Remembering my first months here during the drought of 1995. This bit of prose is part moment of reflection, part lament, at this fragile and unsettling time.
It is the first month of the first year and a drought hard as winter frost scorches the land. The sun bears down, a knife at the throat of the earth.
Count the drops of dust.
Together as strangers you have rented an ivy-covered cottage near the coast. The sea is boiling black. There is a hole in the sky and heat pours down like rain.
Some days you take a bus to a train into the city. He explains the buildings and streets and his life before. You eat cheap plates of food from a vegetarian cafe. Shop without money. Life is new in this ancient place. You imagine back a million years. Feel the passing of centuries.
On other days you are alone in the cottage with its small dark windows and worn wooden doors. You sense the dead as they linger, holding onto the past and a time when their home held a fire in the hearth.
In the kitchen you drink coffee. Write letters.
Time moves slowly or maybe it has stopped. The days are long and hot and outside the sun is a dry pen etching slowly across sharp yellow grass.
Out there in the stark midday light near the whitewashed shed an arrow points. Latitude 55̊ 17′ 12.84″ North. Longitude -6̊ 12′ 36.36″ West.
It has clean edges. It beckons from the spoiled ground.
It is there the next day and the next. You stand above it looking down trying to decipher the why of it, knowing that it has opened a seal in the universe. Turned a storm in the ethers.
The island in the north is a sickle four miles long, cast adrift, far offshore in this emerald belly of the world. Wind has carved the memory of a thousand souls into stone and earth and scrub where rock walls rise and crumble.
The island is high and narrow and barren as your thoughts the day you arrive. Here is an ocean of blue sky. Water whips and soars and crashes down on the pebbled shoreline.
People are few and walk with their heads bowed towards the past, searching for ancestors lost inside the chasm of massacres and broken lives. A throne of turf and destiny’s compromise.
What have you compromised. What have you agreed. You stepped outwards from the highest point in your life and now hope to fly while the drought continues, suffocating in its refusal to sweat and wash the earth of its sorrow.
This morning you wake with the sense of a dream within a dream.
As a child you remember. You were here. You soared above the island in still darkness and woke knowing you would return. It is not home, not the place of your birth but more than a memory, something imprinted.
A stamp on your soul.
This morning on the pier waiting to be ferried to the mainland.
You do not want to travel south to the cottage with its ghosts, its splintered tiles and old sagging bed.
A fire in your heart as you board.
Salt spray from a Northern sea.
And now, the bus is crowded with everyone’s heat.
The drought is a deep and waterless surge, the road oily black.
The ground groans in protest.
And the rain cannot find its way back. It is lost, afraid, unsure of its place
searching for a cloud it can cling to.
‘Island’ (c) 2022 Deborah McMenamy
All Rights Reserved