A Bit of Lore


My Irish grandmother, Nana, told us that if there is a blue sky bigger than a man’s pants, the sun will come out.  After I grazed a nettle bush and was tortured for hours by it’s sting, Joe, owner of The Man of Aran Cottages, said they had a saying, “Don’t put your fist around nettles.”  The next day, he couldn’t quite remember if that was the actual phrase.  I’m not sure about Nana’s prediction although I will steer clear of nettle bushes.  And I’m no closer to any of the “lore” I was seeking, but one bit of information direct from Maura, Joe’s wife, does seems right.  She claimed that when she went to church, she could tell by the “jumper” a person was wearing who it was before she even saw a face. And she added the same was true for stone walls.  Each family has its own patterns when they knit and when they build a wall.

My Irish grandmother also spoke knowingly of the “little people.”  In The Aran Islands,  Synge repeated the tales he had been told about faeries.  I might have fallen under that spell myself when I visited Inishmaan, the island in the middle, and the house where Synge stayed on his visits.  Inside beside a peat fire sat an older man, the grandson of the people who hosted Synge.  I could barely understand most of what he said even though it was in English.  Luckily what he did say, he repeated several times.  This isn’t the first time I have encountered such manner of speech.  Many islanders did the same. So when he directed me to the newspaper articles and photographs on a table, he said, “Yes, my grandparents, my grandparents.” When I asked if I could take pictures, he answered, “No, no. My sister, my sister, says no.”

The room seems to be exactly as Synge described: the warmth of the peat fire, a stool next to it, the red petticoat worn by the women of Inishmaan hanging on a hook.  His room, on the left of the central room, was large and more austere.  On the right side in the smallest room, the couple slept.

Magic followed me on another remarkable walk home from Ti Joe Watty’s pub.  This evening, I was on the low road a bit earlier, closer to eight.  The soft gold from the setting sun infused the air, the green fields shimmered, and stone walls mirrored the light. Coming across the abandoned kelp factory, the time of the fairies engulfed me, making me a believer.

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