outwait outrun outwit


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From my desk, I watch the clouds drift across O’Donnell’s Rock, at times obscuring the broad long hill patched with spruce plantation, bog, and pastureland. Yesterday I walked the loop beside the Rock. The hedges were dull, except for a little gorse, some herb robert, and a patch of three-leafed clover.

In the fields, flecked here and there with sheep, were fruiting whitethorn. Also known as hawthorn (an Sceach Gheal in the Irish), this small tree grows crooked, and spindly; it blooms furiously in May, so that the countryside appears dusted with snow, and it shows off its scarlet fruit in winter, inviting birds to feast. In the Burren, it has a dramatic appearance, a lone twisted crone rising up from the pale limestone pavement. Indeed, foresters say a whitethorn tree may live hundreds of years.

Folklore associates the otherworld with the tree, as an assembly-place for fairies. Approach a solitary tree with caution, especially at night, lest you wake up a hundred years from now with no memory of the intervening time. In Clare, a planned road was re-routed, for fear of incurring the wrath of the wee folk.

As a young, unhappy, dreamy-eyed girl, I wished to run away with the fairies. I wanted to escape 90s suburban southern California—its strip malls, industrial estates, and vast car parks—and discover another, more enchanted one, where my then-present—boring, relentlessly banal, casually violent—became distant and my new present unfolded in strange quests and sumptuous revels of the spirit. In my imagination, that wished-for place was always green and verdant.

Although I have left such thoughts behind, sometimes I think I really did pursue that enchanted land, and found it, on my walks on the green roads of Ireland.


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