In The Glen

GlenColumbKille (Glean Cholm Cille), County Donegal, Ireland

Enter a small, dark pub. The walls are a mild terra-cotta in color where dim lamps are close enough to illumiate them. Red flowered curtains are drawn to expose the gray dusk outside. Small wooden chairs, padded in burgundy clother, are arranged across the flat stone floor. Various pictures of the pub throughout its history adorn the walls along with old, faded posters of traditional Irish musical instruments.

At the back of the pub, a split door opens to the left, exposing the bar. A man, perhaps in his later 30’s, sits reviewing receipts.

A pint of Guiness is requested and the barkeep inquirees as to where I’m from. I lean against the door and discuss Florida – Vera Beach, in fact – where he spent a few years. He moved along to Boston, completing an 8-year U.S. tour.

His hours vary according to Irish law: Monday through Wednesday till 11:00p, Thursday through Saturday till 12:30a. Sunday till 11:00p.

Five adults in their 60’s sit in theback arounda small table, sipping pints and smoking. Their conversation is jovial, with bursts of laughter though their brogues are so thick I cannot understand what they are saying.

A young couple and a friend sit next to the fireplace. I listen carefully to their conversation. It does not appear to be gaelic. German, perhaps. It fits their pale, blonde appearance. There are so many German tourists in this country.

I remove my cap and coat before I sit along the wall closest to the door, near to the television which is currently playing a British hospital drama.

It would figure that not an hour into my true sabbatical in Ireland I am confronted with reminders of my wife’s death in graphic detail via a television, thousands of miles away from where that event took place, 1 and a half years ago. I couldn’t escape if I tried.

I avoid the sounds of the television by focusing on the other patrons’ conversations. Eventually the show ends. Not long thereafter, the elder crowd leaves, setting empty glasses and wishing goodbyes until tomorrow. The threesome near the fire whisper something amongst themselves.

On the television, a replay of the Queen Mother’s funeral from earlier this morning.

The barkeep walks through, notices the TV and asks to the four of us, “Did the’ not bury her yet?”

No one responds.

I entered the small village approximately an hour and a half ago. It was a beautiful three hour drive from Belfast through the hills and fields in the counties Armagh, Tyrone and Fermanagh. Then through the rocky, barren foothills past Donegal City in the County Donegal. Small towns and villages lined the roads along the last hour of my drive. Some, such as Donegal are obviously tourist traps, adorned in Irish linen shops and pubs bearing large lighted Guiness signs.

Others, such as Carrick, were clearly forgotten in time as long as 60 or more years ago. These small blocks of buildings are divided by a single narrow road remind me of images used by the Irish Tourism Board in American commercials. I’m more surprised by the fact that I’m actually here than I am by the idea that villages such as this still exist.

These are the backroads, the forgotten highlands, of Ireland. I’m finaly here. Another step in the journey I sough so long ago.

GlenColumbKille sits in a narrow valley, emptying into the North Atlantic ocean, only a mile or so down a gravel road.

I sat around for a short while. Before long, the bar became mine alone.

Later, the ladies from the senior crowd returned. Bingo was their pub-interuption tonight and unfortunately without financial reward. They sit nearby, sipping whiskeys and soda.

I’m watching Einstein TV, a channel provided by the local cable satelite service. On the program they are discussing Resis monkeys; one in particular named Andy who has been genetically altered with the gene that causes glow fish to do just that: glow. No, Andy doesn’t glow, but his continued health is proof that primates can be altered with genes from another species and survive.

It was a fascinating brief, though interrupted by the noisy reappearance of the four women. Under her breath, and to no one in particular, one , “Eye, look a’ the wee lit’l monkeys. Lovely, eye.”

I’m not sure how or where to end this. I’m on a different planet sometimes. Everynow and then it feels quite comfortable, too.

Miss you all-