November, quotidian

evora plates


The edge of a dream, the small hotel in Evora, the one with bathroom tiles the colour of ripe lemons, the one with the tiny balcony looking over a narrow street that led to the Roman temple in the square at the top. In the dream I was looking down at a shop where plates were stacked in a precarious pile by the edge of the cobbles. We’d eaten on plates like those the night before, the man at the hotel drawing a rough map to show us how to find a restaurant in the dark, and we stood under a streetlight, trying to determine if we should take that road or that one, and when we found the restaurant, lamps were burning, a table was waiting, laid with rough linen and blue plates, and the day’s travel woes were forgotten.


I grabbed a handful of cds to take on the drive down to Sechelt yesterday and one of them was the gorgeous Irish Heartbeat, Van Morrison and the Chieftains, something I haven’t listened to in years, but in the warm car, storm rising around us, I was listening, face pressed against the window where raindrops glazed the glass. Was I dreaming of the handsome boatman?

But the sea is wide and I cannot swim over
Neither have I wings to fly
If I could find me a handsome boatsman
To ferry me over to my love and die
Or was I remembering everyone I’ve known who has died?
My childhood days bring back sad reflections
Of happy times spent so long ago
My childhood friends and my own relations
Have all passed on now like melting snow
In truth, I was both dreaming and remembering, the voices in the car reminding me of my own time in Ireland, finishing my shopping on a stormy day and taking my bags down to the curragh that would take me back to the island where I lived, being waylaid by one boatman or another, and taken back to the pub for a last glass of Guinness in the smoky dark while someone sat on a tall stool in the corner, singing the old songs, before returning to the currach and waiting, waiting on the grassy shingle for the man who would row me home.
But I’ll spend my days in endless roaming
Soft is the grass, my bed is free
Ah, to be back now in Carrickfergus*
On that long road down to the sea


The power went out at 5:30 this morning, the small lights we are accustomed to at night–the shell nightlight in the bathroom, the glow of the modem in John’s study beyond our bedroom– extinguished. My good husband went down to light the fire and put the kettle on and then we waited. And waited. A watched kettle never boils and one on the woodstove takes at least an hour. John put on a jacket and went to the outbuilding where we keep our old camping stove, filling it with fuel, setting up under the woodshed eaves, trying to light it, its connections rusty and stubborn. I saw him walking back to the outbuilding where another, older, Coleman was stored, hoping for better luck with that one, and then suddenly, the click and ring as the power came on. A watched kettle, an old Coleman, the fire warm with dry fir.

*For the most beautiful version of this old song, give yourself the pleasure of listening to Allison Moorer sing it.

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