In my mad rush packing, I neglected to bring binoculars. Yet, where would they have gone? I’ve had only my eyes and my Iphone to sight birds, not a very effective method. And this is a bird’s paradise. They don’t seem to be in harm’s way no matter where they land. In a saltwater pond on the low road, geese and ducks paddle along diving for food. Various gulls join them. One gull had a fish in his mouth, so big, he had to drop it. I can attest to magpies, shelducks, mallards, herons, warblers, hooded crows, and even a skylark.
Perhaps the biggest surprise has been seal sightings. On that last evening walk, two seals sunned themselves on a sand bar turning their heads west to catch the rays.
Along every stone wall wild flowers abound. Dandelions, often considered a pest in the United States, make luxurious lines of bright yellow. Hardy fuchsia spill over the walls like honey suckle, tempting lips, and smalll wonders appear at my feet: spring gentian, mountain pansey, bloody cranes bill, and birds foot trefoil along with many I have yet to identify. Walking back from the cliffs on the east side of the island, tiny red and yellow butterflies danced at my feet.
Certainly, I have made the acquaintance of a number of interesting people at the Man of Aran and on my walk: a retired army nurse who is working with the University of South Carolina to start a sustainable farm; her friend, the vet from Boulder, who has developed an interesting method for deferring costs for her clients, cats and dogs; the educators from Rochtestor; the puppeteer from Connecticut; and the United Way worker from Toronto. However, my beginning relationship with the islanders is most precious, slight though it is. Just when I’m leaving, I feel connected. Joe saved the day by taking apart my bathroom sink to retrieve my lenses. He demanded a sonnet which I delivered, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. Maura let me into her life a bit with what might have been the beginning of a friendship. Fionna, at the Internet cafe, told me about her attempts at fiction and poetry.
On my last full day on the island, I wanted to go to the pub in Kilronan frequented by Joe and Maura. There was just me and a male patron perched on a stool at the end of the bar. Five or ten minutes passed before a barkeep appeared. I ordered a Guinness inquiring if there was any food. He said no, but a few Guinnesses would do just as well. I gave him a fiver and left the rest for a tip. He nodded to the man at the end of the bar and said “See, you can give a tip if you want.” They both laughed.
I sipped my Guinness while the fellow at the bar talked to himself in Irish, hands lifted for emphasis. Eventually, he made his way to me and told me of his travels to the states including a treacherous voyage in a small boat from Boston to Cap Cod. “A day full of squalls,” so he says. When he discovered where I was staying, he wanted to know if I had seen Robert Flaherty’s famous 1934 ethnographic film, Man of Aran as Flaherty had used the cottages in the film, hence the name of the B&B. I commented that it was considered an important part of documentary filmmaking even though parts of it were staged. He responded, “Well, yes, yes, didn’t go shark hunting anymore, but that fella could have drowned, the sea was that bad.” He had first hand knowledge as one of his relatives, he assured me, had been in the film.
As the 4 o’clock ferry hadn’t arrived, no vans were at the harbor. Once again, I opted to walk. Without any food since breakfast, I grew weary. I passed 30 or so French tourists and then about the same number of Spanish tourists leaving Ti Joe Watty’s. My friend at the bar said he had a long walk home but would manage by stopping at pubs along the way. I followed his lead, found a seat at the bar at Ti Joe’s, ordered another Guinness, got a sandwich and exchanged some pleasantries with the owner. By the time I left, she asked me to to pass a message on to Maura. “Tell her Grace will see her in October.”