Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Tug At My Finger

I have been in Ireland for a week, in North West Leitrim to be precise, in the house my father built on the land on which he grew up. It's a modern house standing on a hill and on a clear day commanding a view of three counties but it is dominated by the fallen stones of the old house further down the hill and the memories that they hold.

The leaves were turning and everywhere the countryside was coloured gold and umber. As usual at this time of year, flocks of fieldfares wheeled across the sky in search of berries, settling here and there on tall fir trees and chattering noisily among themselves before suddenly erupting again in ragged solidarity.

I spent much of my time watching the clouds marching across the sky in innumerable variations of grey tinged with cream, rose and purple. However, all the while I could feel a tug at the index finger of my right hand. Normally I spend two days a week looking after my grandchildren and it is this finger that the middle child takes hold of whenever he wants something. 'Come!' he commands with all the confidence of eighteen months. And I follow him to the toy chest or to the kitchen cupboard where the biscuits are kept.

I was supposed to be on holiday this week but instead I simply felt bereft. I kept imagining what my grandchildren might be doing. Would they wonder where I was this week? Or would they, in my absence, forget my existence entirely?

Outside the land was very wet. Trees dripped. Leaves clogged and mashed underfoot. The sound of running water was everywhere. I thought about the generations of people who had struggled to make a living from this boggy, stony ground and how unbelievably easy my life would seem to them by comparison. I doubt whether they would recognise anything I do as work.

But they would recognise the tug at my finger.

photo: Kenneth Allen

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