I have never seen such contradiction in one place. Grey parallel bodies of limestone rock breathe at the earth’s surface, finally. They appear to weigh down the land and harness any possible color that could blossom there. But when I peer closer, soft carpets of green and reaching fingers of thorns and dainty quiet explosive colors consume the “lifelessness” of the grey floor. The sight is puzzling, as is the spectacle happening in the sky. I avert my eyes from my feet to God and see that the sky is blue with glorious streams of gold and in those streams there are glistening drops falling through them. Rain falls in spite of sun and the rebellion sends a faint projection of dancing hues in the distance. Each individual bead falling from grace contributes its sound to the musical drumming of the golden storm. Flying, dipping, weaving through the gold, blue, purple-yellow-orange-red, are wings of black. The raven is a thief, guilty of stealing my divine contemplation of the elegance of the heavens. I follow its slur of black until it lands on a sacred pile of crumbling ruins. Its miserable existence pains the silence of the hallowed walls with its rude devilish screams.
The winged beast reminds me of the terrors I feel in my sleep, my manic mind fighting my paralyzed state. My body conquered like the decaying, collapsing sacred place the raven squeals from, forewarning anyone who tries to rescue the sacred pile. I am the pile. I am the still and quiet ruins of a girl who used to be whole and full and bright. I sympathize with the place and run at the beast, my hands flailing in attempt to frighten the menace into flight. It stares at me for a moment and then it is a flying, squawking blur again, fading into the golden graces of the Irish sky.
There I stand, ruins amongst the ruins. Looking around at the dripping grey stones that crumble around me. I release a sigh and loosen my tensed muscles, realizing I’ve never felt such comfort in a place- besides at my sister’s grave. This decaying tortured piece of the past reminds me of her and so I sit inside of it for a long while and let the time pass over me. It is cold and damp but I am warm because I feel her in this place. There are whispers of struggling people here, distant whimpers of starving children and soft sobs of strong men and I feel them too, in the crumbling walls of this place of peace and comfort. When I find my feet, my hand traces the hard stones of the remaining walls until I am through what would resemble a door.
I leave the pile behind me and continue walking, not looking back. But the wind pushing me forward feels like familiar hands gently supporting my wandering, and I walk taller knowing I am not alone. I look up to the sky, which has become the long grey beard of a strong, suffering, worried man stuck in history. This sorrow hangs over my wandering feet, and I look up to feel the tears of the people who have wandered here before me. Down at my feet is the earth, the brown muck that cakes my every step, and I can smell the freshness of it all rising to cleanse my polluted lungs, and mind.
Oh my mind.
Dramatically consumed with the one person that haunts my house with her absence. I remember my mother’s wailing, my dad’s breathless sobs, and my grandmother’s quiet moans.
Then, even more painfully, the reality of the golden scene in front of me fades to become her beauty. Her dark eyes, hair, and then she is smiling in my head and I want to walk with her and hold her hand but she turns away from my memory and becomes flames, smoke, and the flashing red-blue-red lights of emergency rescue vehicles and she is ashes and all that is left of her is her ghost and I remember like I do every day that she isn’t here and I feel myself start to hyperventilate and I can’t breath and I want to scream but my chest hurts and I squeeze my eyes shut until it stops
And then it stops.
When I look up from my thoughts, I realize I am standing in a green valley radiant with the glow of the setting sun. Fog settles along the tops of the mountains, the sinking rays dance in the mist. A flock of birds sway along the grooves of the country as one body until they find a leaning tree to rest in. The sound of my breath is drowning out the beautiful silence of the rolling hills and my head is throbbing from the strain of the sudden rush of images from the past that persistently haunt my present.
I stop to lean on what’s remaining of a stone fence and let my lungs catch up to my feet. My arm is draped around the study stones and I lean my whole body on the wall and rest. Ahead, the birds are chirping excitedly in a leafless beast of a tree that has grown sideways with the ghosts of screaming crosswinds. It looks like it should fall over any moment but the birds remain in the reaching arthritis-crippled fingers of the tree.
Before I can squeak out a scream I am pulled out of my awe and become a pile of dusty-hundred-year-old stones. I feel defeated and lying down feels better anyway so instead of getting up and brushing myself off I decide to lie in the rocks and dust.
The rain beats ruthlessly on the restored roof of the castle that stubbornly stands against gravity and my eyes droop with the monotonous music of the clouds. The warm smell from my sugared creamed coffee swirls into my nose and tells me to take another gulp. It scorches my tongue but sooths my throat and I feel my eyes drooping a little less. The rain drowns the voices of my classmates, I stop trying to hear them and slurp down another hot mouthful. I snap back to consciousness as my literature professor wins the fight for attention and starts the conversation about the Death of Cuchulain, a play by a famous Irish writer, Yeats, who was undoubtedly obsessed with the hero.
I imagine myself as a famous warrior- a blurry rage of a man with the strength of a hundred men, cutting down any evil that regrettably crosses my path. I hear clinking and clanking of swords in my head and dream over the conversations happening in reality until my class is up and shuffling their feet down the windy staircase of the cold damp castle. I jump out of my chair and into reality and follow the herd outside where we are set free to explore.
I run off into the mist and fog alone before anyone accompanies me. When I look back to be certain that no one has spotted me, I let out the relief that I had held in my chest. I pull out my camera and wander blindly, letting myself get lost in the enchanting green places far off the roadways. There are branches and boulders everywhere and I am dodging and whacking and hopping over the quiet secret places. Suddenly the quiet is broken with quiet a rustling behind me and I wheel around to see nothing. Shrugging, I continue my war with the vine-blanketed branches until I hear it once more, but it is louder. I turn again to see nothing but a great moss covered heap of rocks. I stand still for a moment and I hear it again louder still, my knees buckle ad I wait for something to jump out at me. Just then, from behind the pile of green limestone the black beast squawks as it pounces on top of the pile and I twitch with surprise.
We stand for a moment, unblinking, staring one another and I am certain that this is the same raven from the ruins. Shaking my head at the impossibility of that, I rotate back to my path. I hear leaves shuffling and the ground shifting I realize that the thing is hopping behind me, following me. I quicken my pace and it hops faster behind me, until I start at a run. I hear a great scream and a flap of wings and I see the raven sailing ahead of me on the mist of the forest until it is swallowed by it.
I hear the offensive cry of the raven ahead of me again and this time I am chasing its faint shadow, tripping over rocks and stumbling over the traps that the arms of vines on the forest floor have grown there to catch intruders. I race to keep it in my sight until I come to a familiar clearing. When I look around at the grey haze I catch sight of a broken rock wall and before I know it my feet lead me towards it until I am standing in the dust of the crumbled rocks. I stand over the pitiful pile of what once was part of the rest of the strong stonewall and decide that it should once again be a strong stone wall, so with the misty sunlight illuminating the quiet hills behind me my arms work to preplace what was. I feel something wet roll down my cheek and I think for a second that I am crying, I wipe at my eyes and realize that I am not but that the sky is tearing open to let it’s weight onto the earth. I’ve placed eleven stones and now it pours. Twelve. The weak muscles of my arms are already tearing, burning, thirteen.
When I have done the best I can to fit the stones together to form something of a wall, the raven softly lands on top of my rebuild and looks at me like it had in the forest but this time it doesn’t scream at me. It looks at me and soon I realize that its dark eyes seem familiar. The great dark creature seems beautiful to me and then I think that I see her in the raven’s eyes. When I blink the beast is in the sky again, gliding on the golden mist that breaks from the clouds and pours onto the land.
I walk from the wall and towards the direction that I think town is in and think of the raven and its great black wings blending into the haze of the sky until I feel the warmth the sun, breaking the clouds as if to speak to the earth. The warmth of its smile soaks up the rain in my jeans and hair and I walk taller with its company. I look over the singing hills and see that another rainbow is falling from the clouds, dancing with the misty rays of the long awaited sunshine. I let the beauty of the glowing green valley fill my lungs and I release a small contribution for the trees and grass of the land and walk until I find myself in the familiar streets of Ballyvaghan.