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.
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.