….Sent from a caravan in Mayo…talking about the Glen with Gerard O’Brien 🙂
I have been missing my blogging. A breezy Saturday morning with stormy weather warnings as I stroll down the path from Sunview East this morning. I saw a familiar figure here last Thursday evening, hovering along the upper walk between the fields now left to meadow, her grey head and slight frame alert above the tall grass, I am drawn towards her and look back pretending to be interested in the rainbow forming over the entrance to the Glen, taking shots of it and peering through my lens whenever she looks back at me. Soon I gather it is E from the lane, sprightly this weather, and after a little dance hither and thither we connected and talked for the first time in many months. The golden Buachalláins are a head above the rest, and E reminds me they are pulled out in farmlands, I remember feeling this way about them too, poisonous ragwort, as I knew it to be. I know them now as Buachailláns, they are important hosts to the Cinnabar moth, both for nectar in adult form and in chomping phase as a ravenous yellow and black stripy grub. The moths lay hundreds of eggs in the lower ragwort leaves and the grubs emerge as a tasty green delicacy loved by birds, as the grubs chomp their way up to the higher reaches of stem the pure ragwort diet builds toxins in their bodies, transforming them to yellow and black caterpillars, now a warning sign which preserves them from being lunch. In August they spin themselves into a cocoon and lie buried in the ground, hibernating until next summer when they will emerge as the red and black beauty we see flitting about the flower heads today. Cinnabar moths are in decline in farmland but here in The Glen we can afford to welcome the Buachailláns and their little worlds. E’s and I’s talk continues about the meadows, the yarrow is showing white in the long grasses and we both approve of this. E’s movements were strange to me and I find out why, she got caught breathless coming up the steep incline some years ago and can no longer enter the deep valley of the Glen and so like the Cinnabar moth she flits the upper reaches when she has the energy.
Today I descend and remember E as the lime tree wooshes its leaves for me on the corner and I drop down past the meadow. I see a lone buachaillán opposite the yellow bench, gifting itself to the empty seat, they could be in aria, it certainly appears to be more of a flirtation than a standoff, the yellows chiming in sympathy across the path. On my way back up I see the path also bears that yellow paint splash, thrown and twining with white, this mark has been there long before either bench or bunch and is held in the divide between them. Later on up I step over the yellow-white-yellow-white hazard sign on the low barrier.
These barely relevant chimings combine to create dynamic co-ordinates in my ever shifting mapping of the Glen.
As ever the Rosebay Willow Herb ….I am on the path seeking a bench mark N has posted from a Glen wall, I enjoy these call and responses on the FotG facebook page, a kind of treasure hunt for Glen walkers. I went in search of some delicate fungi too during the week posted by another walker, both searches are ongoing, the fungi are elusive, though I know I have seen the mark before…
I go to the original meadow on the incline on the Western side and see the flowers reaching for insect life, which is not in evidence, the gusty day may be a factor but I sense the crisis is impacting every day a little more as the Queen Anne lace’s baskets are waving empty.
My shoe laces are undone on the wet brush through the bracken on the way home.
I have been weaning myself a little from my Glen habit, making space for other things and i am missing my daily missives and meanders. I got a message from I yesterday about the clumsy felling of a tree. I saw his video and new it was the old dead elm by the S wall, that conjurer, conductor with witches arms, her bony elbows lifted to raise the levels all about her, river river river she beckoned, sometimes the mist rising to her arms, she held that spot by the S wall, there not so long as it, but comfortably nestled.
Looking back at my photos I see a year ago she had a partner by her side, and now I remember challenging M who was there with his collection of saws and his butcher’s bike, harvesting neatly in the Glen, so what, the tree was dead he said.
This time, it seems, it was a company sent by the council to come on a Sunday and take out the main trunk, leaving the amputated branches tangling over the river, the bones of the witches arms. Her cross-sectioned trunk looked pinkish like a steak, the compact rings still dense and moist, nothing giving there (not like the old Poplar that came down in the storm, her heart eaten out and weakened from the core). Chippings from the cutting lie in the cupped heliotropes that gather still untouched at her base.
Looking back I see the last shot I took of this beautiful presence was on April the first, though she has framed my view so many times and I have been tempted to capture her…and chose to drink in the moment instead. She is always gently there at dusk for the bats. I find again some shots from February 14th – a Valentine with blue sky.
The time before that it was on the winter solstice, in the damp deep fog. Then that time before was 2nd November into the new year after Halloween, the sweep of the wall hauling me in, then it was 24th August last, when P the wall did his clean up and the council cemented it up and I caught a glimpse of the furtive actions of a long haired, young man, head down with his black dog on a red lead, scribing the soft surface with lock down impressions, by the time I swooped back on my loop another walker had rubbed it out and so then I felt compelled to trace back over the letters, it felt false to me and I rubbed it out again, then I assume it was the young man again with sweeping hair that came back and wrote on the river facing side, away from human view, and it remained till hardened and got painted white.
The witchy tree oversaw all of this activity and more, she over heard the teenage action on the island and was a perch for the birds. She was difficult to capture in the wide-angle view of the phone, the lens diminishing her sweeping power, but every time I passed her I acknowledged her knuckley elbows and seductive power.
Trembling to the sounds of the Glen
I hear there has been activity at the site of the sludgy drain and so I go and have a nosy and see there is a puncture in the pipe the smell is sour and strong of detergent and its seeping now away from the river but diverting to where I wonder…
dried leaf form vessels so tender in their holding, old brown clover heads dangle the dry weight of their seeds and young ones aflame with colour, a bramble flower gets mixed up with the wood sage
I find that the solstice will be at 4.30 and dawn will be at 5.15, and so I set my alarm to mark the occasion. The morning is clear so I will see the sun. I grab some skies in my phone as the sun rises and later falls… I wonder about the solstice, being the stand still 45 minutes below the horizon …
Sunrise and sunset the doc and the laurel form an arc I hadn’t intended
Back in the evening for more skies, looking West this time, I captured a laurel leaf to send to Bec , the windows of golden light coming through that old tanned hide of the fallen leaf.
I race up to the high ground to catch the view of the sun and M the path keeper is there, building fires with his family, at the place he made by the oak, when I pass back they are roasting marshmallows with some of the boys who have gathered. There is plenty of activity here tonight and music coming from below, celebrations deep in the bones for the longest day.
There are offerings at the hatch, foxglove thimbles scattered at the pink alter of the Montelimar.
I see the moon shining silver light from the South, caught in the branches of the trees, and I remember now the dew drops form the morning, balanced in the spiders web, as I pass through the valley on my way home.
So here I find myself at the apex and cumulation of my bloggings on the Glen, Gleann na Phúca or, as I have come to know it, the Enchanted Valley. This day of the shortest night.
I enter the Glen at dusk on the 20th, Sunday, the pink jacket is still thrown in the bushes; a semi-permanent goal. There is an interruption in the skin of the new green bin by the snake, a punch and arching scrape, down to metal in the reflective surface, T’s garden is still doing ok nearby, in the Poplar stump while the singular yellow flag is doing its best by the water’s edge and the swamp cypresses are getting their green on. Copper sequins scatter across the the ground near the unpopulated pedestal (and it’s not hard to make out in them the constellation of Orion) and oats are gently thrown on flagstones by the ponds for the birds. Trees conduct one another in their endless symphony, and frame the gaps where the people walk; the scarified bark at the base of the Elm, crying its bark tears for the life that tries each year to rise up its dead-old channels.
The white walls are fast becoming my frames of reference, like pieces of a jigsaw that want to connect and are separated by the gaps of the missing pieces in between. So through the painted gatepost out of the engineer’s place and on to the painted cement conglomerate – an invitation to the belly-connection over the rushing water, and the cage of the hatch which somehow soothes, and where now I know sometimes lives the Glen Dipper. Nearby a thread, hazard tape umbilical from the dumping ground, and a buried part of another old stone edifice; crossings and liftings of vegetation across the skin of the valley, the plants having public conversations for all to hear. Now up onto the high ground where I find slow-moving life forms, and dangle a while in the branches of the Mother Oak, looking across to the elders in full bloom, and the wavings of the bare armed Elms. Homeward bound I find the shuttlecock I placed earlier on the oak stump is still resting there, and the abandoned bike still hedged, another cypress shows its tight little nuts on the corner into home.
some slow moving time with a slug….
Lateish again and feeling the need of some air and space I enter the Glen, there is an offering on the newly installed bin, a dog chewed stick, a boomerang matching the symmetry of the roof and interrupting the silhouettes of trees and reflection of the sky in its shiny painted surface.
I take the high road to the pallisade boundary fencing of the Resource Centre where there is a match in progress, I admire the love affair between Hazel and Horse Chestnut handsomely compatible with Nettle worming her way in, there are paths through the long grass and dumpings too, on past the flowering dogwood, the rush of river water at the hatch is calling me, more nettles in crannies and hemlock and the sky in the water, Dipper comes and we spend time, a good ten minutes, in each other’s company, me still as I can, unthreatening and he dipping and doing his dance, eyes blinking white lidded, imperfectly synced, a semaphore beyond my ken. I go on up to the ridge and see the hatch from above, wondering if Dipper is still below, if I might catch him again. I do the upper loop twice, clocking the familiar landmarks along the way and then I loop back again on the lower track to head eastwards home.
I am stopped by yellow heiroglyphs on the ground at the S wall it must be some official acknowledgment of the dirty drain echoing in with effluent from above.
Getting close to solstice now, and because of the stretching shadows making eggs of the rounds I count them and note the barrier holds thirteen discs – all the moons of a year
The hazard tape is a festive cordon around a work in progress. The concrete square anticipates the arrival of the industrial sized litter bin that will arrive in due course, we have seen their lumpen forms elsewhere
The bins speak of volumes and of incarceration, they are forbidding monuments however you look at them, the hand traps and spy holes and the mottled surface acting as a diffuser of recognisable reflected features, its going to take a while to get accustomed to these stern interlopers.
Buried things emerge out of the strimmed borders, the curve of a concrete form conjuring and teasing the old mill stones, mosses growing circular in the bark of the swamp cypresses, what at first looks like another abandoned bike I see has partners who are cliff climbing. The Rosebay Willow is slowly emerging and a seven spotted ladybird reaches for the sky, the gorse is in its gothic phase this year.