But then, there are limits too to what a bush will put up with. We knew the way to her house and we blackguarded her, a rabble of us pounding her front door and then her back door with our fists, a yelling tangle of us making faces at her and screeching at her through her small, lace-curtained, cobwebbed windows.
One day, as we ran off in delighted triumph, I looked back and saw the white head of her, just the white head, craning forward in her doorway.
Om Serious Sounds
And maybe that was her story. Clearly, these birds did not agree with us when we said that the place we lived in was the back of beyond. How strange it was that we who so happily tormented Mary Ann were so tender towards nesting birds. Never once, by too sudden an approach, did we frighten a bird off her eggs.
A man of great sensitivity and deep intellect
Never once, by lingering too long, did we make a hatching bird uneasy. Never once, by over-forcing our way to a nest, did we leave evidence of intrusion behind us. Rather than cause the slightest upset, we were happy to walk away not knowing what we would otherwise have liked to have known. And this paid off, because, to a quite remarkable degree, it fostered an intuitive sense of our surroundings in us.
It was as if our oldest ancestors had whispered to us. In the stealth of our walking and, above all, in a kind of complicity with things, we were on the way to becoming good hunters.
When we were still quite young we heard a story that put us off the idea. Out in the bogs one evening, the Hard Man loosed his hound after a big, heavy-looking hare. Coming to the place of carnage, he saw that the hare had been ripped open and her four babies had fallen out. On the football field and at fairs and at dances, the Hard Man was able, and made sure he was known to be able, to look after himself.
He had never come second best out of a fight. It was unfortunate for eels that they looked as they did, that they felt as slimy in the hand as they did. To us they were a kind of shrivelled or degenerate water snake, and that gave us a right to be savage towards them. Also, there was the game of Snakes and Ladders. As far as we were concerned, it could just as well have been called the game of Eels and Ladders. And even though in school we were with uncompromising severity being taught that things were as bad as they were because of a rebellious will in human beings, we nonetheless felt that in some way or another chance was also at work.
Three squares ahead on the road home a snake waited for us, six squares ahead a ladder waited for us. A throw of the dice decided whether we were engulfed into a descent or enraptured in an ascent. A third possibility is that we would for the moment go forward in safety. And anyway, the people who lived that kind of life were always complaining about us.
They were always telling on us to teacher, policeman and priest. We took on the Snake that had engulfed us. We took him on where we knew we would find him, under loose stones in the shallows of our river. We hunted him with table forks and our glee was unconfined when we hung him aloft, gasping and wriggling, in the sunlight. We might have been poor, someone might have put bad eggs in our hay and, following on that, all but two of our cows might have slung their calves, but in spite of that we were still alive, we were willing to live, and days there were when, coming home from the river, we were heroes.
In the way that Michael the Archangel was a hero, we were heroes. We understood the thinking behind bad eggs in the hay or a skinned calf hanging from the door. Jameen had explained it to us. There is, he said, a certain amount of bad luck in the world, and it must fall on people, not on all people, but on many people. In the way that bread and wine are the elements of the Eucharist, the bad meat and the bad eggs are the elements of a dark sacrament, a sacrament in which some people attempt to divert the bad luck that might fall on themselves onto others.
Could we in some cases, we asked him, be dealing with something more than an effort to avoid bad luck? Could we, in some cases, be dealing with ill will? Is there wickedness as well as bad luck in the world? The only good answer to that will come to ye in prayer, he said.
That from a man who had eaten witchcraft and digested it and, no harm having come to him, there he was sitting by our fire, eating the supper my mother had given to him. In saying what he had just said, he had challenged me to outgrow the game of Snakes and Ladders, and something must have happened, because from that night on the eels had a better time of it. One Sunday evening everyone but me went to Holy Hour in the church.
I stayed behind to mind the house and have a good fire on for Jameen when he came in. I made tea for him and cut and buttered two slices of bread for him. Then I sat in the corner opposite him. I was proud that he was talking to me.
Serious Sounds (e-bok) | John Moriarty | ARK Bokhandel
About how many of our cows had calved. About how much turf we had left. About what I would do when I finished in primary school. There were fields that I loved. Fields with a sward of natural, wild herbs. In the Hill Meadow I saw hints of Paradise. It was the only name I had for the flowers that grew there, primroses and cowslips in the dry parts of it and in the more marshy parts, buttercups and orchids.
How could something so yellow as a buttercup come up out of brown soil? How could something so purple as an orchid come up out of it? How could something so perfect as a cowslip come up out of it?
Then I could walk the earth without hurting it. Then I could walk in Paradise. Right here in our own Hill Meadow, I could walk in Paradise. I often thought about the priest who had preached against piseogs. On the following Saturday night, when he went into his confession box to hear and forgive the sins of his people, he sat down on thirteen rotten eggs.
Ours was a house of talk. Big talk. Talk that never sickened into politeness, not even in the presence of holy things. And yet, because I suppose of their estranged rarity in a kitchen hung with flitches of bacon, I was often deeply surprised by two books I would sometimes come across, one was the Mass book, the Missal, the other was Iphigeneia at Aulis. What I above all knew is that I only had to open these books under the flitches of bacon hanging from six-inch nails on the high cross-beam and they made sense. Regularly, my mother would sharpen an already sharp knife on the concrete floor, knocking sparks out of it as she did so.
She would go out to the fowl-house and come back with an outraged, red, squawking cock. Wedging him between her thighs, she would pluck the throat feathers and then, cutting off his gloriously combed and wattled head, she would let the sometimes spasming, spattering rope of blood flow down into a bowl where it would settle into an accusation all the more dreadful because it was so serene. Outside, on a little rise in the yard, I had often held the basin to the red throat-torrent from a pig we were killing, held it till her last gurgle, held it till her last unsquealing collapse into cuttable meat.
Or was it that the universe has decided to go blind and go deaf? Is that the only way it can cope with being what it is? Looking at the quiet head, so gloriously combed and wattled, it was hard to believe that Agamemnon could have anything but a red homecoming.
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If only while we were singing them, these hymns drowned out the accusing silence, they drowned out the accusing squeal. In August I was in the bog drawing out the turf with our ass and cart, the cart mounted with rails I had borrowed from Dan Quinn. I was having an easy time of it, bringing out about fifty railfulls every day. There was a lot of handling in that.
Filling the rails, I had of course to handle every sod once, and then, emptying them outside by the road, even with the cart tipped up, I had to handle most of them a second time. What I was seeing was the convent girls.