stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
stevenpiziks ([personal profile] stevenpiziks) wrote2008-07-08 09:06 pm
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Ireland Journal--Wednesday (A Piece of the Bog)

Slowly sorting everything out fromthe trip.  The new picture for the Ireland entries, incidentally, is from Loughcrew.  It's what a collapsed tomb looks like from above.  I was standing on top of Cairn T when I took it.

Wednesday

I declared Wednesday a day off from siteseeing.  This turned out to be a good idea.  It was raining terribly when I woke up, a nasty, driving rain.

Took a hot shower, made breakfast (cereal and eggs), then ran a couple errands.  First, I needed to do some laundry.  There’s a laundry in Athboy, one of the many low, stone buildings downtown.  It’s called the Washboard, and I remembered seeing it many times on my way through town.  I put my laundry in the shoulder bag I’d bought in Dublin and headed off.

It turned out that the Washboard isn’t a self-service laundry.  Inside the door was a counter staffed by two dark-haired, middle-aged women.  In a room behind the counter, I could see washers and dryers running.  Blue bags of clothes stood in neat piles to my left.  You dropped your clothes off, specified wash or wash and dry, and left.  Fees were determined by how many clothes you dropped off.  When I handed my clothes over, the woman asked, “When do you want them back?”

“Today?” I asked hesitantly.

“Ummm . . . ” the woman said.

“Tomorrow, then?”

“Tomorrow evening?” she replied.

And so it was.  I took my ticket and left.

Next up, I stopped at the butcher shop for some meat, remembering just in time to order in kilograms instead of pounds.  I wanted to get something from the fruit and vegetable seller, but they were closed =again.=   (Are they ever open?  Geez.)  Stopped by the library to see if they had Internet, but they weren’t open until 2:00.  Popped into the supermarket for a few other things, and drove home for lunch.

Did very little after that.  At 3:00, went back into town to get on-line.  The library, a very small, rounded building tucked into a courtyard behind the main street, did have Internet, so I caught up on e-mail, but the library computers used an old version of IE, and the computers were locked, unable to update anything.  This meant that Java and Flash wouldn’t run worth a damn, and half the sites I wanted to access didn’t work at all.  Sigh.

The library is right in front of a nineteenth-century church complete with falling-down graveyard.  The gate was open, meaning I didn’t have to trespass, so I wandered over to have a look.  It was very much like the graveyard at Slane and the one where I climbed over the wall--a lot of old, decrepit graves with half-broken tombstones mixed in with brand new graves.  It’s weird.  These are working graveyards, but clearly no one is assigned to look after it.  Graves must be the responsibility of the surviving family, and once the family dies or has moved away, that’s it.

I found one grave that was kind of weird.  The stone proclaimed it was the resting place of a 90-year-old woman who had died in 1978.  Added to the stone (as happens a lot here) was the proclamation that it was also the resting place of her son, who had died in 1980 at age 77.  It’s possible, though unlikely, that the son’s wife is still alive.  I think it’s more likely he never married and was buried in the same plot with Mom.  No mention of Dad, and I can’t imagine he’s still around--he’d be over 115 years old, if he and Mom were of an age.  So we have Mom alone with Son, who never married.  Mom dies, and two years later, Son follows.  Why do I have the feeling this was a creepy, unhealthy relationship?

Came home, lit a fire, and wrote in this journal.  It’s been a relaxing day so far.  Running around siteseeing is tiring, and I didn’t know how much I needed a break until I took one!

After a while, I decided to go for a walk.  The notebook for the cottage mentions a bog a short distance away, and I decided to go look for it.

By now it was about 10:00, but nightfall doesn’t fully come until well after midnight, so I wasn’t worried.  I turned right outside the cottage gate, as the notebook instructed, and walked a mile or so down the winding country lane.  I came across a plaque that someone raised to comemorate “those who fell at the ambush of Girley” in 1798.  Girley is the place where I found the very sad graveyard--it’s basically the graveyard and a public hall, nothing else.  I have no idea what the ambush was about, though I imagine it involved the English occupation.  I’ll have to look it up when I get home or ask if Siobhan knows.

I found the road leading to the bog.  It was across from a derelict two-story stone house that now sat forlornly in the middle of a muddy cow pasture.  I wondered who owned it.  The house looked perfectly solid.  Some of the roof slates needed replacing, as did the windows, but these houses were built to last.  Who had lived there and why was the place just empty now?

At any rate, across from it was an even narrower lane, just wide enough for a single car.  It was done with mud and gravel, and I regretted not changing into my hiking boots.  The ever-present hedges hemmed it in.  The sun was really low, and cows lowed all around me, looking for each other in order to reunite the herd for nightfall.  I walked among hedges and overhanging trees.  This place could have been from now or five hundred years ago.  There was no sign of anything modern.

Ireland is like this.  You get outside the cities, and the modern stuff vanishes.  It’s still there, it’s just largely hidden.  Ireland is still a rural country, dominated by farms and animals, and I like that.

I walked in the total absence of man-made sounds.  The air was damp and soft and cool.  More cows lowed or outright bellowed.  I went up and down little hills, still bordered by hedgerows, and eventually came to a pine forest.  It was getting dark now, and the forest was already in shadow.  I followed the road, and it changed into more of a trail than anything else as I did so.

The forest was spooky.  The ground was coated in a carpet of green moss.  Some of the trees had fallen, and they were coated in the same moss.  The only sound was of the occasional drip of water and a soft night bird calling.  Everything was hushed.  No undergrowth anywhere among the trees.  I saw what looked like trails through the moss, but they weren’t--it was just the landscape.  There were drops and holes and sudden hillocks everywhere.  As I walked further in, I suddenly realized--this was the bog.  I was in it.  I took care to stay on the trail.  I didn’t want to get lost in here, not with night closing in.

The entire place was hushed, like held breath.  Moss clung to everything, pushing its green fingers into bark and ground.  I tested the ground to see how deep it went, and gave up with it went up to my wrist.  I had imagined a bog as wetter.  I could walk on the moss, and it wasn’t very squishy.  I think this bog had been partially drained.  Siobhan had mentioned harvesting peat from this bog, so this clearly wasn’t a completely wild bog.

After more walking, I came to an open field.  The lane, barely a track now, continued.  A cow gate barred the way, but there was a stile over it with a sign cautioning hikers to use it properly.  I climbed over it and kept walking.  It was lighter out in the field.  Ground-hugging, scrubby brush spread in all directions now.  A mist rose steadily all around me, closing in and hiding the horizon.  I felt like I had stepped back in time.

Just ahead off the track, I saw what appeared to be some strange bushes.  They were scruffy and blocky.  I couldn’t make out what they were.  I left the track to examine them.  When I got close enough, I saw they were actually artificial.  They were piles of peat bricks--semi-rectangular chunks of peat cut from the bog and piled up in shin-high alternating layers to dry.  I later learned these piles are called “castles.”  I grabbed three bricks.  They were red-brown lighter than they looked.  I had a little one, a middle-sized one, and a big one.  I decided to take them back to the cottage to burn in the fireplace to see how they smelled so I’d be able to write about it later.

The mist was closing in fast, as was the darkness.  I decided I’d better head back.  As I walked through the fog, I realized I couldn’t see the cow gate or the stile for the mist.  I was walking down a backwoods track at sunset with three pieces of peat moss, a large piece, a middle-sized piece, and a little piece.  Was this the beginning of a fairy tale?  I hoped not.  Too many such things have the words, “And he never saw his family again” in them.

Eventually reached the gate and climbed the stile without incident, then set out for home.  It was fully dark by the time I got to the main road, and every time a car drove past, I took the precaution of stepping all the way to the hedge.  There’s simply no edge of the road around here, and curves hide you from oncoming traffic, so I flattened myself against the greenery to make sure I didn’t get smacked.  Got home safely, put the turf next to the fireplace to dry, and went to bed.