Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 11, 2014

Ink Is What A Pen Needs


I wrote and sealed a letter just the other day
Then took it to the curb and placed it
In the box where it lay and waited
As did I
For the mailman to come by;
And I have to say
I enjoyed the exercise.

Before I wrote a word I sat and thought
Of what to tell my friend.
How I might begin, and how end;
What to put between
The end and the beginning…
Whether the letter should be long, or short.

Then I boiled some water and brewed a cup of tea,
Found a pen, one that still had ink.
(That should have been easy, one would think,
Here where pens proliferate like weeds.
But, no!  Each one I picked and tried
Was dry.)

Who would dare read dry pen impressions,
Faint, brailish dry pen scrapings?
For letters, philosophies or screeds
Ink as well as mind is what a pen needs.

I found one though, and sat down to begin;
Tea beside me
World outside me
April bright and new
In the morning when
I began to write to you.


Posted by: Peadar Ban | April 4, 2014

Today April 4, 2014: Omphaloskepsis


6:30AM, April 4, 2014

6:30AM, April 4, 2014

Briefly I sat amid the log shadows of the new day and looked east at the bare branches of Spring, the rude dampness of pale green lawns, felt the still coolness against my cheek while tiny birds and bully jays scattered the seed I’d put out for them yesterday in the streaming sun, while near the fence one last lump of snow died, longed for last July, un-mourned this morning.  A few hours ago it was a madman’s dream, a mother’s hope, a child’s imagining, an old man’s ancient memory awake. I know because before I went up to bed I stood and looked about, and felt frost fingers caress my face, saw the neighbor’s drive covered in chaotic chalk scribbles where the kids had played under the ancient unseen stars behind their scrim of daylight blue, the unheard sounds of swirling galaxies, the first chord-burst of being at the beginning and the steady drone of time since.  Yes, I stood cloaked in night and saw the day done, gone only hours by, gone down the stream of years and centuries into the Sea of What Has Been. How silly, I thought, standing there, sitting here I think now, to say:
“Could the day, each day, have no meaning at all?”

What is the purpose of sunlight beyond mere stimulation of life in sleeping seeds (on just one place in the universe?), beyond mere stimulation of neurons deep in my brain?  Why does it exist except as product of force, heat and photonic speed? Why the light of galaxies beyond a trillion trillion miles, beyond a billion years, and between? traveling across emptiness, down passing years for my eyes each night, whether they are there or not, to see?  Are they mere random, rainbowed, things; or more than that?  Why a tiny flower’s shy color beneath a waking bush of still sleeping
leaf and blossoms or the beauty of their plumage, even the subtle gray of stubborn doves, on birds bouncing on the first sweet currents of the day.  Can it simply be that they are and that they have no meaning at all; that nothing means anything.
All merely is?

Explain then, love, joy, desire, sadness, anger, friendship to me. Reactions, only, to some stimuli?  Explain mere appreciation to me.  Explain order or chaos, the chaos of a snail’s track on the sand, a squirrel’s hurried search across the lawn for last year’s fallen seeds.  Chaos, order?  Order, chaos?  Explain the order growth and learning
bring to a child’s brain.  Explain the chaos of a toddler, the chaos of a puppy, the chaos of a storm across the wide deep sea, the chaos of a waterfall.  Explain the pain of illness, the peace of death, the comfort of mourning.  And explain the fact that I or anyone, can sit and write this while a
Jay calls Morning to light the new day.

If nothing has an end, nothing has a meaning.
If nothing has a meaning, nothing has worth.
If nothing has worth, nothing matters.
If nothing matters, everything is useless, futile, unnecessary.

Explain hope!


Saint of the Day

St. Isidore of Seville (560-636)
Isidore was a bishop in Spain. He promoted science and established schools and convents. He was a prolific writer who mastered all branches of knowledge of his day. A Doctor of the Church, his writings include a dictionary and an encyclopedia.

Reflections from the Saints

If a man wants to be always in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God; when we read, God talks to us.

– St. Isidore of Seville

Scripture Verse of the Day

Ephesians 4:1-3

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Life in Christ: Catechism #2203

In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties.

One Minute Meditations

I am glad that you feel concern for your brothers: there is no better proof of your mutual charity. Take care, however, that your concern does not degenerate into anxiety.

– St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way

Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 31, 2014

Today, March 31, 2014 (A Pleasant Ache)

The Lamb of March seems this morning to have been kidnapped.  A cold rain, a bit of sleet, greeted me this morning; little pellets nipping at the windows.  Rain had come on with serious purpose yesterday, slacked off a bit in the afternoon, and returned with renewed vigor during the night.

April, that cruel month, will seem a pussycat compared to the past four weeks.  For all of that, though, the dearest freshness shows itself everywhere, even on gray, ice coated mornings.  Below the bare branches of the dwarf spireas at the front of the house tiny crocus leaves peek. Brave and eager for the light, heedless of the cold still lingering in the frost filled soil, the little green exclamations stab upward into Spring while most of Winter, long wished away, unfriendly lingers.

The rain has done its work though, along with the steady climb of the temperature.  Only across the street do continents of snow stay, sullen in the shade of dark pines; gray brutish things avoided by children now interested in bikes and jump ropes and the first few ball games.  All that remains nearby, here, are some Lonely Isles, and snow-pelagos beneath the trees where squirrels busily hunt for last year’s hidden harvest, and neighborhood cats wait patiently for them to walk into their mouths; or birds to fall there.

Don’t keep score.  Birds and squirrels know who and where they are.  They meet far above them to scold feline presumption and insolence and sing warnings to any newcomers.

Now the sun brushes aside the thinning cloud curtain.  Perhaps it means today to send Winter at last away.

Such being the case, I will oil my leaf rakes and get ready to ache this evening from shoulders to toes.  It will be a pleasant ache.


Here are some bits of stuff to read and wonder about.  I call them News Flashes From Home.  They are all about the same thing, really.  It never changes.  Strangely enough, though, it never gets old, arriving fresh on the doorstep every day.  Actually it arrives continuously.  One only needs to think, to read, to listen:

Saint of the Day

St. Benjamin (5th century)
Benjamin was a deacon was released from prison on the condition that he would never preach where he could be heard by the royal court. Thus, he became a street preacher. He was eventually arrested, tortured and martyred.

Reflections from the Saints

Without humility, there is no way of conquering anger.

– St. John Climacus

Scripture Verse of the Day

Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Life in Christ: Catechism #2199

The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it. This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons.

One Minute Meditations

My child, all the seas of this world are ours and the places where it is harder to fish are the places where it is all the more necessary.

– St. Josemaria Escriva
I’ve been thinking for the past few minutes about the first and the last little “flashes” together.  Two names flashed into my head in connection with them: St. Maximilian Kolbe and Larry, a schizophrenic man in my town here, who wanders the streets, dressed in rags and patches…looking “like a mountebank” to steal a phrase from Trollope… sleeping under a bridge in all kinds of weather and prays constantly; fishermen, both,  in hard and necessary places.
I like what the Catechism says about the presupposing done in the Fourth Commandment about the duties of “all who exercise authority”.  Don’t you?
Here are two pieces of music for your Spring listening.
Posted by: Peadar Ban | March 30, 2014

Lo, Rain Falls

On a rainy Sunday morning, long after Spring should have been here, I watched the sheets of rain fall, remembered (faintly) an old hymn, and thought of a better day to come:

Lo, rain falls in sheets descending
From angry clouds on high above.
Wind whipped frigid, unrelenting,
Cold rain falls and earth turns mud.

Morn, grey, cold and shelter seeking
Sneaks behind swift retreating night.
Edging cold shadows westward leaking
Timid day comes poised for flight

Though rain still falls, frigid soaks all,
Winter’s mis’ry claiming place,
Soon clouds part; light lifts their pall,
Sweet spring air storm dissipates,

Soon comes mildness bright birds singing,
Soon comes laughter of child at play.
Back to places colder stinging
Banish winter.  Spring’s here today!

For the curious, here’s the hymn; one of my favorites:


Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 27, 2014

Today: February 27, 2014

Sometime between four and five almost every day I find myself closing the door on sleep and stepping off the front porch of wakefunness.  (How cute that typo is.)  At this time of year the sky to the east has just begun to lighten.  The platoon of trees down the block, tall oaks, maples and a few white pines, show in silhouette waiting for their work.  When it isn’t too cold, I’ll open the window to see if the First Bird of Day, the one whose job it is to wake up the world, has begun its appointed duty.

This morning I missed that quiet rendezvous with time and change, and soundly slept until the alarm on Mariellen’s dresser blew a hole through the air and shattered sleep into a million fragments.  I did what any normal person my age would do.  Bent nearly in half I tumbled out and was nearly vertical by the time I reached the clock and put to an abrupt end my agony, and the agony of every molecule of atmosphere in the room.  I took a cautionary look out the window to see if Dawn’s First Light may have been angered by whatever prompted the clock to do that.

The Choir Robed In Color Sings

The Choir Robed In Color Sings

I should have known.  Dawn was busy at Lauds.  There before me a Canticle of Light was being sung.  I did open the window and heard the Antiphon in a joyfully golden Wren’s voice, and the Cloud Choir in robes of light responding down the strophes, processing out.  The thanksgiving of the trees mute and tall behind held my attention until the chill air warned me this might be too much of a good thing.  I was awake, alert and filled with joy.


I don’t know for sure whose saint’s is today.  But this little thought from St. Gabriel Possenti caught my mind: “I will attempt day by day to break my will into pieces. I want to do God’s Holy Will, not my own!”  He was, not unlike me and quite a number of folks I know, a wild man when younger, who caught a fever of Love that cured him.   I become more convinced that there is only one way to happiness; to do God’s will in everything…even at my age.

Awake from your slumber!  Arise from your sleep!  A new day is dawning….

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 24, 2014

A Turner Moment

(Those with eyes to see will come to know the toll exacted for a ride along the “free way”.)

I still remember the sky in Texas; the way it looked when I lived there just a bit more than half a lifetime ago.  We were in Houston, to the west of the city, and a bit south of that well ruled straight line called I-10.

I’ve never much liked driving on Interstate highways.  For one thing there’s too much company most of the time, and not much of that friendly at all.  For another thing, taking the Interstate anywhere is all about getting there, and really very little at all about the trip itself. Of course since the 1960′s our vehicles have become more and more a means of avoiding the “trip itself” as an experience; more quiet, more comfortable, more smooth riding, more “tastefully appoynted” and more filled with those amenities and luxuries (cup and drink holders, radios, cd and video players, seat warmers, and what alls) as to help us believe we are anywhere but on the road again.  Soon, with the coming of robotic driving, it will seem as if we in fact are no longer on the road at all.  I hope those vehicles come with curtained windows…on all sides.  See the USA?  That way?  Nah.

I have, really, never much liked Interstate driving…except for this.  Every once in a while one can get a glimpse of what the world is truly like while zipping along on one of those things.  One can reach to crest of a long drive up a hill and see a couple of hundred square miles of inter-mountain valley rolled out down there, or the towers and tops of a large city; cross a river, like the Susquehanna at Harrisburg or the Hudson from NYC to Newburg and be swept away on currents of beauty and history.  The problem is those sights can never be fully appreciated unless one stops and looks.  And, on the Interstate, it’s not so much you driving the car as it is the schedule, the clock, behind the wheel.  It’s not so much the way, as the way’s end that counts.  That’s why 55mph never worked, and 85 has become the new 65.

Anyway, there were days down in Texas when 55 would have seemed like “C” squared on the ride in from Katy or out from Houston along I-10.  And, that was why I figured that if I had to amble along inside my G-ride I might as well do it under nicer conditions.  So I took another road and that made all the difference as any old farmer knows.  I’d ride into and out of work on Memorial Drive, a tree lined curving stroll that may at one time have been an old cow path, and old Indian trail, an old wagon road before it came to be a well manicured tour of some of the city’s ritzier neighborhoods and prettier sights to see.  The last bit was a drive through Memorial Park.  I have never taken the time to learn who or what was memorialized in the park, along the drive, unless it was just the recognition that beauty is worth the effort for its own sake.

There were spots along that road where it was always easy to slow down and make the morning last a little longer on the way in, or the evening on the way out.  I remember looping curves along the crest of a little slope above some tumbled trees and tangled vines allowing the slow mover to see and think about a bit of wilderness a mere mile or so from steel towers and street lights.

But, there were days when I couldn’t for any number of reasons, and sometimes because I simply forgot to take the other road, when I found myself on the Katy Freeway, as it was styled.  The fellow who thought of that thing in italics at the top of this little dribble of mine knew what he was thinking.  I wonder how many domestic storms and squalls have been born in the weather system known as the drive home.  But, the strange thing is that driving down the road in any direction in Texas, and maybe in all those other flatland states, has a particular  attraction for the person who doesn’t want to be there at all; a dangerous and peculiar thing.  I’m speaking about the sky, that thing that got me started a few dozen words above.

On those absent minded mornings and evenings, arriving forgetfully at either end of my penance, I would spend the next, the better part of, one hour at least with my eyes focused not on what was going on in front of me, but on what was going on above me as I watched sun and clouds played with each other and light for my own delight.  Perhaps there were some others along the way who did the same.  I never noticed.

I know I never saw them doing what I did from time to time.  And when what was unfolding up in heaven was just too beautiful to miss, I’d pull off the road and get out of the car for a 350 degree view of the show.  While I stood craning my neck a million cars rolled, sped, rumbled and roared by.

There’s a 19th century British painter with a 19th century British name, John Mallord William Turner, who would probably have loved Texas for its skyscapes.  I used to think of some of his stuff, and imagine him or someone like Monet, or Sargent, or Thomas Cole standing there painting like mad.  And I remember the  days, the mornings and the evenings filled with shape and color, and how easy I thought the master painter did the work.

I began to call those times Turner Moments.

I had one this morning looking out my bedroom window.


A Turner Moment: February 24, 2014 8:30 AM

A Turner Moment: February 24, 2014 8:30 AM

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 21, 2014



What Did I See?

What Did I See?

February is such a d—ed unpredictable month!  One wonders why the year bothers with it at all.

Dick the Weatherman has forecast a day of more than normal inclemency for the whole region.  It’s raining now on Upper Biscayne as if the prudent should be gathering the animals two by two.

Though quite unseasonably warm all that has done with the addition of the sheets of rain is turn the several feet of what would have been, despite the inconvenience for the servants of shoveling paths every which way in preparation for today’s event, the pleasant aspect of rolling meadows of snow into treacherous gray deeps of malevolently lurking gelato.

It is a bother to have to do this with such short notice, but think of what the bother would be if some of the shorter among us should have simply disappeared whilst strolling about.  I cannot bear the thought of emergency workers slogging through the the muck with their horrid equipment.  Nor would you wish us to, either.  But, simply leaving someone lost out there until warmer and drier times had come would, no pun intended, quite dampen the whole affair. Reluctantly, then, we have decided to cancel our plans for this afternoon’s and the year’s first Lawn Party here at Biscayne On The Hill.

We will, of course, as is our custom of long standing, donate what had been prepared for your refreshment to the Home for Friendless Children, at Gloomy Bottoms, who are very grateful every year for our leavings, our tastefully rearranged scraps.  Cook takes great prize, she says, in transforming trash into treasure.  On his return from performing this little kindness, Benson always tells us how pleased Mr. Grool the Director, says his dull eyed, hollow cheeked little charges are to have something that actually has flavor from time to time.

So, we may console ourselves that the caviar is not entirely wasted.  Of course, Hyacinth, having insisted, will have a bit for Mr. Jinks, her cat.

I apologize for the short notice, but there is nothing else I could think of to do.  And, I do hope that you have not been left without anything to do today.  For our part, we will spend the day thinking how nice it will be not to have to stand around smiling at you.

Do not think that this has in any way shaken our faith in Mr. Gore’s pronouncements about Global Warming.  If anything we remain even more convinced of the inevitability.  Next year’s event, here, will be planned with that in mind.  Dress accordingly, or not at all…if you dare.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 9, 2014

A Meditation on a Falling Leaf

Before The Dance Begins

Before The Dance Begins

When he rises in my heart
Whom I cannot see
But know he’s there
And is not me
What can I say?
To whom speak?
May I only be mute, little, meek?

The leaf lets go.  Or does it?
Or rides wind currents
Unseen yet there.
Does nothing fall?
Do leaves move at all
Or stay and trees leave, and wind flow
And ponderous planet from below
Rise to settle leaf?

Where has space gone the tree,
There for more years I have been,
Moved into slower than passing time.
Where is time itself, or who
Has seen it move, felt it so?

Perhaps forever, at least, but now
In my heart I know that leaf
Has always been right where it is.
A billion years will make no difference.

Just like light from the first star,
First light in ignorant darkness, near, far,
Shines still, and always has and always will.
There is the leaf, unmoving center
Of all that is, motionless regarding me
As I regard leaf and tree
And time and all infinity
Not me.

I die.

You see.

Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 7, 2014

Tomorrow (for Stephanie)

(for Stephanie)

You Can Grow

You Can Grow

When she was a little girl not much more than three
She sat upon my father’s shoulders, taller than a tree,
Pulled his hair, his nose, his ears and sang a song,
“You can grow on top of me,” she sang,
“I can grow on top of you.”

And looking down from my father’s shoulders, looking down at me
She sang another verse of the song she always sang:
“You can grow along side of me
I can grow along side of you,”
In the long light shining afternoon.
And my father sang her song himself in his sweet baritone

While he carried her along on his shoulders
With her hands in his long red hair,
With his brown eyes smiling,
With his freckled arms holding her soft white legs.
He sang, and my sister sang and I did too.

The trees held hands across the road and up the hill.
The sun swayed in the sky above.
Clouds and shadows danced up in the sky
Deep in the woods behind, about,
Along the river banks, and down
The stairs, the marble stairs on the marble hill,
The walking stairs from one place to the next higher on the hill
Where we went to sing and to see.

To see and to sing goodbye to the sun
Until it had gone beyond our song
Robed in all the glowing colors of tomorrow.

Just a Little Bit Closer, Now

Why we did it, I’ll never know, but habits are like that.  One keeps repeating, falling into them, even the bad ones; especially the bad ones.  Since the directions that we had printed out back home in the US didn’t serve their purpose well almost as soon as we arrived over here in Ireland, the first thing that we did was follow them after leaving the M-I motorway from Dublin and striking out for Abbeyleix.  It really wasn’t too hard, anyway, since we had a map from the car rental agency, accurate at scales no less than several dozen parsecs, and, truth to tell, little more than a wild guess at any scale if my experiences with Irish maps meant anything.  There wasn’t much at all to bother with, anyway, since the first signpost we saw pointed to Abbeyleix being straight ahead; oh, and slightly left.

So off we went, more or less headed in the right direction.  Within several minutes we did indeed enter the outskirts of the town.  I felt relieved, safe and close to sure we were where we were supposed to be.  Better than that it seemed that everything else was where it was supposed to be.

Waiting to turn from the wee path of road we were on into the slightly larger path leading to Abbeyleix  we watched several garishly done up cars dash by going in our direction.  Odd that they seemed, the costumes worn by drivers and passengers were even more odd.  At a break in traffic we jumped into the flow of traffic just behind a little car driven by a Wookie.

You Can’t Get There From Here

We were about three miles from the town of Abbeyleix now, headed south.  As we drew closer we encountered groups, little knots of people, lining the road looking north in the direction from which we had come.  Some held cameras.  There were adults and children as well; standing, waiting.  The sideline got more crowded the closer we got to town, so that as we entered there were several places where the crowd stood two or three deep.  It’s not a big town, Abbeyleix.  There’s one cross road running through the center of the place.  I’ll bet a sandwich that there aren’t more than three or four thousand people in the whole place.  Most of them had to have been on the side of the main road leading in.  At the cross, the one intersection, was a traffic light with, so help me God, not one but two traffic cops and a Garda cruiser parked at the curb, its blue light blinking.  Up and down the road young ladies were carrying buckets begging change for some charity from the passers by, the spectators, the cars parked in line waiting for the light to change.

Change it did before the buckets reached us and we moved on.  The directions from the States said we would see the hotel on our right  as we entered the town.  We would know we had gone too far, however,…the directions told us…if we passed the intersection we had just passed.  Odd as this may sound, we saw no hotel at all either on our right or on our left before the intersection.  But, we did spot a hotel coming up on the right a few dozen slow moving feet in front of us.

It was shuttered, out of business, a victim of the Irish economic slowdown.  Mariellen, still driving in the crowd of whacky cars, pulled off the road and turned the wheel over to me about a quarter of a mile past the dead hotel right by a gas station.  Thinking we might have been given the wrong side of the road to look on, I turned and retraced our steps, weaving in an out of young ladies with buckets, oddly decorated cars and crowds of happy, and getting happier, Irish people in the early afternoon.  Our search for a hotel on the other side of the street produced nothing but wonder and question.  Wonder at the wildness taking place, and question about the Irish and their capacity for whimsy and mayhem, because I began to believe that someone, somewhere had purposely screwed up the directions and was now in a pub with a few other direction makers having a few and laughing themselves silly imagining the wild goose chases taking place all over the country.

We repeated the exercise twice more before I got tired of doing it that way.  The old Kingston Trio song, “The Man Who Never Returned” began running thru my mind.  We might ride forever on this road to nowhere.  So, the next time we were stopped at the light, I asked the young Gard at the intersection, the one who was beginning to follow with his eyes our slow and constant cruises up and down (were we terrorists, or tourists?), where in heaven’s name was this hotel?

“Oh, yah. Ye need to turn around,” he said.  “It is just beyond the petrol station about a mile down the road; the big yellow building on your left.”  I thanked him, turned right into the road at the intersection and reversed direction where it was quiet.  I’d have had to drive to Belfast, I thought, before I could turn around on the evermore crowded-with-funny-cars-and- funnier -passengers traffic now on the main road.  So I did, smiling at the young cop as I reentered the stream of craziness.  Soon enough we passed the “petrol” station, the same one we had turned off the road to enter a small lane when I took the wheel from Mariellen.  Not ten yards beyond it was our destination. The golden hotel at the end of the road.  It could have been an outhouse and we wouldn’t have been at all surprised, or less relieved.  No pun intended.

We Found It

There were a number of men in uniforms, cars of all shapes and description, fellows in sashes and jackets, and weirdly costumed men and women, as well as scores of kids and grownups swarming all over like ants on the cake at a picnic.

Some fellow in a brilliant yellow crossing guard’s vest put up his hand as I turned to enter the very over-crowded parking lot.  “You can’t come in here,” he said, worry and exasperation creasing his brow, fear in his eyes.  “I can and I will,” I answered.  “We have reservations here tonight.”  Down came the barrier on the entrance way.  “You can park in the back until they all leave,” he said as I passed.  “It’ll all be over by 3:00 o’clock.”  I nodded and we drove on, maneuvering by, through and around cars and crowds and costumed weirdness following a deeply rutted unpaved road…more like a cow path…around to the rear of the hotel, the unglamorous business end of the place.  There we stopped, next to the dumpsters and trash, unloaded our luggage, and while Mariellen and Carolyn went in search of the lobby to register, I went to park the car.

I found a reasonably level spot between a puddle and some weeds, every other space being taken up by weird cars and weirder people; including an ambulance driven by two scantily clad young ladies whose costume would affect the pulse and blood pressure of any patient, perhaps not at all therapeutically.  As I was locking the car and turning to walk to the lobby one of the “medical staff” bent over  in front of me and while I am not sure, I would bet that one could have had a clear glimpse of her tonsils.  I practiced custody of the eyes as I hurried on to the lobby.

The girls had already completed the process of getting us a room.  So, we went to the rear “lobby” and grabbed out luggage.  I learned where the name Luggage came from.  That is exactly what we did up two flights and down a long hall to the room which we opened with a key that would not have looked out of place opening a dungeon in the Tower of London.  When I put it in my pocket I leaned to whichever side it was on.  All that can be said in favor of the room was that we fit in it, and that we didn’t need to remain standing to do it.  But, it had enough in the way of beds, and tea service, and indoor plumbing to satisfy even the most discerning 19th Century traveler.

We washed up and went back downstairs to see about getting some lunch in the restaurant; crowded with the folks from town, The Gawkers, and the weird car folks, The Gawked At.  We found a snug little corner, a perch from which to do our own gawking at everyone else, ordered some sandwiches, and our first Smithwick’s of the trip and began to relax.  Carolyn had herself a Heinekin’s shandy, a mix of orangeade and beer, a special for the ladies.  Reviewing the crazy directions we had used, excuse me, I mean not used, to get to the hotel we figured out that they had been somehow turned upside down, putting the hotel on the north side of town, on the west side of the road, when it was really south and east.  As if we needed any more evidence of the cruelly capricious nature of road maps and directions in Ireland.  All it did was lend more credence to our belief that the Irish Ordinance office was filled with practical jokers, and that they had allies in Google Maps.

Any foe trying an invasion of the place would very soon find itself, probably, in downtown London.

Anyway, while lunch was in progress the bar was doing a bang up business, and the parking lot was thronged.  I took a couple of photos, of course, and I’ll allow you to wonder what the rest looked like.

P1010523 P1010525

After lunch we visited the front desk again and asked what we might do to pass the time, other than ogle oddly dressed people and weirdly decorated cars.  The nice lady told us to go to Heywood Gardens, not too far away in Ballinakill one town over.  She had a sincere and open face, so we took a chance on the directions she gave us and set out on what was to be the most difficult part, getting to our car and leaving the place.  Oh, yes, for those who may be wondering, she also told us what in the name of Big Mac was happening.  It was something called The Cannonball Run, a recently organized annual event where folks who have nothing better to do play dress up and drive all over the country to raise money for some charity.  Well, it keeps them out of the pubs…not exactly.


In The Garden of  Good

We made our way through the lobby rats to the back door, through the maze of trash cans and dumpsters, around the ruts and puddles in the road back of the hotel to the spot where I’d parked our tiny auto; pausing briefly while Carolyn stopped to feed some of the stray cats with most of her lunch.  They, at least looked normal.  The afternoon was moving along.  It was after three.  The parking lot was emptying, loud cars, horns and the occasional siren screamed by on the road as the Cannonball Run continued south for God knows where.  We waited a few minutes until most of the revelers had gone and then crept out, unnoticed, ourselves.

Our guide at the desk had given us pretty clear directions, and assured us the trip wouldn’t take long at all, only a few minutes.  And, I believed her.  She had an honest face.  It turned out that she was right, but I began to doubt after the odometer had passed the 5k mark.  At one point my eagerness to be there led me on a sort of wild goose chase, up a short drive to come to a stop at an unfinished half built home, deserted.  No doubt it was a casualty of the burst speculative bubble over here that’s left about a half million similar unfinished ruins all over.  This in a country of about six million people.

No doubt they had good intentions, and I don’t think the number of imprisoned speculators and lenders is near the number of the same here in the United States; which isn’t any at all.

In any event we found the entrance to Heywood Gardens betimes, passing through the intricately carved large iron gates and up a steep curving road to the top of a hill, a good half mile from the gate.  It had been the estate of a successful lawyer a century or more ago, who’d come up against his expenses.  He died.  His house burned to the ground, and the place became a Catholic girl’s school.  Where the mansion stood at the hilltop now stood the gray buildings of the school and gravel parking lots.  But, before the school, the hill gave way to a wonderful view to the south and west of rolling hills and little valleys, and knots of brown and white and red cows grazing in the late afternoon.  Directly in front of us as we parked the car and got out was a tall hedge.

Where were the gardens?  Beyond the school behind us?  Past the barns and stables to our left?  Behind the hedge?  We had no idea.

There wasn’t a soul around.  Well, this was Ireland.

We wandered over towards the hedge where there was a bike rack, a flagpole and some kind of sign; all not very helpful.  But, right behind it, through another five yards or so of thick wet grass was a kind of opening in the tall hedge.  Could that be they way in, a genuine “Shrubbery”?  It could and it was.  We passed through the opening into a kind of secret garden.  Here were two large anterooms, almost empty places and a path leading down a bit from the level we had entered.

We followed the stone steps down through a doorway that opened into a sunken treasure; a round and walled garden set into the hill terraced with flowers and statues and windows in the wall to look out on the beauty all around and the dome of the sky above for a roof:


Mariellen and Carolyn Benched at Heywood Gardens


The Shrubbery Ante-Room


What A Surprise Awaits


Sunken Treasures


The Way Back


The Fountain and Reflecting Pond


The World Beyond


Carolyn Capturing Memories


There Once Was An Ugly Duckling


And Now The Purple Dusk of Twilight Time


A Quiet Place

This was just the foyer.  We spent the next couple of hours walking all around, and except for the delighted cries and brief sightings of some children whose parents were letting them run off a sugar high, we neither saw nor heard another person in a walk through and about an enchanted place.  The only other living things were the silent swans on a little pond in a wild valley and the curious cows on the hillside pastures.  As Mariellen has said, “It was one of the loveliest places we have been in Ireland.”  If you know “Gardens”, this was a vest pocket Powerscourt.

But, we really had to get back.  Evening was becoming night.  Besides, Carolyn was still wearing her pink slippers.  You can see them on her feet in the photo above beginning then just to get a little wet.  By the end of our ramble, she could have wrung them out.  And they locked the gates at 7:00pm, so said the sign.

But, we can’t leave Heywood Gardens without another sign, one that should be in every garden, I think.  I would have liked to stop and have a chat with two people, whoever wrote the words below, and Mr. Heywood, the fellow who found them and put them in this lovely place:


The Setting Sun Now Dies Away

Carolyn Downs Gallaher is a kick in the head, a delightful mix of little child, daffy teenager and amazingly grown up woman; though the latter comes across most often as dry Dorothy Parkerish observations on the foibles and shortcomings of people from whom she has expected better.  I’ve been telling my granddaughter for a couple of years she should keep a note book of those things and find a publisher some day.  Anyway, it wasn’t this on display as we left the Heywood Gardens.  No, we hadn’t gone far when Carolyn in the back seat lowered her window and held her wet socks out of the car to dry off as I drove back to the hotel.  When I noticed it and asked her if she thought it was going to do any good, she blandly replied, “It might and it mightn’t.”  Those are exactly the same words I heard a hundred times from her cousins over here, usually with a sly smile on their faces.

We lost the sock on the way back.  I offered to turn around and look for it.  “I have others,” she said, laughing.  “I can mix and match, now.”  No doubt.

We had asked the lady at the desk (you remember) where there might be a nice place to eat supper in town.  She’d mentioned two spots, one a fancy looking restaurant with, probably, high prices and poor cooking.  The other was what she called an “Autentic Oirish Pub”, just up the street from high price/poor grub.  We decided to check it out on our drive back to the hotel since we wanted to take Carolyn to a real Irish pub on this trip.

And, there it was as we pulled into the main street, all dark wood fronting the street, a few dusty bottles in the window, a couple of beaten up tables on the sidewalk for the “al fresco” diners and “himself” sitting at one of them.  He was a thin little squint, unshaven, watery eyed; in age anywhere between 50 and 70, with an empty pint glass at his elbow and the butt end of a cigarette between his tobacco yellowed fingers.

He eyed me as I pulled up at the curb and got out.  Yes, we’d decided to take Carolyn to a pub and give her some real Irish pub grub, but I thought this might be too real, and wanted to see how “real” it was before coming back.  Walking to the door I stopped and asked “your man” in front had they food to serve inside.  “Of course they do,” his thin wheeze of a voice answered me, and his gap toothed smile shined, “as much as anyone would want.”  So, in I went to see how right he was.

Inside was and wasn’t something I’d ever seen before. It was a pub all right.  I’ve been in those before.  It was a neighborhood dive, and I have certainly been in those before.  This, though, was a strange combination of both, with “grace” notes of the 19th century and accents of dust and grime on the walls and windows and furniture, and on a few of the several or so customers scattered along the bar and at the tables.  It was small and dark and smoke filled.  There were dim lights high up in the ceiling doing not much more than letting you know they were there for as many of their photons as may have reached anything below.  A wash of weak light seeped though the smoke grayed windows ending for the most part on the floor not far inside the door.  For the rest a blue gray haze, a mist of tobacco smoke and the smells of stale beer and bad breath made up the “atmosphere” of authenticity.

Two or three ill kept men sat along a shelf below the windows in the front; movie extra ruffians they might have been or two bit crooks.  More than likely, they were just laborers, or farmers from around the area.  It didn’t matter.  They could have been there from the Beginning it seemed, or at least since the age yellowed paint on the walls (where it was visible) first dried.  One or two others, more denizens than customers, reading papers spread out on the bar, holding whispered conversations, coddling in their hands a patient pint, looked at me, alert to my entering like dogs over their food.  As I walked the few steps from the entrance I listened to the silence, now, and knew I was the center of attention; probably the first new thing to happen to the place for several years.  And I imagined conversations in there in the weeks ahead about the Yank who had wandered in from outside.

Reaching the bar I asked my question of the two sides of beef behind it, “Do you serve meals, here?”  Behind them through an open door I could see the back of the place and knew my answer.  “We don’t,” said Side #1, about 30 or 40 years younger than me and at least that many pounds heavier.  “We serve only sandwiches.  If it’s a meal you want, there’s a nice place down the road or the hotel.”  He was pleasant enough, and authentic all right.  But, an authentic what I cannot tell.  I thanked him and turned to leave.

On the way out I kept my eyes open.  Memory makes much more of things like this, of course.  I wanted to fix the place in my memory, so odd was it, with its smoke stained walls and blear covered windows.  It was such an odd place I wanted to keep it somewhere inside me, though I couldn’t have been there more than a minute.

The high walls behind the bar were covered with bottles on shelves, most of them had yellowed peeling labels that looked as if they’d been there since the place opened.  The place was separated down the middle by a half wall at least six fee in height.  The rear wall on the other side of this room divider, which once must have separated the bar customers from families, folks who merely wanted a sandwich or a cup of tea, this wall was lined with shelves of books punctuated with smoke darkened paintings, as was the side wall opposite the bar.

Approaching the door I turned and glanced into this “tuckaway”.  Two or three rather well dressed men, fellows in business suits sat at the old tables beneath the old paintings and books.  I did no more than glance at them, but the sight of them sitting quietly in the the haze passing the late afternoon hours in conversation or with a book or magazine almost caused me to stop and return to ask if they were hired to come in and sit.  I didn’t.

I passed through and outside was motioned over by the little man.  “It do be no good,” he said in a drink thickened Irish accent.  Begging his pardon I asked him to repeat and bent to hear better; getting washed with a warm dousing of God alone knows how many days old smell of tobacco and drink on his breath.  Pointing to two small children a few yards away he repeated himself, “It do be no good.”  Then he added, “Only twelve years old and smoking.  It’ll be bad for them.”  I could only agree, and walked to the car a couple of yards away wondering what age he’d attained when he began to be bad.

It was the hotel for a meal, then for us.  I had some salmon, always a good choice in Ireland.  What Mariellen and Carolyn had I cannot recall.  The cats out back, I figured, were to have most of Carolyn’s meal anyway.  We dined on the enclosed porch of the restaurant, the only ones out there, and were served by our authentically Irish waitress from the Ukraine.  When I told her , kiddingly, that she had a lovely Irish accent she smiled and said that she’d lived for nine years just up the road a bit.  I smiled and kept quiet the rest of the meal.

True to my guess, Carolyn took her “leftovers” down to the cats as soon as we had gotten back to the room.

Carolyn and The Cats

Carolyn Feeds the Cats

Mariellen read for a bit, and I simply slept.  It had been a long day.  Tomorrow we’ll go down to Killarney after a stop at The Rock of Cashel.

You come, too.

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