stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
stevenpiziks ([personal profile] stevenpiziks) wrote2008-07-08 09:43 pm
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Ireland Journal--Thursday (Rain and Bog)


Hmmm . . . it rained all day today.  I’d thought about trying to go horseback riding, but it’s been miserable out.  I ate a leisurely breakfast, then puttered around some more and wrote a bit.  (I was writing in my cottage in Ireland!)  The rain continued to fall, a nasty, driving rain that I just didn’t want to brave.  Besides, I’d really seen just about everything I wanted to see around here.  The only exception is Four Knocks, another set of passage tombs.  But Four Knocks is on private land.  It isn’t hard to get permission--you just knock on the landowner’s door and they’re happy to let you have the key--but the directions to get there are complicated, and I just didn’t feel up to searching for the place, especially since it’s way out in the middle of nowhere.

Eventually went into town and picked up my laundry, went to the library for Internet stuff, the store and the ATM, then came back to the cottage again.  I’ve kept the fire going all day to keep the damp away.  The cottage has electric heat, but that’s a separate charge, payable when I leave, but wood and coal are free.  So I’m burning them.  Had a really good fire going for a long time, too--the sort that you can throw any piece of wood on in any orientation and it’ll burn fine.

Came back, and it was still raining.  Blrg.  Ate a simple supper, wrote a bit more, and then the rain started to clear.  I was going stir crazy, so I decided to go down to the bog again for a better look.  I put my hiking boots on this time and took the camera.

Reached the forested part of the bog and it was little changed, except it was lighter out.  The birds calling softly, and I took a bit of video.  The moment I did, the spooky birds stopped calling.  When I stopped the camera, they started again.

This time, I kept on going, out of the pine forest, over the stile, and past the castles of bricks.  I was actually on a nature walk, marked by posts with yellow arrows on them.  Occasional signs had educational bits on them, including the “castles” thing, and the fact that people used to store food in the bogs.  Every so often, modern peat cutters find such things, including big pots of butter.  Apparently, the bog was a really good place to store the stuff, assuming you remembered where you’d put it.

The unforested part of the bog is covered in heather, which we don’t have in Michigan but figures heavily in untold thousands of folk songs and stories from Ireland.  At this time of year, it’s brownish-green and about shin high.  It looks a little like an evergreen and it seems like it should be prickly, but when I touched it, I found it soft and springy.  No wonder the songs and stories talk about people sleeping on it.  It would make a comfortable mattress or pillow.  I pulled at some to see what it smelled like.  It smelled like fresh green grass.

I kept following the nature trail.  Sometimes it was a gravel road, sometimes it was a pair of tire tracks through grass, and sometimes it was a simple footpath.  Long ago, the only roads through bogs were boards or logs people laid down so they could get to their own section to mine the peat.  Peat has to dry for several weeks before its useful, incidentally.  In the Girley Bog, where I was walking, the peat moss is in the middle of the bog, and difficult to get to.

I didn’t venture off the trail into the bog for fear of getting lost.  All the areas off the trail looked alike, and I could see how people easily lost their way.  The heather springs back, leaving no trail when you pass through it, and the marshy ground eats up footprints.

At last I got tired.  The trail was supposed to loop around, but I had no idea how much further it went before it looped.  It was also getting dark and I definitely didn’t want to be out in the bog after sunset, trail or no trail.  So I turned back.

It was a long, long walk home.  I must have walked five or six miles, all told, and much of it over uneven or mushy ground.  My boots and feet were soaked!  It was very nice to put on dry socks back in the cottage.

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