Sunday, January 31, 2010
Just outside Londonderry, signs of life. Or at least humps.
Arrived near the Causeway. The view from the room.
A short drive before dinner.
Tomorrow, climb some cliffs and explore some castles, for now, some relaxation.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Lunch was from a grocers, bread, cheese, olives and a cold beer. When I checked out the girl asked for my shopper card. I said "I'm from the US" and she said "well you sure don't look it" and I realize that I look VERY much like everyone walking around me, hair, skin, clothing. I passed more than one woman that could be my sister. When the Catholic Children's Home Society folks name you Mary-Brigid it stands to reason you're at least part Irish. :-)
I slept like I haven't in years. Then off for another day of adventure. I'm getting used to the driving and the traffic. I did go for a walk that included a trek across this incredibly busy intersection that had about 12 lanes and tiny little islands for the pedestrians to cross the whole thing. You'd get a light and scoot across one or two lanes to the next island, which had fence rails around it as the cars were whizzing by just feet away, then on to the next. Remember the game FROGGER? That was me.
A lovely pub dinner and then to sleep for an early departure.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The cell does not work at all, and my computer access will be limited as I didn't bring a laptop. (Work has no way to contact me, what a concept :-)
I got a few hours sleep in Dublin by the airport then it's time to head out in a rental car. Ive got it for at least 10 days so a lot of ground can be covered, or not, the joy of no itinerary.
I'd forgotten how mystically beautiful this country is, and how incredibly nice the people are.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Croissants Pain au Chocolat . In plain English that's a croissant loaded with dark chocolate pieces.
I'll be frank, this is NOT an easy recipe to make. The professional pastry chef who wrote the cookbook labels it "difficult". Sort of like cleaning your Ruger Mark III is "difficult", unless you're an engineer and/or work on a Starship. But it's worth it if you have a kitchen to yourself and a few hours some evening.
You can make them all the way through, or freeze before the final rising. Then you can raise them overnight, to have them in the morning for breakfast.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
And there it is in the case at the store, an old Belgium Browning 20 gauge. Your first own deer gun of your very own. You've had your "youth" guns, that the parents provided for training and beginning hunts, but now you are more grown up, ready for something with more weight, with more depth, something that is yours. It was older than you were, perhaps older than your parents, lovingly cared for and then up for sale, sitting forlorn in a locked case. Why? A death in the family, a household strapped and the only source of food the giving up of things carefully tended? The gun had a long history of care, you could see it in the fine veneered finish the carefully tended and lubricated workings. Somebody deeply cared for this piece for more than one generation. But the gun could not answer from its prison of glass, the ghost of its soul simply asking "why".
When I got to that point in my life, the first thing I thought of when I saw it was that a gun like this needs to be cared for, not propped up in a closet, gathering dust, seldom used. It was more than I really could afford at that age, but I bought it anyway. I'll buy used books for next semester, I really like peanut butter. I wanted it. I couldn't wait to bring home my first Whitetail with it. Big, small, I wanted to take a deer with it, do my part to provide food for a family that worked harder than most folks I knew.
Some dollars, some paperwork, and a few days later, it was mine.
The next day that dawned clear, I rose before anyone in the house, eager to let that gun taste its new found freedom, making sure it was clean and oiled, ammo in my pockets, hands scrubbed and ready. In the mirror, a reflection looked back. Was that me? The chubbiness of childhood was gone from my face, somewhere in the last months, I'd changed, grown. The visage looking back was not a delicate little thing of toys and tea parties but a young woman of the outdoors, a face composed and yet with a hint of wildness, not a face of someone helpless before some natural inclemency like cold or blood. The face of the wilderness, armed and ready.
That first morning I could not wait to shoot that old Browning, but there were chores to do, heaven always waiting for our servitude here on earth. Animals to be tended, horses whinnying and stomping over white washed doorways, cows waiting at an empty trough. Animals who have had the wild bred out of them, and not for our care, would likely starve. Long muzzles, eager shadows waiting for their breakfast. On my fingers I could smell gun oil, and it mixed with the smell of the paddock, rich warm, ammoniac and clean. I tended to the animals, with short meaningless prattle, "hey Rosy" or "that's a good girl", but my mind was already in the woods.. Those woods were quiet, the fall air crisp with promise, grass rimmed with frost and the roof of the barn looking like silver as the sun slowly peeked out from under the cover of the land. My cousins were hunting as well, noting which stand I was using and what time I would return, safety not forgotten in the rush to taste the wild. Then, let loose, like the horses from their stalls, I was off to the trees, heading towards a clump of dark timber, moving quickly, straight in a surveyors line to the woods. Even with the weight of the Browning, I covered the ground fast, soft rush of feet in the pine needles, leaning forward like a tableau of flight, bolting towards the denseness of the trees.
I moved with the intent purposeless of a child, but the focus of an adult, snatching my feet from the clutch of the earth before putting full weight down, random acts of purposeful intent. I stopped, listening into the silence, only to hear the faint scrabbling through the leaves, the dying whisper of tiny feet moving away. Sounds of mice and men, the large and the small, both eventually just falling to silence. Wait, did I hear something else? I slowed, trying not to breathe, sensing that I was not alone, but I soon would be. I felt him move, there in the silence
There, at the entrance to the land not tended or fenced, his soft warning grunt, that of a large buck right behind the house. A sound mimicked in my deep grunting breath in the cold. He was watching me enter his world. He would watch me leave. I'd passed by his scrapes deep in the woods before. He was a monster, and not likely to be outwitted by a redhead with her first very own hunting gun. But he too, would have cousins, and they would not be so cautious, overcome by rut lust and hunger for things they dream of but can not articulate.
He didn't get his size and scars by setting up camp right behind the house waiting for me to introduce him to myself and Mr. Browning. No. He was a seasoned military officer, sizing up the enemy's camp, moving away in stealth and silence when he had evaluated our positions. I felt him move away, without a sound, as if the covert decampment of his post blew gentle and cold upon me there in the darkness, true loves breath against my damp skin. Without sight or sound, I sensed in my heart he was gone, and we would never meet, at least until I was older, and ready.
But there would be others, younger, emboldened, risking all before they knew fully what they were losing.
The gun was heavier than I had thought and when I got to my blind I was ready to sit. There it was, my tree stand, on the crest of a ridge, opposite a gap in the trees through which the deep rich pie segment of grain field could be viewed. Deer are drawn to lines, tree lines, ditch lines, and I could see where one might pass through that triangle of opportunity at first light, or last.
Climbing up the blind with the weight of the gun was not an easy task. Some suggested attaching a rope to it and pulling it up, unloaded, behind me, but I didn't want to risk hitting it against the unforgiving metal of the steps, damaging its finish. So I held with one hand, and climbed with the other, pulling my body as close to the steps as I could, keeping my center of gravity into the safety of the tree.
If was just after dawns first light that I saw him. Even with gloves, I could feel the coldness of the barrel against my hands. Trying to remain still, flexing my feet in their boots for warmth, my breath huffs in and out as if attempting to resuscitate a dead cigarette. I was cold enough I considered shooting the first thing I saw, deer, squirrel, woodchuck, so as to get back to the warmth of the fire. But patience was rewarded in the small form of a small buck. A tender "button buck", probably his first hunting season, instincts of the woods not have fully formed. We were both virgins, I to man, he to death. Still, he was food for the table and I pulled the Browning from its resting place.
He moved slowly, without the inborn caution yet tested by a fading gout of black powder smoke. I watched the Browning elongate, rising to become a round spot against the light brown spot of a hearts location, a period on a page soon to be red.
As my finger bent towards firing, he looked up for just a moment. It was a moment that passed with the semblance of a sparrow and a hawk in divine immobility in mid air, an apparition of death's hesitation. It is a moment between heartbeats. Hesitation can not live there, nor fear or any other question of the spirit. It's a time for sure and certain knowing, somewhere deep within you, outside of rational thought, that by your hand, the deer will drop to a forested plain, the bird will fall from the sky. My finger stopped. Then he was gone, like a small lightning bolt on earth muddled hoof, striking through the underbrush with a crash.
He was just a yearling, and though for that moment I was tempted to fire, he had not lived long enough to fight, and I was not ready to take him. For another time, there would be that road. In the years since this hunt I have learned that there is an unspoken conversation with death between the hunter and their prey. Mors ultima linea rerum est, death is every thing's final limit. Just as it is with the wolf and the rabbit, the outcome of my hunt is settled there, in that first moment of eye contact between two adversaries. In that micro spasm of moment, there is a exchange of information regarding the propriety of the chase, of the worthiness of the kill. A conversation of mortality.
Could the deer see me here? Up in my blind, in camouflage clothing, from a distance appearing to wear the garments of the forest, crouching shapeless, not much larger than a child. Or could they smell my scent, washed clean with soaps that had no odor, careful not to use any cosmetic that would waft a banner of warning through the air. Perhaps they were just lying low this day, except for that one youngster who knew no better. But does now.
The day soon gave way to afternoon, the sun bright against high, chill cold. In the vast encroaching late afternoon, the woods and the field lay silent. Clutching my weapon, I shivered slowly, and steadily as darkness approached. It was time to leave the woods. Today there would be no food for the freezer, I had my one chance and chose to let it go.
In those moments between the aim and firing, there is a ritual and a choice. The animal will die, but in doing so, after a full life, it will bring sustenance to our family. Adequate food for the table, nourishment in the dark winter of the plains. There is a nobility in such a death. Just as the wolf stays robust consuming the flesh of an animal that knows hows to breathe strong and fight with its whole heart, we grow strong on the nourishment of land and stock we keep strong, carefully tended, selectively culled.
That day, I returned to the house, my new gun unfired. Yet it was tested, just the same. As was I.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Home on the Deathstar Malted Milk Ball Cookies
You start with a bag of Mountain Man Fruit and Nut Company Malted Milk Balls, not only are they delicious, like all of their products, they are twice the size of most. The chocolate coating is real chocolate (and you can get them in dark chocolate as well) and it's THICK, so it gets all nice and melty as it cooks.
Throw in the chopped up malted milk balls.
It's a soft, tender cookie, slightly crispy around the edges from the butter. The malted milk balls? Well the center takes on a almost honeycomb like texture and the chocolate melts really well and stays soft after cooling. Yum.
The Storm Troopers won't leave a crumb.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
THIS is my idea of breakfast (yes, that's a fried chicken breast , bacon, gravy, egg, cheese AND biscuits.)