Oh Mini! Saw this and thought of you.


Gone fishing
There are so many opportunities for me to know and know again that I am a weaker member of the herd. I’m a sensitive machine, an orchid. In the right environment, I do just fine, but once my equilibrium has been upset (and it is upset by the slightest things) I don’t adapt as well as most humans. Not even as well as most plants or microorganisms.

If it weren’t for modern medicine, I wouldn’t have made it through my childhood. That’s for certain. I’m being kept alive by the genius of my fellow humans, but certainly not by my own cunning or strength or capability.

That is, evolutionarily speaking, I’m sludge. My strain wasn’t meant to carry on, but to be plowed under to fertilize the food of more hardy and capable strains who will move our species forward in time.

Take Irish women, for instance. At the end of time, I think they’ll be the only ones of us left standing.

I spent the weekend traveling around county Galway, wandering the ruins of small stone houses abandoned toward the middle of the 19th century, when a blight on the potato crop met with the politics of greed that starved or sent off a third of the population.

I stood in the whipping wind and rain of a relatively balmy May day, pondering a year in the life of the average Irish farm woman 100 years ago. Granted, the life of any woman 100 years ago was tougher than life is for any of us reading this today, but these were women who already juggled careers (farming) and families, working hard, really hard, from sunup to sundown, when occasionally, they danced.

When you walk this ground, you basically hop from sharp rock to sharp rock, or land in between, where the ground is wet, sinking an inch or two into the peat, just enough to soak your feet through.

Wearing layers of rough woolen gowns, leggings, and shawls over their shoulders to keep out the cold, with the benefit of lanolin in their wool, but without goretex or microfleece, they worked, through the wet and wind, keeping warm through the work of their bodies. They were strong, tough, relentless, resourceful girls, clever in the arts of survival.

And they still are. I love the faces of these women I’m running into today. Aside from sheer beauty (What is with this skin? It’s pure white and pink and flawless as rice paper!), the expressions are beyond description. When something is beyond description, only hack writers will try. And here’s my attempt: These women carry their ancestors around with them. The ones who didn’t leave. The ones who stayed and saved their country. They offer the hospitality that is their heritage, but are always wary for the silk-tongued devil who will try to talk them out of the food they have grown through their own back breaking labor.

There is at once the warmest welcome and a wise hesitance. Joy everywhere that can be arrested in a heartbeat. Laugh lines develop in the sun and wind around the age of 25, I think. All the rest of their skin is perfection.

And they are on their feet. They stand, run, move, constantly. There is a little sit now and then for a cup of tea with their girlfriends, in the pubs at the end of the day, but then off they go again. They walk fast, move with purpose, double-task, triple-task. Dancing around these parts BEGINS at 10 p.m. on a week night, once the day’s work and family duties have been taken care of. When I am crawling into bed, exhausted from a day of half as much activity, these women decide it’s a good time to go dancing.[

I don’t know how much sleep they get. I don’t know how they fit it all in. But there is a kind of efficiency and energy here I haven’t mastered and likely never will. Much less time spent on television. Much more movement. But even trying to unravel the mystery, I am aware that understanding these women is like trying to understand how a performance athlete does what she does. Or how someone gifted with languages can carry so many tongues in their heads, or how a pianist can translate motor skills to melody and percussion. The more you take it apart, the less you understand. It just is. And it isn’t for me to ever really get it.

I can use their example to motivate me toward more movement. Nothing like hanging out in this part of the world to understand very well that spending energy generates energy.

Movement keeps you warm. Stillness is a good way to freeze to death, or let your extremeties rot off. Maybe, with practice and consistency, I’ll last just a little bit longer in my lifetime by moving more. At the end, I will watch these folks whiz past me on the evolutionary path, knowing they will keep going long after I and my kind have fertilized their next crop.

Here’s to being tough and kind.