I still haven't gotten to the part about the residency!! Patience.
I'll pick up the tale at Bennelaght as I head off to the next Megalith on my agenda. I planned to see 4 Megalith sites on this day but driving to the first and spending time around the stones had taken all morning and part of the afternoon. I was determined to speed up the process but realized it was futile. Wrong turns, the need to pee, being surrounded by fields without a house or village in sight, a regular stream of cars that forced me off the road every few minutes -- slowed me to a crawl. So I went with it.
It wasn't hard to be absorbed by the landscape. Everywhere I looked seemed like a scene from a movie. I stopped frequently, taking photo after photo. I started to understand my ancestor's relationship to this ever-shifting, awe-inspiring place.
After returning to the car, I realized my phone battery was nearly dead. The port in the dashboard didn't work and I hadn't noticed. I had no way of finding my way back to Cork City, never mind the next Megalith, without it. At this point I was envisioning having to stop at someone's home and asking to use their plug. Based on the types of directions I'd gotten so far, recharging in a stranger's home was the only conceivable option. The alternative struck fear in my bones. Directions usually involved the words, "It's just down the road a bit...keep on... and... you can't miss it." As a New Yorker I equated this to "walk a block and you'll see a big sign on your right." In Ireland it means - "Go about a mile and you should notice the abbreviation of the name you're looking for on the tiny sign, about 10 feet up, tucked amongst many on this crowded street, while you're driving, trying not to hit anyone ... or any thing."
I finally saw a village up ahead. Villages in this neck of the woods are this... a store (Bodega) and a pub, at an intersection. I arrived in one of these villages, got out of my car with my legs crossed and proceeded to shimmy into the store. I asked if I could plug in my phone while I used the bathroom. She said, "Of course!" The bathroom was across the street, in the pub. So, my awkward walk continued in that direction. There were a few hardy folks in there early in the afternoon and I was directed to the back of the space.
When I return to the store, the owner wanted to know about why I was there and where I had come from. She offered to make me a sandwich and coffee as she stepped behind the deli area. Ham, cheese, I asked for mayo but when she asked if I wanted butter, I said yes please!!!. She walked over to the bread on a shelf in the store, took out a few slices and got to work. I spotted a phone charger that plugged into the cigarette lighter and added it to the pile. She told me that her daughters were taking her to NYC in April, she had never been. I told her it was my first time to Ireland and I didn't want to leave.
I asked which direction was east but ended up heading in the wrong direction anyway. After I realized my mistake, I looped back past the store, through the intersection, took the right and was Gobsmacked by the site in front of me. (Don't judge me, I hung out with some British folk at my residency.) :) Up ahead was a bridge and in the middle of it was a crumbling castle. A fortress really but I'm going with castle. It was sitting in the middle of a river and the bridge stretched out beside it. The bridge was just wide enough for my car and was made of the same old stones as the castle. Yes, this really exists.
After the requisite photo stop, I headed up the hill and came to an intersection. In the middle of the intersection was a giant creche. It was painted a pale blue and white. A life-sized Virgin Mary, palms together in prayer stood with eyes cast demurely to the ground, in front of a shell-like nook. Venus de Milo in robes, head wrapped in deference. Large BVM letters adorned the fence at the edge of the street and I stopped again.
I parked beside a huge, closed gate with a sign that said private property. I glanced down the long road behind the gate. Trees arched in from either side creating a tunnel. I wondered what was back there. When I was done with my photo of the BVM, I continued up the hill and came upon a tiny stone cottage on the right. On the left was a mossy wall, topped with spiky stones. Behind the wall was a bright field filled with sheep. The facade of an old stone estate could be seen through the trees with outbuildings scattered around its edges.
I imagined the cottage was akin to one my mother's grandfather lived in. He was the gardener on an estate like this. (I visited it at the tail end of my stay. More later.)
I thought about the disparity between the two houses and then about my tiny apartment in NYC and the tiny house movement taking place globally. When I moved to the city I had to shed the "stuff" I had acquired over the previous 30 years. I envisioned things I gave away or sold in multiple yard sales. I don't miss any of it. I wondered about what drives humans to hoard and ask for more, when all you could possibly need fits into this, the tiniest of homes.
(Ok, assuming you don't have a huge family. We can talk about agriculture and the patriarchy at a later date.) Recommended reading, Federici, Caliban and the Witch. Thank you Alexandra Hammond.