Yesterday afternoon, we drove over to Murrisk (on the other side of Westport) for short hike in the tidelands below Croagh Patrick. The trail begins at the National Famine Memorial, goes east to Murrisk Abbey, then crosses tide flats to a small island accessible when the tide is out. Rain interrupted the hike, but not before we explored the abbey and took in some fabulous views. Now, Ireland boasts so many views that you might think we'd stop noticing them, but not so. The added bonus, which I never tire of, is that so often we are the only people taking them in. That's the truly wonderful thing -- that we're taking in sights equal to the central coast California, except that there are no cars or other people. Instead of feeling like one of many observers, I feel a part of the landscape -- like I might actually belong there as opposed to being a sort of nature voyeur.
The best was yet to come, though. Early in the evening, Premium T. invited be to join her down on the cove by our house. I decided not follow her down a steep embankment and headed toward the easy access at base of the cove. I ran into our neighbor Ian, who was preparing to burn some wood scraps. Last night was St John's Eve, the one night of the year when bonfires are allowed in Ireland. (In Ireland, it is also known as Oiche Fheile Eoghain, or Bonfire Night.) It's a celebration of fertility and plenty going back to Druidic times.
Anyway, I stopped to help Ian with the bonfire, and shortly after that Meena, his wife, came out with a bottle of wine. T. walked over from the cove and little by little our other neighbors came out, including Pat with a case of beer. We wound up celebrating until midnight, taking part in a tradition going back for millenia. (Premium T. will post pictures later.)
No party in Ireland would be complete without a few stories, and Pat told this one about an elderly gentleman who had had a pint too many one night in a Westport pub. The old man left the pub, started his car, and immediately drove it into a flower bed next to the pub. When the gardai arrived, the old was still in the car with the engine running.
"You can't be drivin' your car tonight," the gardai admonished.
"Drive me car?" the old man replied. "I can't light me pipe!"
Also, Hannah and Elizabeth, 10- and 11-year old sisters from next door, told us this riddle:
Q: Why did the toilet paper roll down the hill?
A: To get to the bottom.