The Work of a Winter 10
It’s words from that book that are lively in my head tonight and the memory of a marvel.
We’d travelled down to Cloch Uáitéir from Dublin after working on the miracles of
Moling and were staying in the barn of the secular priest Robneid Purcell to copy his fragment
of the life of Kevin who’d lived with his disciple Solomon on a skerry in the lough
nearby. We copied disgusting poems that day, I’m ashamed even now to confess.
It was this time of year: I remember the lake ringed red by the hawthorn hedges
and in the evening we lit a fire on the floor to take the chill off the night but as we prayed
before sleep the air filled with the flurry of angels – white wings frantic and lucent
from the flames – our own private Pentecost overhead in absolution for those godless poems.
Even as we prayed they began to fall, St Francis’s flowers. A flock of great white butterflies,
bedding down to winter in the walls, had mistaken the heat of our fire for an early Spring
and come back to life too soon. No angels then but marvellous still.
Is that what death will be, I wonder, a gentle waking into the warmth of God?
These are my last things, my litany of lost or nearly lost words inflected by home
and memories that flit in the dusk made vivid for a moment then gone.
I am the poor friar Mícheál Ó Cléirigh.