Ireland is an island swept by stubborn easterly hurricanes, by the quizzical howling of an ancient angry ocean, the Atlantic. The country is rainy, has a full and healthy vegetation, and is dust-free. The Irish green is soothing, spontaneous and enhances peace of mind.
I jump on a bus going north, from Dublin all the way up to the Ulster border, through Shane -crossing the river Boyne-, Ardee and Carrickmacross. Across the journey, inside the enclosures, the sheep graze around with their long white fleece, black heads. Dairy cows, some of them copper-coloured but most of them have a combination of light and dark patches. They bring their heads down and bite voraciously on the grass, chewing endlessly.
Had it not been for the many hours worked on the clearings in the woods, had it not been for the flocks of sheep grazing across the pastureland, the ocean-swept humidity of Ireland would have brought this land back, in a few years, into its primeval forest lushness. On the margins of the walk paths and the greenery, the colour green blends in with the purple wisterias and the flowery and thorny hawthorn, of a pale white hue.
Spring is in full bloom, and the bright yellow of the rape blossoms, forage for cattle (also for biofuel). Colonising the hills are large areas of yellows and greens. All the colours in their natural state, strange as it may seem, are harmonious to the untrained eye.
The inside of the island possesses an eery elementary rural isolation, with no other history than the constant irruption of invaders. Or no other novelty than the rhythmic wheel of uneventful hours. The young country girls still wave goodbye as the coaches go past.
I’m on my way to a friends’ place in the county of Monaghan. Close to Clones, on the frontier with Northern Ireland, the bus slows down on approaching a small village and the driver throws a bundle of newspapers. As eternity consolidates itself, surprise is ephemeral and short-lived.
Clones is a transient village, you hardly see anyone on the streets. On the road side I wait at the pub for anyone to pick me up. It is a shadowy den, crust accumulating from years and years. As my eyes get used to darkness, I spot at the bar two silent beer drinkers and start chatting, the tv sound in the background.
The pub is like a crypt to meet colleagues and step out of oneself while enjoying a nice glass of wine
A few days ago, it was Saint Patrick´s Day, the festival celebrating Ireland’s patron saint. On the wall, a dartboard of yellow and black stripes and photographs of music idols. A mound of bottles, the tambourines, and later on in the evening, an easily identifiable shouting. And more importantly, the collection boxes of donations for the missions: The missionary sisters of our Lady of the Sacred Heart or Dominican missions in honour of Saint Martin, and also Pallottine Fathers Missions East Africa & South America introducing the slogan the love of Christ urges us on.
One can say about Ireland that this country has gradually developed a pub culture. A pub is a refuge and a meeting place, a public confessionary and a chapel for celebrations. Half-darkness creates the ideal atmosphere for the Irish idea of gathering. The pub is like a crypt to meet colleagues and step out of oneself while enjoying a nice glass of wine. Drinking is a sign of manhood. Something like this could be the Irish slogan without scruples. This encouragement to consume alcohol, like with many other things, is justified by an implicit aim to transcend our immediate world. Drinking is a sign of manhood among men, it opens us up to the others and to a higher dimension. In turn, somebody who does not drink is a rare phenomenon, and this is so because one does not want to know anything about anyone, and because one withdraws into oneself.
To me, the pub’s name –Diamond– sound ambiguous. I have come across similar names, equally quizzical and inviting: The red parrot, The golden triangle, The cat and cage. They are like boxes which arouse the curiosity of the gossip inside us. As we walk through the woodland at dusk, the owl hoots.
Ireland is a land anchored to its roots and a wind that laminates it and grinds it down to dust. This fight between flesh and spirit has transcended all forms of human life in this relatively small land windswept by the Atlantic.
The lush and abundant pasturelands make beef a delicious and delicate choice. And cheese production raises great interest too. It’s springtime, the warm weather is on the way. But the rain always makes its presence, at intervals. The cold, in these areas, may not be as determining as darkness, especially tonight when the winter months see the early rays of light in cold and endless sadness.
Ireland is a land anchored to its roots and a wind that laminates it and grinds it down to dust. This fight between flesh and spirit has transcended all forms of human life in this relatively small land windswept by the Atlantic. Perhaps, this explains why the island suffers, or has suffered frequent bank robberies. This seems to be, or rather has been, a widespread and common feature. In the assailants’ souls, so I’ve heard, there may be an obscure attraction for going back to their roots. When they withdraw from people’s sight and hide, the thieves’ revenge is to bring things back to their original place, that is, the world’s surface.
There is a common spirit within missioners and tinkers, tanner gypsies, and other inveterate tramps. All of them seem to have inherited that transhumant nomadic Celtic instinct. Or the shepherds. Maybe because of this, Dublin is still famous nowadays for its wool, cotton and silk trade.
This island used to be a “land’s end”. Back in the Middle Ages, each and every human pilgrimage on land would finish here. It is in Ireland where the Sun’s journey through Western territory comes to an end.