The Work of a Winter 9
Lough Ree was the closing of a circle, for there we’d worked as four for the first time:
the two Cú Choigcríches, Fearfeasa Ó Maoil Chonaire and myself, from sunrise to
sundown, from St Francis’s Feast to Mischief Day, on the list of kings and genealogy of
saints – sifting, straining dates and notes. On the Feast of Saint Charles of Borromeo the
sisters baked apples in honour of his blessing of the orchards and our finishing of the work.
That was the rhythm we took to Donegal and to the Annals – the best days an almost
silent meditation, each man lending weight to the work of the others, light streaming in
the window catching motes or rain dripping from the leaves all round concentrating the room’s sounds
of breath and books. Later – lucubration, redaction and sometimes a letter from abroad
like the one from Prague on the ghostly library of Strahov we would have loved to see.
Then the campaign against us, the accusation of the five errors and that great work still
not seeing the light of day. I carried it with me across the North when the flax fields were blue
to sail from that dark town in July and here when I smell the retting beds and see the river
water turned to gold, undrinkable – it seems our work is rotting away too with only my little
book of hard words, an accidental harvest from for all the years and journeying.