We walk and drive over death everywhere he thought. Henry had driven around the scenic routes of County Sligo for a while. Still it was raining without pause. He had stopped the car in various places along the way, just sitting and staring out through the curtains of water at as much as was visible of this ancient land through them. He had let the calmness of the shades of green, so many of them even on a wet and cloudy day as this, stream into his mind. Now he was sitting on the grassy ground inside a small henge, or was that a court tomb, Ginnie would know all about the difference between them but Ginnie was gone, his back leaning against a large upright ancient limestone slab, his legs stretched out in front of him. He could just about make out the blurry shape of Benbulben in the distance.
Ginnie had loved this place up here on top of the small hillock and all the other ancient stone monuments strewn about this county and the neighbouring county of Leitrim which they had decided to make their home in search of an alternative and much quieter life-style. Dublin had become too noisy, too rushed, and they had both agreed that it was also becoming too dangerous for Junior. Their son was 16 when they made the decision to move away. Junior had fallen in with a bit of a bad crowd in Dublin, a few 16-year-old lads who wanted to start a gang. They had been going around doing petty stuff, like nicking beer cans from shops, and spraying obscene graffiti onto the walls under canal bridges. Then they had moved on to snatching mobile phones off people walking to and from bus stops, and Henry and Ginnie had been concerned about what might be the next step up on the rungs to higher teenage gangdom. On more than one occasion that year, Junior had been given a lift home in a police car and so they had decided it would be good to remove him from the bad influence of his buddies.
Oblivious to getting soaked to the skin, Henry remembered being up here with Ginnie. She had brought her sketch book, it had been a sunny and clear day with Benbulben over to the North standing out in a solemn dark pose like a sentinel guarding an otherworld beyond. Henry had sat down on the boulder in the centre of the stone circle, legs and arms folded, grounding himself into the ancient stone and had emptied his mind while Ginnie had stood just a few meters outside the circle leaning against a tree and sketching the view to the North. The notion of time had not mattered, he had felt connected with the moment, content and motionless, centered and still, yet alive. He must have remained like this for quite some time, because by the time the sun and the breeze had combined to tickle his nose and had made him sneeze, Ginnie who had come gallopping toward him laughing and had planted a kiss on his cheek tickling his nose with a strand of loose hair and setting off another sneeze at which they had burst into full roaring laughter, had completed 12 sketches, three of which she would later pick to create a sort of triptych in oil on plywood.
“I wonder if you started sneezing because some spirit from ancient times had come out from the earth under this boulder to enter your mind. Your sneezing would have driven him or her away. You are aware that you are sitting on top of an ancient burial place?”
“Hm, I wasn’t thinking of the past actually. I was in the moment just now.”
“You are shielding yourself from sadness. It would mean allowing sadness to enter your mind if you thought about what this place was in ancient times. It was a place designed to preserve memories of people who were once as alive as you and I. Doesn’t it make you sad to think that these memories are lost now? We have no way of knowing what they were. We may find some bones, a few skulls perhaps if we dig into the ground beneath, if even that. Most of these burials would have been cremations. Ashes and dust swallowed up by the earth below. Maybe a few shards of pottery left for us to see and feel in our hands if we find them. No memories of who made these artifacts, no memories of those who were buried with them or in them. These people, they didn’t want to die, they wanted to continue living in the memories of those who outlived them and passed those memories to the next generation and the next and the next. Where did that connection get broken? They are all dead now. Unremembered.”
“I’m fonder of just being here without thinking about the past of who might have been here before us.” Henry had reached out for her hand and she had taken it and sat down beside him on the boulder, “Do you feel it?”
“Do I feel what?”
“The now. Your hand in mine. The stone beneath us.”
She had spoken of the ancient ley lines. Her sky blue eyes glittering with enthusiasm for the patterns they had formed in the ancient landscape. The connectedness between the henges and court tombs. How they would have been a sort of prehistoric navigation system, providing orientation and direction to the ancient travellers. Connecting the dots. She was going to make it her project to represent these in a symbolic way in the triptych.
A place designed to preserve memories. He had come here today to be mindful, to self-heal as it were. Instead memories had come to him. Of Ginnie who had believed that as long as you are being remembered you are still in the present, you still live. But Ginnie was gone. The memories were causing him to feel pain and sadness.
(c) Ash N. Finn, 2016