Monday, 11 June 2007

June Days

The past few weeks have given us Mediterrean like weather making The view from Kiltumper, quite stunning. The Husband says we no longer need to go to France for our holidays because here the sun is blazing away upon flower and human alike. The Son has returned from his 2 month exchange in Maredsous in Belguim. His French is nearly perfect and the Daughter, who has just finished her second year studying Fashion at NCAD, (The National College of Art and Design in Dublin) is happily working away on Oxford Street in London as an intern for Harpers Bazaar. She says it's not at all like Ugly Betty or The Devil Wears Prada. In fact she is sitting on the floor in an unairconditioned room tagging clothes and returning them to Bond Street. I remind her that we all started somewhere, most of us at the bottom. The Husband is busy writing on his laptop as he sits at the long table overlooking the garden. Last year this time he was conjuring images of a sun-soaked landscape for his characters who walk sandal-footed across herb encrusted hills somehere on a Turkish island. ('John' comes out in the US in February 2008 and in the UK/Ireland the followng autumn.) Now the characters of his next book 'Boy and Man', the sequel to 'Boy in the World', (Harper Collins, UK) are in Ethiopia.

Meanwhile in Kiltumper’s garden the last of the poppies are fading. Their petals scatter on the flower bed like discarded coloured tissue paper that has been left too long in the sun. They leave as big a mess behind them as the great show they perform in the month of June. Truth is they are a bit sloppy after their grand appearance but the garden wouldn’t be the same without them, especially this season when they held the setting sun in their crimson cups.

I took a walk one evening when the cottage was quiet. Everyone was away. I followed the small road that borders the big meadow behind us and climbed over the gate into the field known locally as ‘Lower Tumper’. Before most of the lower hill field was planted with hardwood trees and spruce, the field was home to our grazing cows and their calves. Back in the days when the Husband and I tried our hand at farming we walked up these hill fields to count our small stock and stand amongst them, listening to the bird song. It was a different time in our life. It was a different view. I never thought I’d be thankful for that massive monument of metal that stands in the corner of the big meadow but I am. It has saved a remnant of the field-that-was as a long swath beneath the wires of the pylon. A fifty yard path separates an emerging forest on either side. Without the pylon the field would be total plantation. It occurred to me that as the rest of the country is becoming more developed, here things are becoming more wild. You can sense wildlife everywhere. I was walking across the thistle and tall grass into the heart of the hardwoods when some movement in the edge of my vision made me stop. I turned in time to see a fox climbing over the stone wall and into the field at the back of the house where two brown horses stay for summer grazing. Sensing me, the fox stopped still. Then it turned and looked at me, and I looked at it, both of us perhaps marvelling like neighbours at the stillness and beauty of the warm evening. In a snapshot second it was pastoral picture perfect. Sometimes everything comes together, and alone on the hill I recalled last year when the Husband and the Student were discussing Robert Frost’s poem, 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening' for his honour english Junior Cert exam. And now here I was, a single and yet not so single viewer in the silent landscape of ash and oak, of fox and horse, of meadow and sky. My brother, Stephen, who passed away under the first full moon of May, would have loved that image. He would have loved the idea of me standing alone in the field of my ancestors and thinking not of Yeats but of Frost.


jm said...

lovely Chris

Anonymous said...

I've just been re-reading "Oh Come Ye Back..." and took it into my head to google both of you. I am so pleased you have done so well!
I was especially interested in your reading project in SouthAfrica, as I work in literacy in Prince Edward Island, managing a volunteer program with (mainly) seniors who go into schools and read with children. They love it! and it is working. As you know.
Congratulations and thanks!
Mary Burke

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