A Walk from Clancy’s

As I walked back from Clancy’s, not that I had been there, I had walked to beyond the engineer’s house steps. On my way, I looked up at the Aspen imagining a hacky sack and line to raise a rope to climb into the canopy of this tree above the ivy front that reaches 10m up the trunk. The side branches were slim, not really suitable for a heavy climber like this twenty stone lump, that I had become.

Walking back from Clancy’s on another day, the most unclimbable tree is the Monkey Puzzle of Glenfarne, off the edge of the clearfell, the clearfell, a Coillte pension holocaust, left the Monkey Puzzle at the edge of a coup, uncut, still. The plans for this iconic tree or which forester puts his, it is inevitably a him, puts his beady eye upon, straight planks for the sawmills, if they sanction its life. The valley in Chile is devastated. The seed grown in Glenfarne is of an early variety grown in Ireland, a heritage tree in a protected zone perhaps.

This monkey puzzle reminds me of two at Myshall in the county Carlow, south of the chapel in the field beyond the remains of the big house. The Myshall tree trail Monkey Puzzle has a bark flora of Lecanora expallens, the golden Chrysothrix candelaris and some Ramalina canariensis, a flappy lichen within the split platey lobes.

The Monkey Puzzle in Glenfarne has not had the luxury of an epiphyte survey yet, but Lecanora expallens in among the anticipated cast. A Christmas tree in Corracloona has swards of Lecanora expallens on it. Picea abies or Picea excelsa, Norway Spruce, the Christmas tree, one of a pair, the one nearer Kilty, has a candidate for Frullania jackii on it. Every time I take a microscope slide of it, it turns out to be Frullania dilitata.

Which bring me back to yesterday’s walk in the woods, in the other direction … from Clancy’s towards Kilty, put me past Plagiomnium undulatum, Rat’s Tails, a moss at the base of a birch, the birch with a black gel or a dark section on the trunk. The Frullania leaves were blanched, on the side towards Paddy’s yard. The blanching of Frullania is a signal perhaps of Ammonia damage to the photosynthetic balance of that one cell thick leaf. The leaf has oil droplets along with five or six, or perhaps seven chloroplasts as one looks through Frullania dilitata on a microscope slide. The bleached leaves are marginal leaves, perhaps antheridial leaves, easily collected and pocketed in the wood before the pylon line cutting over the road between the Corracloona gate and the next one to the McGovern’s cottage, which we went for a walk to, with Oberon the other day.

The microscope table and the novel, the microscope table and the short story, the microscope table and the nature poem. I am beginning to write in front of the fire while Oberon guards the couch.

Terry Mac took in Oberon from his window vantage cistin, the day Oberon went to Terry Mac’s Pier. The River Limpet is in from an oak timber raised from the delta at Corracloona where the Black river joins the lake, near Sophia’s stream and the Bulrushes, a host for Stemonitopsis typhina perhaps. The queue at the microscope is longer than we realize. Bruce Ing’s book is locked down in the wrong townland, in Kildare not Leitrim. The sample is here in the shed here in Corracloona are the proceeds from my office move of Late December 2020. Swept the desk with a brush we did. Cleared the office as they insisted.

Humidity levels in the big smoke are lowest in February, down to 30%, in a building usually at about 50% relative humidity with excedences to 60%, none in twenty years. A store for desiccated plants. I have some distance now to consider the herbarium, not that I will. The BARU herbarium here suffers from Higher Humidities. I must tend to the fire while Oberon snoozes, sleeps in not the right word, because if I do something different, then he will awaken.

Life here is idyllic. Snowy lanes, foot prints of the dogs in the snow. The whiff of Ammonia was only by the drain in Paddy’s field. Volatiles rising as the snow melted somewhat. This is a beginning of an essay, the evidential basis for a reassessment of the baronial agriculture of Cattle here in North Leitrim. Paddy does not not like trees. If the last few years are to go by, he likes drains. Indeed, he is the most progressive tree owner in Corracloona, apart from the planter, Sophia, who is Dutch Greek Irish, a different sort of planter, with in-laws in County Meath, who wheeled a barrow with a seat to some birch by a charcoal pit, just off the Black Pig’s Dyke field in Corracloona, one of those efficient continental type of women. The birch trees have Microlejeunea ulicina, the tiny one. One can never convince oneself one is looking at Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia or something more interestingly oceanic like Harpalejeunea ovata, the latter two are a struggle in the field. Degelia plumbea is on a willow, near an aspen on the way to the lake. Getting to know Corracloona has been a voyage of discovery. It started in Ballygriffin, Kenmare. Willem’s painting of an ash twig and Bog Myrtle Fuscidea lightfootii are in a box on my right hand above the empty tube of tomato puree from Stella McGriskin’s in Kilty. We will need to go for provisions on Monday afternoon. Maybe I should go to the bank in Manor, to sort out my accounts, to ensure all the standing orders flow correctly given my change in status from herbarium employee to self-employed herbarium owner. I am grateful for the society we live in Ireland, a progressive Republic and my support has been scientifically wonderful.

I am enjoying writing in ink, here on the round desk, that is stable, in Corracloona. Number the pages, file them in the display book, for typing pool time. Get them typed up before writing too much more. Oberon is still snoozing if that is the correct word. Maria is listening to the radio, next door. Bran is on the bed, watching out the window Redwings feeding on porridge and pine nuts today. We had a discussion about the pine nuts. I snuck some hazel nuts to Oberon, which he duly consumed, the nuts by the way, on his bed beside his kibble bowl.

After a thousand words of typing pool, and my inked notes peter out, I am left dreaming of chapter titles. The Peppercorns from Malagasy. The Internet in Senegal. The Monkey Puzzle from Kiltorcan. One of the more interesting artefacts on my desk is a Monkey Puzzle pot with lid from Kiltorcan, found and acquired from a wood turner from the midlands at the Kiltorcan Farmers market, made from a Monkey puzzle branch, that now contains peppercorns from Malagasy. The Republic of Malagasy provides peppercorns, which I eat in palmfuls of about a dozen peppercorns at a time, to change my typing pool buccal flavour from the late post prandial lunch to that little to be too early afternoon tea. I must set the dishes straight, pop into Kilty, and post this online, so perhaps someone in Senegal can see it on the internet, if they ever want to design turned pots from Monkey Puzzle branches. Our Corracloona maestro rigged up Senegal internet services, and there are Bicycles headed for the Gambia, from Loughan House, around the Upper Lough Mac Nean, on the Cavan side east of the Glenfarne Monkey Puzzle should Flan O’Brien be interested.

Howard Fox

05 March 2021

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