It is a morning like every other morning in the year of Blot – although if every morning was going as well as this one I’d be right happy. The prospects of another fine day propel me from our sun-filled bedroom. That same sun that has not featured too prominently in our daily lives for many long years seems to have favoured us in this year of Blot (2020), the year of COVID -19, of the Pandemic Virus. Now it is finding its feet like us to begin another day, rising higher and higher over the tops of the trees on the hill above the house.
There is no season to this. No apparent reason either, though there are dark rumours of global sabotage by power sick moguls and of taboo usages far away in the East in the food chain that has sprung this on us. So this is where we are. Winter has turned to spring and spring has turned to summer and yet like in Noah’s Ark we await the end of our confinement and restrictions. We long for the arrival of the day of our full liberation to continue with the fulfillment of our innate creative instincts engendered in us at the dawn of time. There may be a purpose though. We might find it hidden in the folds of our heavy garments of restrained energies. They say there is a purpose to everything under the sun. I believe so but ‘Tar éis a tuigtear gach beart’, not until afterwards do we understand. To some extent in an age of recycling we ourselves and the world we live in are being recycled. It is not unrelated, one might think, that just as climate change and the clamour for its prevention had reached its highest peak COVID came to freeze the flow of carbon upwards by near-emptying our highways and our city streets of motorized vehicles and putting people back on bikes again.
Talks earlier this morning on the bedroom radio of the ongoing restrictions on the real-time live expression of family love and of even, more seriously, references to the grief of confined friends and relations on the lonely deaths of loved ones. Distance, at a time when the world had become a global village because of the ease of air and sea travel, has turned out to be a stumbling block due to travel restrictions of all kinds. Recent news of a trip to Mars becoming evident in the sightings of a bright flying star-like object low above the western horizon reminds me again of how our planet, having become an unhealthy and unfriendly place for humankind, may have to be abandoned for any available alternative like Mars. I will add here with tongue in cheek that all it lacks is a little bit of atmosphere. Yes, I’m afraid we are stuck with what we’ve got and we’d better mind it. Maybe also a young man I met on Zoom last night coloured my tea for me. We were both on a trial-run of a Pop Up Gaeltacht, a forum for Gaelic speakers which in normal time takes place in selected pubs. Despite being barred like everybody else by Covid that didn’t stop the host having her own brand of cocktail or some of the rest of us Zoomers enjoying a bottle of beer or two – or even a mug of tea! Anyway, this fear óg was doing a doctorate in Astronomy or as he said himself Réalteolas in a Finnish University. Even the sky is not the limit. Space is out there for us.
As I stir the porridge for two, for my wife and I, on the now nicely warmed up range I’m preoccupied with the fact that Panda, our genial green-eyed spotlessly self-groomed black and white cat is not home yet from her night’s rambles by country road and wood and stream. Out there it’s the law of the jungle and so far it looks like the cat is the lion-king. Just then she emerges from our bedroom. The fly-window was obviously open and she didn’t bother to knock. She enters the kitchen and signals her need to get to the back porch where her breakfast awaits. I oblige by opening the hall door for her. I am her unpaid Jeeves. She pays in purrs and lap leaps when she decides to settle down and rest. Later she may return to the bedroom to have a long undisturbed sleep on the duvet after her night shift. The radio is now on in the kitchen. Today is Saturday and Damien O’ Reilly is on as usual with his Countrywide programme. A lot of farm talk going on. There’s music too and I took great interest in Finbar Wrights singing of Salva Regina in the context of his story of how his hearing of the Vespers sung by the monks in Glenstal Abbey had left a lasting impression on him. He spoke too of how he was brought up on a mixed farm like myself, and how the raising of stock and the growing of crops were of tantamount importance to his mother and father for the financing and feeding of the family. It’s well I know it from my own childhood in the fifties and sixties. We lived off the land and the odd few pound from England. My older brother Pat was one of those who took the boat to England in 1955. He made out good there and came home when the economic tide turned. Sadly at the onset of Covid-19, he died from the virus. R.I.P. my beloved brother.
The sun is gaining height in the heavens and soon it will be time to drop the pen and grab a wheelbarrow, or whatever, to start the day’s work. Work which we both have fallen into side by side in a natural way since our lives began to be ruled by the Director of Public Health. We are luckier than most in the sense that despite being cocooned we have loads of job s waiting to be done for so long. You see we have a few acres here and if the truth were told maybe too much ground to cover in our retirement. As a result of being confined to barracks for so long, the best part of three months, we have a thriving garden and what was once a labyrinth on the edge of the wood now looks like the place is inhabited by human beings. Briars have been cleared and much new ground revealed. The slash hook has become a weapon of mass destruction in this regard. My arms ache from swinging it. Even now as I carry a full kettle to be boiled on the Rayburn I am reminded of the toll my limbs have taken on rough terrain in the summer sun. Not that I didn’t enjoy it for I did and I do any fine day we get. On top of that since we really started coming to grips with our many locations of hoarding we have ruthlessly discarded useless stuff to the bins. One could say as well we have found the time and the opportunity to be creative wherever we found that recycling was the way forward in our landscaping. We are proud of some of our innovations out and about and we look forward to having an open weekend for the family when the travel restrictions are lifted at the end of the month.
The main focus every morning, and this morning is no different, is on the morning mass on webcam from our parish church. What was a daily trip to town to St. Mary’s is now a settling down in front of the television for a half an hour to do almost the same thing but at home. After mass we can visit the church to pray and light candles. W e are glad of that release from captivity. Our daily walk up the hill is also a refresher for body and soul. For months we were off the road. We missed the comfort of being close to nature in view of the Dingle mountains, Kerry Head, Cnoc an Áir and the not too distant allure of Ballybunion and its beaches as we descended from Coolnaleen. Now we’re back on the road again reviewing familiar faces and renewing old friendships briefly on our way while Panda home on the range is dreaming of last night and her feline adventures in the midsummer moonlight. We are back in step again like we were in Spring before the country came to a halt, when:
‘as we passed between grassy ditches
of primrose embroidery, daffodilled
under a rookery, a noisy gallery above
of cawing crows who couldn’t care less,
a falling twig for a nest spiraled down’.
(From my poem ‘A FallingTwig’)
Born in Kilchreest, Co. Galway in 1943, he has lived in Listowel since 1966. His four collections of poems are: Droving (2003), Falling Apples (2010), Earth to Earth (2015) and The Singing Woods (2017). Winner of The Pádrai g Liath Ó Conchubhair Award 2019. (Filíocht/Poetry). Poems published in: The Amaravati International Poetic Prism Anthology 2018 and 2019, The Galway Review online and Anthologies, The Blue Nib, Feasta, First Cut, West 47, Striking a Cord (Anthology), The Applicant, Poetry Breakfast, The Galway Advertiser (Peann agus Pár). Poems on the Edge, the Connacht Tribune, The Kerryman and The Irish Independent. Featured with selections of his poems on ‘Not the time to be silent’ and ‘Cultivating Voices’. Copy Editor and Reviewer for The Galway Review literary magazine online. One of his poems appears on the syllabus of a number of UK Primary Schools . His poems have been read on: RTE Radio, Wired FM, Radio Kerry. His four collections of poems can be ordered online from https://www.kennys.ie/