The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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The Old Road to Fenore

pinnacle_well.jpgIt was a clear and sunny day, so I decided to find an old road up the side of Cappanawalla, a few miles out of Ballyvaughan. My butt and legs have gotten used to cycling again, so I headed along the coast road on a still, windless day. It was cold, and my breath formed small patches of frost in front of me. After a couple of miles I came to something totally unexpected, an old covered well by the side of the road, which was done in grand, high-church style.

Farther along, I took a side road to Gleninagh Castle, a well-preserved gleninagh_castle.jpgexample of a tower house, where the gentry lived in 15th and 16th century Ireland. Of course, the entrance was barred, so I couldn’t go inside. It had a beautiful view of the sea, and opposite it, someone had constructed a grotto of painted rocks. Inside was an homage to the Virgin. For a moment I thought I was in Baja again.

On my bike once more, I looked for the old path up Cappanawalla near an old medieval church, but nothing is marked in Ireland. I unwittingly sailed on past for another mile and took an old farm road which dead-ended near a house in the middle of nowhere. I asked the woman there where the old road to Fenore was and she pointed back to where some bulls were eating silage on the other side of a gate. Being a trusting soul, I parked my bike, climbed the fence, and took off up the mountain, thinking I would find the old path across Cappanawalla. With the mud, loose moss, thorns, rocks, water, and bracken, it was a steep, hellish climb, but being a never-say-die kind of person, I kept on going. About halfway up the mountain, however, I realized I was nowhere near a road or path of any kind. Luckily, I came to my senses and slid back down, ripping my pants and jacket in the process. At the bottom, I had thorns in my skin and blood dripping from my face for the effort. Of course, I had everything mixed up. The old road to Fenore had no relationship to the path I was looking for. But now I at least knew where the Fenore road was and clambered along it for about a mile. It was really nothing more than a hiking path, slicing through the bottom of the mountain. When I returned, I saw a newborn calf being licked by its mother, with the umbilical cord still attached to each of them. In a way I felt reborn myself.

Finally, heading back to Ballyvaughan on my bike, I came to a road leading to something called The Rine, a long arm extending into the sea. I was curious, so I locked my bike against a gate and headed along a rutted, muddy road to the sea. I walked along the Rine. It extended for about a mile or more into the Galway Bay, and was grassy, with mud on one side and rocks and limestone on the other. I met a few cows and a dog who was curious about me. I also found a cashel of sea shells, which I fondly hope was constructed by two young Americans, very much in love (whether they know it or not), whom I saw heading out there the other day.

I’ve just been informed that Irish immigration wants 100 eurocashel_of_shells.jpg for the privilege of staying on this island and gouging us poor tourists for everything under the sun. I’m laughing my ass off. My only consolation is that they must pay their inflated tourist prices themselves. Tonight I’ll order a Guinness and raise my glass to the Irish authorities. (I’ll post the remainder of my pictures of my adventure under the photos of Ireland.)

February 13, 2008   1 Comment

Joseph Conrad and Henry James

While here, I’ve reread Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, an amazing piece of literature I first studied in freshman English in college. I know now why my professor assigned it. It’s an almost perfect work of art–Conrad at his very best. I’ve also read The Aspern Papers by Henry James, which is almost as impressive. Some of the descriptions of Venice are so evocative that they transport you to Piazza San Marco, the lagoon, or to the Grand Canal. Can you imagine Venice without the sound of motors–just voices and gondole transversing the canals?

I’m writing in the hotel, where I’m alone sipping a double espresso, which is mild by American standards. The Irish don’t like bitter coffee, I’ve discovered. The sound system has been turned to full volume and an American rap group is telling the world that it has ninety-nine problems but my bitch ain’t one.

slot.jpgThe thing about Conrad and James is that they were geniuses. I know what this means now. They weren’t superhuman, as I used to assume, but simply operated at another level, a cut above Average Joes like myself. The difference is probably a few IQ points, but when measured by the quality of output, is a light-year away. It’s a nice thing to know. The hill I’m pushing my rock up is much smaller than theirs.

By the way, here’s a photo I took the other day through a slot in the outside wall of a ruined church. Our little group was inside, admiring what was left of the structure, listening to Gordon explain its history.

February 13, 2008   Comments Off on Joseph Conrad and Henry James