outwait outrun outwit


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The bogland outside of the village is melancholy, a vast treeless wetland of heather, moss, and rushes, where nothing productive grows or grazes. Imagine living out here, Bernie says, remarking on the lone houses. A river runs through the bog, tinged by the peat, and the name of the village is derived from the color of its water, Dearg in Irish, meaning red.

Finally we reach the house, tucked away from the street, where my sister-in-law's uncle reposed in a wee room, surrounded by family photos of him smiling, with his children, his partner, his brothers, whom his mother, abandoned by the father, raised on her own. The uncle's death had been sudden and unexpected, perhaps due to medical error after a minor procedure.

Over finger sandwiches and tea, the uncle's biography is sketched by low, serene voices. Raised in this Catholic-majority village in Co Tyrone, he was forced to flee to London after Loyalists told him to leave or be killed. Afterwards, he made a life of education and meaningful activity, returning recently to this house he had renovated, with the idea of enjoying a retirement made possible by the peace process. During the Troubles, the village was plagued by bombings and shootings. At least 25 people were killed, mostly Protestants, some ambushed on the way to work. The last killing occurred in 1991.

It's a fragile peace. Just this morning, a bomb intended for officers exploded close to the border, in Co Fermanagh. I thought about what my friend said the other night about a hardline Brexit: "The killings will start again."


On the return home, Toni Morrison's death is announced on the car radio. The report of a great star winking out. She was a planet in the firmament of my teens, when I was especially hungry for writing outside of the Dead Old White Guy club. The afternoon's blue shadows deepen between the mountains, while the pinkness of the fireweed or lus na tine, which loves the most unloved and forgotten landscapes, is vivid, even electric.


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