Oristown – a nagging inner voice

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Sligo, April 2011

I have continued to visit the resumed search at Oristown initiated last August but with decreasing regularity. The topography of the landscape being searched there, which essentially consists of parallel banks or strips of flat bog give little variation even on a weekly basis and some weeks no new photographs emerged. As a result I have been pursuing with greater clarity some work I have been making as a response to the Crisis. I think I may even have came across the genie (or the genius perhaps) rather than the ghost of the Celtic Tiger,  residing not in a cave in Pakistan or Afghanistan but rather in the basement of a now thrashed apartment block in Sligo. Apparently some people had bought there but were advised to leave as this new development in a scenic location adjacent to a river had already started to sink. In the rest of the development anything that was removable, from sinks to showers, had been ripped out by DIY enthusiasts looking for a bargain.

Last weekend I returned to Oristown and yet again the search appeared to be on pause. A further three banks of turf had been returned without return. On adjacent banks the early summer activity of laying out to dry recently cut strips of turf was well advanced and in some parts the delicated white bog cotton bobbed in the wind. One of the strips examined and leveled just before Christmas was already showing faint green blades of grass like the first furze on a pubescent boys chin. Already nature was actively secreting a recent narrative.

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Innocent Landscapes, Resumed Search, Oristown, May 2011

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Innocent Landscapes, Resumed Search, Oristown, May 2011

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Innocent Landscapes, Coghalstown Wood, May 2011

While there I finally yielded to an inner voice, which for some time has been nagging me to pay a revisit to Coghalstown Wood which had been searched for a year up to the summer of last year without return. On strolling down the narrow lane there were some relatively recent tyre tracks embedded in the muddy entrance but little appeared to have changed. It is adjacent to a field of curious cows so this was not out of place. Many of the replanted saplings had failed to take giving the fields an anorexic look and as I walked past the Swallowing Tree I noticed that on the western side of the fields some recent replanting of young saplings had taken place. Ah yes I thought, an attempt to get the timing right and re-establish the wood in a more coherent fashion and yet the line of mature trees that usually framed this section seemed to have diminished. It was confusing. As I got closer those familiar totems of hopefulness could be seen dotted here and there – freshly painted red bamboo sticks were dispersed among the recently turned soil and the newly planted saplings. In disbelief it slowly dawned on me that the search team had obviously returned relatively recently and had digested another slice of this field, churned it around and returned it flat and unyielding.

It took a while to figure out just how much they had examined but I was helped by locating a small ‘pond’ that nestled in the corner of the field when the search was called off the previous august. It was a sobering reminder of how can one tread through a distant memory and recount the number of footsteps? That all this scratching and scraping of old wounds relies more on the music of chance than the certainty of science or re-collection. And that when we pursue difficult truths, sometimes there are some secrets that wish to remain as a stain or, as might be labeled in old-fashioned catholic terms, that there are some secrets that wish to remain as sins that cannot simply be absolved and forgotten. They should haunt us a little and be a thorn in our memory. So in a week where the Queen paid us a visit and atonement hugged  the air and swirled around us, another less public process was perhaps drawing to a close.

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Innocent Landscapes, Coghalstown Wood, May 2011