Laurie Allen holds M. A. in Health Promotion from NUI Galway, and B. A. in Anthropology and Communications from GoldsmithUniversity, London. She worked as a Health Promotion Tutor with HSE, and in various film projects, including Co- producer for ‘Welcome To Our World’. Allen worked as a researcher for Puddle Pictures in creating documentaries on suicide and alcoholism. She acted in two of Margaretta D’arcy’s productions, one concerning whistle blowing and as a pussy rioter in Kilkee playwriters festival.
The Green Man
By Laurie Allen
Chapter 2 The Third Eye
O f course moving in land was in my mind but in reality I had many years to live out yet. Although this was my first sighting of the green man he was to figure a lot more in my life. It came to my attention through talking to auld Tom Lydon who lived alone on one of the local islands Inishboulinn that he, The green man resided occasionally in a cave there. This news came to me because I had begged my father to allow me accompany Father O Mara to the annual mass which was held on Inishboulinn. Father O Mara was recovering from a beating a local man Sean had meted out to him because he spoke about men fondling young girls and boys, the local man John took it into his head apparently that Father O Mara was referring to him personally because he had nieces and nephews visiting him.
Father O Mara was saved from serious injury because two lads who were having a quiet drink down by the sea heard the ructions and intervened. Father O Mara did not press charges so father told me. Sean’s uncle Peter Reilly was angry with Sean, he felt Father O Mara was a good priest and wondered why he had not picked on another more deserving priest.
Anyway I had heard this conversation when I was getting change from the pub for the shop. Peter Reilly was flailing the counter with his fist and fulminating through his gob. It took a bit of an effort to follow Peter Reilly as he had a tendency to stammer, but when he co-ordinated the hand movement with the final syllable of the sentence it was a masterpiece in cohesion. Mind you, you did not want to be standing to close to him when he delivered his soliloquies, as he tended to drown all around him with spittle.
So it came to pass that Father O Mara , Michaleen Jack who was to row and I set off on the gentle sea rowing to a rhythm. The oars spliced the water and gracefully we glided over the nippy waves. . The feel of sea spray being absorbed through the porous skin almost like a process of osmosis made me feel settled with all around me. Father O Mara held his sacred objects for the mass beside him. We also had the table on which the ceremony was to be performed on board. There was a silence almost holy among us. We alighted at the other side to be met by auld Tommy with two dogs. Tommy was old as the sea and his face was creased by weathering many storms and lulls. He wore the remnants of an old suit with a check shirt. He had raggedy sideburns, which now and then recalled with a flash the vibrant red colouring he once had when he was a young man. His teeth were brown stumps spread sparsely in his mouth. Tommy had left his home on Inishboulinn once in his long life for a stint in Sassenach.
We made our way to the graveyard where the ceremony was to be performed. The graveyard was situated near the sea quiet near where we disembarked, as is the way in Western coastal communities where the sea was the thoroughfare of communication and transport. They buried their dead in the east end of the land where they faced the rising sun. IT was also a matter of expediency as the priest was usually in a hurry to reboard and continues his sacred duties in his next parish, which could be the next island.
Father O Mara performed his duties in the old tongue he exhorted God to bless all there and hold them close to his bosom everlastingly. His old words in this quiet place made me feel so close to the ground and the sea, which encircled us. To the earth which would cradle me when my body was spent. I felt a comfort as the sound of his words being repeated by the people were the bonds which bound my temporal body to these great elements.
After mass Tommy told us that he knew he was sharing his Island with another being. He sensed his presence down among the rocks where there were caves, which had been eroded into the base of the cliffs. In fact he had actually seen the green man squelching about at low tide. Tommy noted that he had a third eye. This third eye lived in the back of the green man’s head. The green man’s head could also rotate. So he could see all situations from all points of view. He had an all rounded perspective on sea and land. Jaysus Father O Mara, he was a sight to behold. I think he steals oxygen says Tommy, what says Father O Mara and I in unison. Yes he wants the air we breath he is like some people I met in London or even here, they want your energy or oxygen. Jaysus.
I was thinking about what auld Tommy said on the way home. People after your oxygen and energy, what does that mean. Did it change people did it transform them or feed some wanting in them. Sometimes when the auld lads were in the pub at home I used look in the window particularly when they were singing and watching them winding each other’s arm slowly when one of them was literally lost in song. I loved to watch this. This wondrous meandering in song, with notes sliding up and down, semi to demi tone, the sound coming on my ear, coming from deep within the songster. They were singing about puckans and gra agus lamenting and people drowning on the sea. The auld lads loved and respected people who used their voices to sing to express some thing beyond any language. A hush would descend in the pub even during the most riotous of arguments when an auld lad began to sing. Then who ever was sitting next to the singer would reach over and take the singer’s arm as if to pass to him by personal touch the energy or spirit to continue with his personal testimony in song. To see auld men touching each other in personal exchanges of recognition was a tender scene I still hold dear. There was one particular auld lad I particularly enjoyed dealing with when my father began to allow me to serve in the pub. His name was Padraig Na Mara. Padraig lived on Dun Island one of many little islands that one could walk to when the tide was out. Padraig always carried a sack over his shoulder and his knowledge of Bearla was scant. IN the bag we knew he carried a bullin, a loaf of bread. Padraig would begin his evening’s drinking in a civilised mood “Pinta mar sé do thala” but as the evening wore on Padraig would begin to smote the counter and demand his pint immediately. He would then begin to sing and keen and argue with himself until finally tears would squeeze out of his eyes and he would weep for his mother. This communication was always conducted with himself and he was always allowed to follow his pattern unmolested by any other customers. In fact his interaction with his drinking was so well choreographed that you could set a clock by it. Padriag could quiet often if he did not co-inside with the tidal movements which could on occasion cut off access to his Island home end his evenings of self communication sleeping outside the pub. I began to feel fear one evening when I was working in the pub. There was a great cacophony of sound. There was much singing and hand wringing and turning in the main bar. Padraig was carrying on his own personal symphony in the corner of the bar he had reached his own crescendo where he was arguing and cursing with himself when I felt these watery eyes gazing in the window. The green man was watching the exchange of energy that was passing between the singers in the main bar as they sang their songs. Those hooded watery eyes then turned to Padraig and stared at him unblinkingly for a long time. That night Padraig was not found sleeping outside the pub in his usual haunt but it was said in the village that he must of miscalculated the tidal movements when he had decided to go home. I felt this was highly unlikely as Padraig was well in touch with the movements of the sea. The sea was his barometer. His days and nights were lived and determined by the sea. The movement in and out of the tide and the wondrous riches that were left behind when the sea pulled back her skirts and revealed her treasures. The webby seaweed and the shelled fish; He had apparently drowned but it looked to me as if some being had tried to suck the oxygen out of him.
I began to dream about the green man, more and more he would slither into my dreams. I decided to look for him although I was frightened. Where would I begin my search? I looked at the sea and I knew deep down within myself that this moving water was where he had originated and where he drew his energy. I recalled Tommy from the island telling me that he had spotted him down near the shore of the island. I decided to go to the island and search for him. I would have to have a story to get to the island. I could go over with Father O Mara or meet Tommy when he came to the shop. My opportunity came quicker than I had bargained. My father told me that Tommy would need some help soon as he was due to come to the shop from the island to buy some goods from the shop I decided to persuade my dad to allow me to accompany Tommy to the island to assist him with his groceries. My father said yes, why not you are a growing lad and I think it would be good for you. Mind you, you will have to stay the night and come back the next day when the tides are right. I did notice that my father would always give deference to men who came by sea to purchase goods, as they would need to get out on the tides. For these men the sea was their thoroughfare. The roads took second place. When Tommy arrived at the shop I was ready to accompany him. Tommy was a very relaxed man who let life take him along with its flow. He had survived a life where he lost his parents when he was young. An old island uncle had raised him. He and I set off together in the currach. He had loaded up with milk, bacon and tobacco, he also had the papers for the past week and some alcohol, and Tommy lived alone on Inish Bouleen. Tommy had lived for some years in England. I liked to hear him speak about his experiences there.
There we were loading up together, the tidal wavelets were coming slowly into the pier, and by nightfall this inlet would be filled with seawater. I liked to become immersed in the work and then peer out to sea and notice the inches the sea has gained on it’s journey inland and then understand that time had passed. Maybe I could measure time by the sea. It would be a calm tide as the water was gently filling up the bay. The dropping sounds washing in and out and the smell of salt in the air. It stole in and above I looked and saw a pair of swans banking above, they were making their way to Loch Devnagh an inlet lake just over the bridge where many swans gathered and spent time gliding along the water soundlessly their long necks and orange gobs smoothing out their white feathers.