Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paddy Reilly, The Fields of Athenry.



Oh, we’re really on our way to Ballytore
and on the way we’ll pass through Narramore,
Ballytore, Narramore, Timilin and Crookstown Inn,
we’re really on our way to Ballytore


The tune dances in my head and images spill sparkling streams of memory, splashing jewel tones of reminiscence into a sweeping river of remembrance. I see him now, my uncle Jerry. His bristling hair, thick and deep brown, cut razor sharp straight across the top, his voice raspy and tuneful, making up silly ditties to amuse his nieces. Beside him, my mother’s eldest sister, my beloved Auntie Eileen, laughs, a cigarette grasped between long delicate fingers, blond curls blowing in the breeze from the open window as we wheel down the Dual Carriageway to Kildare.

Ireland spills into my mind, a kaleidoscope of colour and smell, weaving a tapestry of memory and reminisce that leaves me aching. I think of Rowan, now walking the crowded, narrow streets of Dublin and feel an aching, hurting regret at not being there to show my child the city of my youth. I feel the tug from the island of my birth, a hot, aching need to breathe the rich, moisture laden air, to have the green of my eyes fill with the lush verdant richness of its countryside. I want to sip scalding Bewley’s coffee with its steamed milk and trade flirting words with the bold Irish lads.

I feel tears swell as I realize I will never again sit on the overstuffed feather bed at 130 Lr. Kilmucud Road, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin nor toast rough slabs of bread beneath the broiler of my aunt’s gas oven, smothering the charred toast with slashings of butter and homemade lemon curd. My sister Kealin and I would cuddle in that feather bed on cool Irish mornings, then tumble onto the carpeted floor and run laughing into my aunt and uncle’s bedroom where we would give my Uncle Jerry his leg – a task we relished and fought over. My Uncle Jerry had lost his leg when young in a car accident and from the hip had an artificial one which caused him to have a rolling, swinging gait like what we imagined a sailor would have when long at sea.

I have not been Home in so very long.

I was 24 the last time I walked the streets of Dublin. So young, with the future unlived before me, when last I watched the Atlantic crash against the piers in Dun Laoghaire and felt the sting of the ocean breeze whipping colour into my pale cheeks. I remember the sting of salt and spray as I plunged into the grey, frigid Atlantic waters and the rough cotton embrace of thin cotton towels as I rubbed heat back into limbs grown numb from the frigid ocean water.

I wonder what Rowan is doing right now …whether she is walking to Kilmainham Jail where her great grandmother was imprisoned and her grandfather born.. or perhaps strolling through the Garden of Remembrance where Seamus Murphy (her great-grandfather) has a plaque honouring his part in the 1916 Easter Rebellion. Is she at Trinity, marvelling at the Book of Kells or perhaps walking through UCD, her grandfather’s alma mater?

I would have liked to have experienced that with her, my second child, child of the faerie that she is. While my heart is glad she is there, that she is grasping with all the fervour and delight that her beautiful soul engenders the experience of travelling, I mourn the loss of showing her my Dublin, my Ireland … from the painful harsh beauty of the west coast and Galway’s pristine salt-bleached streets to the shimmering glow of the lochs which nestle between the soaring purple hills of Kerry to the ancient cobblestoned meandering paths of Cork.

I love this country, Canada, and would choose no other but a small but vital piece of my soul yearns still for the land of my birth and my youth, a rich, mythic land of faerie and legend, of harsh realities of poverty and the quixotic, complicated Irish people themselves, with their passion and their anger and their enveloping, sincere warmth and humanity.

One by one the ties to my homeland have been severed … death and the implacable march of time and history are erasing the increasingly tenuous links that bind me to that small island and I feel the loss with a yearning regret that leaves me mourning the realities of a life which keeps me bound and tied to tedium and day to day demands.

I sit here at my pristine desk and complete plebeian tasks and with all the passion of my Irish soul, yearn for more.

4 comments:

THE Michael said...

I KNEW there was something inherently Irish about you.......grin.

Buffalo said...

You know, Selkie, you're like a master chef judiciously selecting a pinch of this spice, a dash of another and another, adding, stirring, tasting, until you have created a uniquely savory dish.

Damn, woman! You write damnedly fine.

Liras said...

I think if I yearned for home that much, my mind would break. I would have to go back periodically to stroll along the rolling green hills.

selkie said...

TM - I think the hair gives me away ...

Buff - what can I say? just thank you.

liras - I wish it were that simple - and yet in many ways, you're right - I find myself astonished that it has been so long ... life just seemed to happen ...