Just In Case

When we popped into the kitchen to let our hosts know we were off for the day Brendan dashed into the pantry, returning with packages of biscuits. “Here now, you might take these just in case.” Just in case what? Unspoken, the question hung in the air. “Well, you never know when you might be getting hungry.” We thanked him, tucked the biscuits in our daypacks and drove up Ireland’s west coast to the Mullaghmore pier.

It was a small boat but comfortable enough for the six passengers. The only shelter from wind and sea spray was the one person pilot cabin where our captain happily settled himself for the duration of our voyage. As we made our way out of the harbor and into the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean it was clear he wouldn’t be volunteering any information about our Inishmurray destination.

Inishmurray landscapeYet there was much to know about this island with its monastic ruins, row of abandoned  houses, crumbling church, cursing stones, graveyards and even a sweat lodge. So much history in a landscape two miles long and less than a mile wide. Although close enough to be visible from the mainland, rough seas and weather can render Inishmurray inaccessible for weeks and sometimes months at a time. With no beach or pier, landing a boat requires sidling up to the rock formations that are the island’s geological foundation, finding one about level with the boat, and jumping as the boat bumps against the massive stones. An adventure just to get there, yet this inaccessibility has served to preserve the island’s historic artifacts.

As we approached the island I studied the shoreline as the abandoned houses came into view. Scanning to the north I identified the schoolhouse but was surprised to see that instead of an open air ruin the building had a brand new metal roof and front door. Inishmurray cursing stonesCurious. I imposed myself on our captain’s sanctuary to ask him about this. “Well you see they had to do that for folks that get stuck on the island. Just a month ago I took some people out. It was a fine day. Just like this. But then the weather turned on us and I couldn’t get back to pick them up. They were out there for three days and finally a helicopter had to go out to bring ’em back.” I mentally counted the biscuit packages in our packs and wondered if someone in that stranded group had turned one of the cursing stones. Continue reading

Houses Are For Living In

A Hole Is To Dig: A First Book of Definitions. As kids our copy was tucked into our bookshelf right next to Winnie The Pooh. Well worn and well loved. Not sure where it got to but apparently if I were inclined to get another first edition, with those great Maurice hands are to make thingsSendak illustrations, I could spend as much as $4,950. Pricey little piece of literature. A face is something to have on the front of your head. Mashed potatoes are to give everybody enough. The ground is to make a garden. Grass is to have on the ground with dirt under it and clover in it. The world is so you have something to stand on. Mud is to jump in and slide in and yell doodeleedoodleedoo. Simple wisdom in child voice. Simplicity I appreciate in this complex journey we call being an adult.

Houses are for living in. Not one of Ruth Krauss’ original definitions. But one I would add.  The realtor just called. “You don’t own a house anymore,” was her way of telling me Dad’s house had closed. As is the way of these things it’s been a long process and the house sat empty for nine months. Yet not really empty with thirty years of accumulated furniture and furnishings still inside until the recent liquidation through commission sale, estate sale and storage. As is, I suspect, also the way of these things there was some resistance to selling, to letting go. Letting go of the memories. Letting go of a convenient place to stay when we go home to visit Dad in his new apartment. For the past many months Dad’s place had become more museum than house. A museum of relics and artifacts from his life with Mom.

Houses like Dad’s were built to last longer than those who live in them and they were built to be lived in. It’s their purpose. It’s what houses do. In letting go, the prior owners created the space for my folks to enjoy their last thirty years together. In letting go, we now create the space for that wonderful house to continue to be a home. A home for love and sanctuary from the world. A home for making memories. In letting go we honor this house and its reason for being. Houses are for living in and this house is one of the best.