After four days of gales and pelting rain in the west of Ireland, the sun decided to show itself a few moments before sunset. The mountain in the distance is Croagh Patrick, or the Reek as it’s known locally. It’s been a place of pilgrimage from long before the followers of St. Patrick started trekking up its scree slopes in bare feet. Over the years I’ve taken many photos of it from all angles. Here are a few.
The raven came by in the late afternoon
three caws for hello, I see you down there
fingering the damp wash on the line
weak sun on your back, wondering
if it’s strong enough for drying, halfheartedly
sweeping wet leaves, pulling
shocking green weeds out of the gutter
stroking the tabby, scenting the apple decay.
You, walking around and around
your garden, cutting tangled armfuls
of herbs to suspend in the sunny spot
over the kitchen table, pulling
rattling skeleton pods of beans out of the rain
softened earth, mounding horse manure
over the rhubarb, turning the compost
disturbing the worms.
You, standing in a tree-framed window
of sunshine, ear half listening to the whispering
of oak leaves laughing dryly at their shriveled jokes
breathing the must of leaf mold
seeking the spot by the back door, somewhere
behind the three waiting pumpkins
where the cricket has chosen to sing
and wondering why?
You, hefting clods of earth into a bucket, paying homage
to the wooly bear, curled in a patch of near-sun
the ladybug carcass—yellow and black
walnuts thudding on the roof and the ungodly
splashes of brilliance across the landscape
She was undone by small things
a lost button, a missed call, stale bread.
Her ribs could only expand to take in so much air
Guilt was a wolf’s shadow haunting
the end of her bed at night.
To darn a frayed patch gave her some satisfaction—
a wound remade with stout thread.
For brief moments she could make the world
stand still, cup water in her hands and watch
the pink light slipping through her fingers.
The veil was pulled back
skin against skin, moments so intense
tears burst from her eyes making her
laugh with joy and surprise.
Faintly he hears the bleat of Mr. Dollar’s goats from up the road.
No chance of a nice fat one trit-trotting across his bridge.
Troll must settle for devouring, with his unblinking eyes,
the beer swilling teenagers wielding spray cans,
the solitary Sunday morning fisherman,
the motionless heron gazing into the slow eddies for young trout.
In spring he feasts his eyes on the surge of brown flood water
muscling its way downstream,
and gorges on backyard debris—broken deckchairs, bicycle tires, chicken wire
In summer he drinks in the swallows swirling in the fly-riddled air
and the young ones peeping from their nests
tucked under the bridge’s metal struts
In fall he savors the acorns and maple helicopters
tossed into the current by kids hanging over the railings,
and the flocks of Canada geese settling into the marsh at twilight
And in winter the old troll digests the slow trickle under ice,
and the eagle perched in bare branches with one eye on the open water,
the other on the motionless figure watching from under the bridge.
The air is warm as blood,
buzzing with the vibrations of mating cicadas.
A swarm of red ants scurry
over the slats of the deck chair
that has not been moved since my father last sat in it;
this is now their territory.
Whilst he slumbered
under the green canopy of the walnut tree
they crept, antennae quivering, into his world.
Soon fertile eggs clustered
in a coral of larvae under the armrests.
Workers foraged relentlessly
from the lawn to the deck chair to feed their queen,
right under my father’s oblivious arse.
Did his brain search so diligently for words
to describe the scene in front of him?
Or did he simply accept if for a seamless whole
and himself embroidered into a corner of it—all of a piece?
I brought him a cup of coffee, thinking he’d linger,
beguiled by the natural world he once loved; but no.
Maybe the ants crept up his pant leg
or the swoop of a red-bellied woodpecker
jolted him out of his being
and sent him shuffling inside for a spoon of sugar.
It’s been a busy but rewarding season. My parents came from Ireland to visit and experience glorious summer weather and the constant circus of wildlife that surrounds our house in New York’s Hudson Valley. I celebrated my 50th birthday in my wild but fruitful garden, surrounded by family and friends. My wonderful daughter and mother helped me cook up a feast with lots of tasty local produce. Every day I marveled at my daughter’s artistic skills–painting, writing, embroidering. I watched my youngest son find grace and joy with each new physical skill he mastered. My eldest son’s summer was one long celebration of friends and freedom after four diligent years of high school. Taking him to college we got to explore two new amazing cities and states, Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. In between times, I interviewed fascinating and talented artisans for Dirt magazine. And I’ve been out and about with my notebook and camera, making the most of the long beautiful days. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the season as much as I have. –Your health! Melissa
Columbia River Gorge
Multinomah Falls, OR
Mt. Hood, Oregon
Sunrise through wildfire smoke over Mosier bluff, OR