A short essay I wrote is up on Orion Magazine’s website.
“My husband wants land. He digs through websites, hoping to uncover a patch we could afford. I want it too but it hurts to see him look at places someone else will live on, or subdivide. It’s not our time, yet. We plant pennies in our bank account and watch them grow too slowly. In the meantime, we live in a condo in the city….” [continue reading at Orion]
I love The Place Where You Live feature; I’m glad they brought it back.
And I do love Portland, Oregon—even on days like this one.
“The fire was nice and bright and on one of the side-tables were four very big barmbracks. These barmbracks seemed uncut; but if you went closer you would see that they had been cut into long thick even slices and were ready to be handed round at tea…”
“….Lizzie Fleming said Maria was sure to get the ring and, though Fleming had said that for so many Hallow Eves, Maria had to laugh and say she didn’t want any ring or man either; and when she laughed her grey-green eyes sparkled with disappointed shyness and the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin.”
—from the short story Clay, by James Joyce.
I’ve had a hunger on me for a slice of barmbrack, a yeast bread made with dried fruit plumped up overnight in hot tea, traditionally eaten around Halloween at home in Ireland. I made it this fine October Sunday with the help of my mother-in-law who is a far better baker than I.
Typically, a ring is hidden in the dough and whoever finds it in their slice is said to be wed within the year. Other fortunes you might find in a traditional brack are:
- The Thimble: for which you will stay a spinster.
- A Button: meaning you’ll always be a bachelor.
- A bean or a piece of rag: Penury and misfortune for you.
- The coin: Riches coming to you.
- The stick: an unhappy, quarrelsome marriage (the stick symbolizes what the husband would beat the wife with but we can assume the fortune has evolved along gender parity lines to keep up with the times, not that I’m advocating wives beating their husbands either mind).
Sliced thick and slathered in salted butter, beside the fire with a cup of tea on a bright, if chilly, day—there’s nothing like it . I didn’t get the coin but I’m content. And I didn’t dress up this year for Halloween either. Sure amn’t I grand as I am?
I’m at home in Ireland for the month of August.
Early this week, I walked part of The Wicklow Way with Ian and my brother and sister. We wound our way from Dublin to Glendalough – a 6th century monastic settlement in a glacial valley – and lingered a day longer. It was so lovely.
This is a poem by William Butler Yeats, written there.
Stream and Sun at Glendalough
Through intricate motions ran
Stream and gliding sun
And all my heart seemed gay:
Some stupid thing that I had done
Made my attention stray.
Repentance keeps my heart impure;
But what am I that dare
Fancy that I can
Better conduct myself or have more
Sense than a common man?
What motion of the sun or stream
Or eyelid shot the gleam
That pierced my body through?
What made me live like these that seem
Self-born, born anew?