The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The Third String.
Tales from a Dagda Bard
The return of the rains was a welcome thing to the island, for long had been the thirst upon her. It brought a much needed relief to me, to see the heavy clouds cover the sun and feel the cool relief of the water as it fell from the sky. Before the heat broke, the sun had caused the usual greens to run to brown and from there the land itself had shown its scorched soil. Waves of heat had continued their assault on the once verdant landscape so that the meteorologists felt compelled to check and adjust their records.
Of course it had been great at the start, an infrequent extended period of sunshine and warmth in a place where such is not always a guarantee. The people were out in their droves, almost desperate in their need to absorb and enjoy the sun. In the beginning I was much like the rest of the populace, and saw it as fit balance to bathe in the sun as much as I had bathed in the snow. Yet as the creeping brown drove off the green, so had I come to my concerns. They came creeping in to disturb my revel. What force was it that so altered the climate of the little green island, burning her brown? As the hose ban and the water shortages began would there be enough to slake the thirst of Ireland’s millions?
Then came the news of not one but many discoveries, brought forth by scorching of soil. The shapes revealed for the depth of their grassy roots in what had been thought of as bare landscape. Brú na Bóinne giving up its secrets, or so they said. I knew someone I had to speak with on this matter and I couldn’t help my brain try tease and tug some sense of all of this together.
In coming to know my companion as I have, I felt that it would be best to bring us together at table to share a meal, not only because it’s a very organic place to share and talk, but also because if I suggested a meal I could be pretty sure he would show up. Not that he wouldn’t be there at every other moment of the day, but why not combine a good chat with a good meal for both our pleasures? Do what you love right? I sat in the cafe, eyes skipping down through the breakfast options and waiting for my coffee to arrive, when a loud creak of the chair opposite me announced Him. I glanced up to see the big man opposite doing much the same as I was, eyes on the menu. A dripping long coat and umbrella rested on the stand be the door.
“Grand soft day.”
“Ah yeh, sure it was long over due to my mind.”
“What’re you thinking?”
“The full irish is always good, but the pancakes with bacon and maple syrup might take it today. Oh, they will try up sell you an Americano, but honestly the filter brew is more to my liking.”
“Sounds good to me.”
A staff member came by and took our orders, leaving with the menus. It’s a nice place, no pretentiousness or gimmick to it, just good food in a quiet corner where folk can feed in comfortable company. Exactly the kind of place I like and in the way that he sat back to quietly take in the place, eyes roving from the tables to walls, ceilings, and floors it seemed to me that he wasn’t far off my tastes in this. Of course, I couldn’t be sure if this was just my own perspective and bias talking or was there some element of His own tastes at play.
“So what’s it today? Business or pleasure? Deep conversation or did you just miss my company?”
His eyes came back to mine and the soft smile at play around his beaded lips showed the playful remark for what it was.
“Sure how can I miss you? We work together almost everyday now. As for business and pleasure?”
I paused as the staff member came over and deposited two big hot plates in front of us. The heavy savoury scents of his Full Irish breakfast clashed with the sweet aroma of the syrup for my pancakes and crispy bacon. Both of us thanked the server with almost surround sound stereo synchronicity as they turned to leave, causing a smile to appear on their face.
“Well, can’t we have both?”
His rumbling chuckle was the last sound either of our mouths made for a while, apart from the odd little noises of appreciation over our food. In all of the appropriate amount of time, not rushed or overly drawn out, our plates were clear and our hungers satisfied.
“So, on to the business side things then? You in need of a story my little Scéalaí?”
“Well someone told me once that all life is stories so maybe that’s true, but today I’m more looking for some insights in fact. I have a bit of an unease on me and I’m not sure where its coming from, what it entails, and what is required of me.”
He sat stirring a spoon about his coffee mug, watching as the clouds of cream swirled about.
“So not just an easy chat then, can’t say I’m surprised to be honest. We were always going to get here. It just took some time because one of us is stubborn and belligerent.”
I felt my smile stretch easily to my face.
“One of us? That doesn’t seem balanced from where I sit, and besides, maybe that’s one of the character traits that makes this work the way it does.”
He looked up at me with one eyebrow arched rather primly, but the look held for only a moment before his smile stole any chance of disapproval.
“Speak your mind lad.”
I looked down into my own mug this time and took a moment to settle my breath and marshal my thoughts.
“It started with the weather. Hurricanes, a blizzard, heat wave, now more serious rains. The land seems to be lashed with every kind of extreme it can take. I then looked over the changes that Ireland’s people are battling through both politically and socially, not to mention religiously. I find it hard to keep my thoughts away from dark places and depressive circumstances, and that’s even before I take in what is happening outside out little island.”
I took a moment to steady myself with a slow mindful sip of coffee. Reading the situation well the big man didn’t interject and allowed the space for what it was.
“It feel like everything is straining fit to tear itself apart. There is this kind of odd pressure. Not something I can feel or measure, it's just there all around, and if I’m honest, I am afraid.”
We left the silence its space between us. For a big loud guy, he sure knows exactly how to manage silence. This one was neither awkward or comfortable. It was an expectant silence, one that knew it wouldn’t last overly long, but one whose passing would lead to important things.”
“What are you afraid of?”
It was one of those direct questions, simple in its composition, impossibly complex in its answering. My mind spun off into itself looking for an answer. Climate change? The victory of ignorance and intolerance? Global conflict? The failure of community to care for each other? The inevitable heat death of the universe given the laws of entropy? So many big scary things. So many grand reality spanning challenges, and not one of them was my real fear.
I closed my eyes and took another swallow from my mug and allowed just the flavour of the coffee to fill my mind for a moment, dark and brewed strong, smooth with the cream and sweetened with the brown sugar. I knew his eyes were on me and that he would gladly give me all the time I needed. Time was something he had a lot of after all. I exhaled slowly and lowered my mug, opening my eyes when it came to rest on the table.
“Not being enough.”
His broad features softened as a warm smile played about his lips. He gave a small nod of acknowledgment and acceptance.
“Good answer, but I have one more question lad. Why now?”
This one was easier to answer, though in no way as straightforward as the question. I don’t know if it was part of my study of stories, part of my fascination with pattern, some level of intuitive instinct or some combination of all of the above, but seeing the ancient traces of our past revealed upon the landscape seemed to resonate with a significance that went beyond simply the archeological. Thing is, that’s not so easily conveyed out loud without my ego driven internal monologue scoffing at me for taking flights of fantasy. A lot of the time, I am my worst enemy and most avid and brutal critic. Taking a deep centering breath I mentally silenced my inner demons.
“The re-emergence on the landscape of our ancient sites of spiritual practice and worship, combined with the meteorological, political, and sociological turmoil seems to me like more than just some freakish coincidence. Add to that, I’m sitting across from someone who is directly linked with the shaping and building of the island, brú na Boinne in specific, and who is said to have such a control over the natural order of things that he could offer as guarantee his authority over the sun and moon, or who stopped the passage of that sun for almost a year, making it seem like a day. It almost feels like a madness as set in on everything and that the world is going to tear itself apart.”
It was his turn to sip at his coffee, and mine to mind the silence between us so as not to harm the moment. With a soft sigh he gave a nod of his head and set his mug down.
“First thing. The world isn’t ending. There are far too many of us investing far too much in making sure that doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, there are a lot more of you than there are of us, and not a lot of your folk pay attention, or even accept that they are part of a problem. Even worse they don’t even see that they can be the ones involved in fixing that problem. Every problem.”
He gave a resigned shake of his head.
“Second thing. Climate change is a problem and thankfully a portion of you are onboard with fixing that now. That’s what’s causing the strain on the planet and the more that your tribe wake up to their power in helping to prevent that the easier it will be on me and mine. If the planet goes, we all go. Yours, mine, theirs, everyone. For all of the divisions that exist in the world, we are, all of us, of this one world.”
His last words had heated with anger as he had said them. It was a fire of which I was aware and had, thankfully, never been on the receiving end. He allowed his emotion its place, then let it pass off of him with a few steadying breaths. When his eyes came back to mine they were calm. It seemed like the very depths of true knowledge and wisdom rested just behind those eyes.
“Last one is this, anything that grows, struggles. From acorn to oak and every step in between, there is a gathering to itself, a building of energy, an increase in pressure and then comes the change. Either the release is in growth or it is in death. The pressure your feeling is the same. It’s that building momentum taking you to the point of growth. Just as the acorn receives the signal to sprout, a deep knowing that the time is right, so to do you, though sometimes your brain needs a sign to trigger the process. A sign within the land itself.”
He took a moment there for the silence. Some words need more than just a full stop to accommodate their import. His smile was a warm and comforting thing. A measure of reassurance against the uncertainty of the world.
“You already knew all this though, didn’t you lad. You have a fine brain and a sensitivity to the flow of the stories which define the world. This kind of change, it hurts and it’s scary, but its you who has the choice here. Again though, you knew this, or why else would your fear be, as you put it, of Not being enough.”
He was right of course, but it’s not easy to be called out by deity.
“This next bit won’t be easy, but anything worthwhile rarely is. It’s going to take something more than just a storyteller or bard, but again, you knew that when you took a skin mark in my honour.”
I followed his nod to my wrist where the tattoo stood out, dark against my skin. I traced its lines with my finger and remembered the oath I swore into it on my own blood.
“The agreement we have covers this, as the work I do for you is covered, but understand this. Even though you may not believe in yourself, I and others out there believe in you. Have faith in them, for they offer a view of you that you will never be able to achieve on your own. Sometimes the best eyes with which to view yourself are not the ones in your own head, but the ones of the people who love you.”
He gave me a warm smile, then the chair gave an alarming creak as he rose to his feet and placed a big reassuring hand on my shoulder.
“Come on. I’ll pay for this, then we can stroll over to that book store round the corner. You will never guess who ol’Grimnir got to write a book for him. We may need to get something on the shelves soon ourselves you know. Can’t be losing ground to the like of that old miscreant now can we.”
I laughed, shook my head and got up to follow him.
“Sure why stop with one? Why not a whole series?”
I’m pretty sure I over did the sarcasm in my voice, though it seemed a wasted effort for all of the effect it had on the Dagda.
“Now your talking. That’s a great idea!”
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An Scéalaí Beag