The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Like Sheep

A flock of sheep have been let into the pasture adjacent to our cottage. They spend most of their time eating grass by grasping it with their teeth and ripping it with a twist of their heads. Basically, they’re eating machines with thick coats, black faces, and thin, unstable legs, creatures raised for their wool and mutton. Some are bigger than others. Some more attractive. Some stronger. Others weaker. They have an odd habit of loping from place to place, as if they can’t get enough, though it’s the same grass everywhere. They have a herd instinct but seldom stick together, unless someone is driving them from one pasture to the next. Now and then, you’ll see a couple of males butting heads, but there is no beating of chests, no loud bleating. When a female is in estrus, they fornicate, though a few seconds later one or both of them soon gets tired of the proceedings and starts eating again. When they’re had their fill, they stumble forward onto their knees and hunker down like cats. At night they sleep.

Sheep, I’ve discovered, are basically harmless creatures who fill their days with eating and sleeping until the day comes when the farmer decides to replace them with another set just like them.

February 18, 2008   Comments Off on Like Sheep

Same Tune, Third Verse

Just when I think the Irish are going to the dogs and have lost their traditions, they surprise me.

On Sunday, we left the cottage about noon and walked through town on our way to the college. The bus driver who had taken us to Galway on the previous weekend (the one who stopped the bus on the highway to show us the nesting heron), stopped to say hello and then mentioned there was music at the whiskey pub after Mass. So, on the spot, we changed our plans and headed for O’Lochlain’s.

singing_at_olochlains.jpgInside, there were only a couple of people, whom I joked with in the bantering way the Irish have, as the publican’s wife drew us a couple of pints. Soon, the place began to fill up, and without warning, someone started singing an old Irish folksong. He was unaccompanied and his voice wavered and cracked, but it was brimming with emotion. Then someone else sang, and then another. Most were songs about love lost or war and death. They were maudlin tunes, like those composed during the Civil War in America (“Johnny I hardly knew ya”). One of singers was so old she forgot the lyrics and the locals would help her. One young American woman was so terrified of singing (it was obviously her first time) that she literally shook, and although few had heard her song, they immediately joined in. This went on all afternoon. Someone would begin singing, simply for the love of it, to share her humanity, to say something she felt in her heart, and the rest of us would respond in kind.

February 18, 2008   Comments Off on Same Tune, Third Verse