Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Killavullen to Ballynamona

Killavullen to Ballynamona 7.31.12 Last week was a tad bit of the Irish summer. That was last week. Rain and wind has set in and looks like it could be here to stay awhile. Fortunately, it hasn’t been the downpours of June the Irish experienced, but more of the steady, constant, soft rain. The ground is saturated, so any path not covered with tarmac is mud. The route to Ballynamona was mostly up through rain running tiny forest paths and down muddy field tracks and boreens. The Blackwater Way started in Clogheen, County Tipperary and moved across County Cork and will connect in two days with the famed Kerry Way in County Kerry. Irish identity is as subtle and varied as the forty shades of green. People here understand themselves as part of the Irish landscape, nuanced by county and village. Family clans, planted in the same countryside for untold generations, are the deep roots that no amount of wind and rain can topple. Ireland oozes community. By moving slowly across this island country I have been able to feel the gentle differences in landscape, culture, and traditions, the weather has remained constant. Traveling west, I’ve moved out of the more mountainous regions where sheep populate the hillsides into more rolling farmlands where small herds of black and white Celtic cattle are in every field. It must be the time to separate the yearling calves because most farms have the cows and the bull in one field and the heifers in another. A common sound is to hear the calves balling to their mother’s across the lane and the mother’s answer with an occasional sound of relief. Some of the funniest scenes I’ve encountered have been the random cow who has managed to “escape” but now can’t find her way back into the field. All the other cows bunch up near the fence as if to ask is the grass better out there, while the escapee stands looking puzzled, asking for help on how to get back home. In my many journeys through the woods I haven’t encountered much wildlife. Birds abound, lots of ravens and the many cousin derivations. I’ve seen a few owls and a predator bird or two, though not too sure what kind they were. I’ve only seen one doe, a fox, a few rabbits, and on today’s trail, I saw my first Irish Hare. The hare was larger than the Arizona jackrabbit, taller and heavier. His coat was brown almost a rust color. When he saw me, he stood up and I could see his short pointed ears. He didn’t stick around long enough for me to take his picture. Forestry is a major industry in Ireland. Large swaths of forests are harvested and then replanted. But even with the amount of lumbering there are miles and miles and miles of untouched forest. The woods that have not been thinned are so dark I doubt the ground has seen daylight for hundreds of years. Sometimes the forest floors are so dark, even the moss and lichens are absent. These places feel foreboding and a sense of haunting wafts from their midst. When the day is filled with mist and the wind howls, ah, the veil between this world and the other is awfully thin. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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