on Orkney. He was gathering a selection of the leathery capsules to show to his grandson who has never seen horse chestnuts. Now I think of Alistair’s grandson every time I pass whatever bounty the tree has dropped since I last walked that way. Today I was bending down and collecting a few more chestnuts when I was thumped from behind and knocked to my knees. It was Jessie the new dog at the Shine’s house. Jessie is another one of those names that people give to dogs but rarely to people. There is always another female dog called Jessie. This Jessie is a St Bernard puppy. At five months old, she is already the size of a small pony and she loves to jump up on people. She has no idea how strong she is. I dread to think how big she will be when she is fully grown.

Evening Is Gone Altogether.

8 October Tuesday

The raspberries continue to ripen so I continue to pick them. There are fewer berries each day so my gathering work is now once a day rather than twice a day. It is better if I pick at the end of the day because the mornings are so wet with dew.  The freezer is full of bagged berries. Raspberry vinegar is quietly fermenting. Instead of two large bowls every day, I bring in one not so large bowl a day.  Everyone we know has received bowls of berries. It has been easy to be generous with such bounty.

7 October Monday

The nights are drawing in. Each day feels shorter than the day before. Today it was not fully light until almost 8 o’clock. The sunset will be at 18.54. If a day is grey and rainy it feels much shorter than a bright day. Conversations are punctuated with a shake of the head and the words, “Ah, Now. The evenings are gone altogether.” Evening is the word for afternoon. Evening is followed by night. If evening is gone altogether then we proceed directly from morning to night. This is all a bit depressing.

6 October Sunday

It has been raining off and on for days. Today was sunny and almost warm. By late afternoon there was no excuse. The grass was dry. We needed to cut it. It was a rapid kind of mowing just so that everything that has grown long does not get out of control. The time available to cut grass gets smaller and smaller as the days get shorter. By the time the morning dew has dried off, it might nearly be dark. Mowing in the dark is a bad idea. Cutting the paths down through the long meadow grass makes everything look sharp and crisp. When the grassy middle of the boreen gets very long and starts to rub against the bottom of the car we know it is well past time to cut it. It does not get cut every time the rest of the grass gets cut. There is not much I like better than the look of the Freshly Mown Middle.

5 October Saturday

Michael has been pestering us for months. He has been inviting us to come and look at his Old Books. He has been promising us that his books are old and that they are valuable and that we will want to come and look at them. He was convinced that the books are valuable simply because they were old. Today was the day. We could no longer escape. He rushed out to his shed and pulled some books from a high shelf. Then he ran upstairs in the house and brought down several more books. A few of the books had covers but the covers were not the covers that had been on the books originally. At some point the books had been roughly torn out of their hard covers. Most of the books had been shoved back into a cover that was not the cover that belonged with the book block. Some of the pages had been used by children as paper for drawing. Some of the pages had been used for lists or for drawn diagrams. Many pages had been nibbled by mice and most were swollen with dampness. There was not one complete book among the 10 or 12 Valuable Volumes. We tried to explain that the books were indeed old but that old is not enough to make a book valuable. Michael became angry with us. The whole time he was talking his cigarette lighter was swinging back and forth. He had it attached to the lapel of his jacket with a safety pin. I could not take my eyes off it. He said that we were frauds and that we did not know anything about books. He said we were of No Use To Him At All.

4 October Friday

We were all waiting with excitement and trepidation for the arrival of Storm Lorenzo. The radio was full of news and warnings and sandbags. We knew that Galway and the west would get a great whacking when the storm came in off the ocean. The coastal areas were mostly under threat. All day Thursday, every conversation turned to Lorenzo. Storm Lorenzo was quickly shortened to Lorenzo. He was a threat but we already knew him. We were on intimate first-name terms with him. Each time the radio was on there was more news about where Lorenzo was, and what route he was taking and whether the warnings were Yellow or Orange. There was preparation in cities, towns and in the countryside, and in the homeless shelters. Battered and Blown were oft-used words. Bingo and Line Dancing and Bridge Clubs were cancelled all over the county. We were told to keep our mobile phones charged up and we were instructed how to call emergency numbers even if the lines and phone towers go down. We were told to have a battery-fed radio with fresh batteries at the ready, as well as candles and torches. Everyone was told to stay home and off the roads and if we did need to be out for any reason at all, we needed to watch out for trees and branches falling or already fallen. We were told that the trees were more dangerous because they were still so heavy. Heavy with what? I asked. The answer was leaves. The trees have not yet lost their leaves so they are heavier with leaves than they will be later when their leaves have fallen. We went to bed with the sound of the gusting wind. We woke up to the sound of gusting wind.
Today we are hearing reports from all over the country. Lorenzo was not as devastating as predicted. There are lots of congratulations at how well prepared we were. The wind continues. The wind is blowing and thrashing and blowing and gusting. It has not stopped once all night and all day.

3 October Thursday

Three Garda had set up a little road block. Every vehicle had to stop. There was no way to continue without stopping. Maybe they were checking to see if people had paid their road tax and if they had up to date insurance. Or maybe it was going to be a breathalyzer test. The laws for Drink Driving have become very strict. The police are checking people at night and they are also checking people in the morning because the medical experts say that it takes 18 hours for alcohol to leave the blood system. People get stopped on their way to work and pulled in for Drink Driving which means it is hard to have a glass of wine with dinner if you know you are going out the next morning. I waited for the two cars in front of me. When I got up to the officer in charge, I said, “Good Morning, Sir. What are you looking for today?” The man leaned right over to my window and said in a hushed voice, “We are looking for Americans but it’s okay. Now we have found one.” He stood up straight and waved me along.

 

2 October Wednesday

I am pleased to announce that Living Locally has been reprinted by Uniformbooks, with financial assistance from A Purse For Books. It presents a distilled selection of the years 2007-2012 from this blog, and is illustrated with my drawings of rusted metal objects. The new blue cover is even brighter and bluer than the original.  I could not be happier.

To order from Coracle:            coracle.ie/living-locally-2/

___________________

From Slow Boat Review by Nick Holton:

Robert Walser quoted in the opening pages of Living Locally:
“What I saw was as small and poor as it was large and significant, as modest as it was charming, as near as it was good, and as delightful as it was warm.”

When I established SlowBoat in it’s current iteration just over a year ago I would explicitly reference each post against one of the six themes that run beneath the surface of the content – boat / silence / seasonality / sense of place (navigating) / savouring / simplicity – however as the year has passed I’ve increasingly seen posts crossing my self-imposed thematic boundaries and touch on several, or all, themes in the one post.
This book review is a case in point. Artist, writer, printer, and bookmaker Erica Van Horn’s Living Locally is a celebration of simplicity, sense of place, savouring and seasonality.
A ‘chronicle of place’, direct, simple, ‘attention to the everyday’, essential, elemental, colloquial, ‘strangeness found in such a concentration of repetition and usage’. I could take a few lessons from Van Horn when writing blog posts! The fact is this selection from her journals of life in rural Ireland is pretty much perfect.The writing is crystalline in its eloquent simplicity. What she achieves with brevity and gentle repetition is a complete picture of a community, it’s roots, it’s people, the weather, the days chores. It’s a wonderful, admirable and quietly seductive piece of writing. And it gets under your skin, in a good way. It’s neither whimsical nor overtly nostalgic, the descriptive narratives are just that. Acutely observed, bittersweet, astute, comic, warm, Van Horn tells simple tales profoundly well.
I found the book as effective an antidote to our gloomy, strife-torn modern world as you’re likely to get.

Everything is Grand.

1 October Tuesday

It is a simple method for making a tall support. One barrel is placed on top of another barrel. Both ends are cut off the top barrel. The bottom barrel might have its bottom cut off or it might be left on to help to keep the shape. The two are held together somehow while they are filled with a cement mix. When the concrete is hard this makes for a tall strong column. The column can be used to hold up a fence or a gate. I am sure it can be used for others things but what it cannot do is to be moved.

30 September Monday

Everything is Grand. An event is Grand. Dinner is Grand. The weather or a day can be Grand. Grand can be a refusal as well as a positive description. If someone is offered a cup of tea and they do not want a cup of tea they will say “No, you’re Grand.” Or “I’m Grand.” Getting the hay in before a rain is Grand. If something is suggested to do or to be done, the answer to imply agreement will be “Grand”. It is a multi-purpose word which gets used every day in a great number of ways. I doubt I will ever get all of the ways.

29 September Sunday

They call the mannequin Mandy. She is propped up near the potatoes when there are any potatoes growing. Otherwise she just stands or leans around somewhere outside. Robert had some duct tape wrapped around her private parts “Just for The Decency” he said, because her old clothes had worn out or blown to bits or somehow fell off when they moved to the new house. Brendan came up on his tractor to break up the soil with a rotavater. He was shocked by Mandy’s near nudity so he halted his work and drove all the way back to his own house and went upstairs and found some of the clothes left in the press by his mother. His mother has been dead now for at least ten years. He chose an outfit for Mandy and drove back up to Robert’s house on his tractor. Driving from Robert’s to Brendan’s house and back again is a slow enough journey on the tractor. It took Brendan most of the morning. He dressed the mannequin carefully and stood her up beside the ditch. He then finished the job he’d been hired for which was the tilling of the soil.

28 September Saturday

I meet the Dulux Man every Saturday. Every Saturday he asks me if I have found a new dog yet. Every Saturday I tell him I have not found a new dog. I tell him that I am not really looking. Or I say that I am not actively looking to find a new dog but if the right dog happened along I would not be averse to the idea. His current dog is a spaniel and she is perpetually eager to go. She is always tugging at the leash which helps to keep conversations with the Dulux Man brief. He tells me that he takes the dog out four or five times a day so sometimes people say to him that they have not seen him out walking that day but he says that his walking times are always changing and the dog does not mind so neither does he. He never speaks of the dog by a name. The dog is just She. The Dulux Man spends a while at the market talking to the people who are there every week. He talks to those who are customers and those who are vendors. He does not buy anything himself. He just talks. He always wears one of those fishing vests with many pockets. In the summer, he wears a sleeveless T-shirt underneath the vest and when the temperature drops he puts on a long sleeved shirt. It is only September but he has already moved into his long-sleeved mode. I do not know his name so I still call him the Dulux Man in my head. He does not know my name but he does not care. He remembers my dog and dogs are what interest him. One Saturday he told me that his mother was originally from Cahir but she moved over to England when she was young and that is where she lived and that is where he lived too somewhere near Lancaster until he came over here and he has been here since. These are the things I know about him. It is rare that we speak of anything except dogs.

27 September Friday

So far the cows have not arrived in the yard. They now appear to be held at a close distance by a thin string. It is that kind of white string stretched taut between metal posts. The string has a little thin bit of wire with an electric charge in it and I think the cows have learned not to touch it. Sometimes I do not believe there really is a charge in the string. I think the cows just believe there is a charge when they recognize the white string so they stay well away from it.

26 September Thursday

I have received a Jury Summons. I really do not want to sit on a jury again. It was 2016 when I did so before. The older man who was on trail was defending himself although he knew little or nothing of the legal process. He attended proceedings wearing the jacket, waistcoat and trousers from three different tweed suits. He did not wear a tie but his white shirt was clean and buttoned right up to the top. The case was confusing as it involved the accusation of himself entering a solicitors office and throwing a large quantity of used motor oil along the receptionist’s counter and onto the carpet. He made a terrible mess and then he raced out of town on a red bicycle followed by a female Garda on her own bicycle who stood up in court as a witness. After a prolonged flapping of papers, the accused announced to the court that he had never owned a red bicycle. Things in the courtroom progressed very slowly. After several days of this kind of slow procedure, the man changed his plea to Guilty and we. the jury, were sent home. I never understood why he was angry at the solicitor nor why he chose to throw oil around as a way to vent his anger.

25 September Wednesday

What a week for weather. Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. Rain. Rain. It is hard to do much out of doors. I am keeping a close eye on the cows in Joe’s field. They are not in the near field but they are in the field just beside the near field. They are very close. If they come back tonight after milking and move into the near field as is their normal way, they will barely be contained. The fence is rotten. The ground is wet and the wood is wet and the fence is old and now it is rotten. It is not rotting. It has rotted. In the last few months, we have propped up bits of the fence and nailed lengths of wood along the horizontal parts but now our temporary fixes are not enough. The posts are rotting from the ground up. We know that Joe is aware of the problem. He will get around to repairing the fence when he has a chance. I just hope he doesn’t forget and let the cows into the near field because if they are in that field they will be here in our yard in a matter of minutes. With everything so wet and so squishy their heavy feet will make a terrible mess.

24 September Tuesday

A sparrow hawk sits on a utility pole between here and Old Grange. He has been on the same pole every day for a week. He sits very very still and moves his head slowly from left to right, right to left and left to right again. The movement is so slight he could be almost asleep. When he sees the prey he wants he swoops off from his pole and he moves fast.  He is gone in a flash.

23 September Monday

The car situation is not as dire as feared. Mike says he can repair what is wrong next week and if we pass the re-test we can put off looking for a new car. Or else we can take our time looking for the right second-hand car. At least we need not leap into a decision.