Thursday, 5 September 2013


The light is low and mellow and the children have returned to their lives of structure at school. The house is still and in the mornings of this Indian summer, I walk the dog through fields of great golden  bales of barley straw. The hedgerows are laden with berry jewels, rosehips, blackberries, haws and one bent blackthorn adorned with her sloes. Next year, I might make some hedgerow wine. Instead, I throw some rhubarb and strawberries with honey under a crumble.

Seamus Heaney died and my Dad phoned me to tell me that one of his friends died. My Dad speaks to me of his friend in a manner that suggests that I know this person very well. However, I only have a vague notion of whom he is speaking. He forgets sometimes that this person was a greater part of his life only when he was a teenager before myself and my brother arrived. He tells me a story of how when he was this young man, he would linger in the moonlit garden listening to and avoiding his father leading the nightly rendition of The Rosary. A small silent rebellion. 'I would sure go in now', he says firmly, nostalgia is memory tinged with regret.

I wonder if I will look back on my own rejection of some of my familial beliefs and values as a flash of youthful arrogance instead of a part of some natural evolution into individualism and adulthood. The only poem of Heaney's that I ever read was 'Digging' in GCSE English Lit  and I remember realising that poetry could elevate the ordinary into something exceptional. That reading in and of itself was something essential, something important. "My Father digging...", my Grandfather was also man of the earth, of turf and floury spuds and of coaxing little seeds to grow. Granda grew strong, eye-stinging onions in his garden and delicate sky-blue iris and midnight scented sweet-peas. Today, he is gone and Dad grows the flowers and I grow the onions and crave the odour of alliums and damp purple soil.




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