Seamus Heaney’s Presence ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 234

It was early when I woke to the dawning realisation that Seamus Heaney has died and felt a wave of  disbelief and sadness sweep over me.

I decided to abandon everything and go to Newtown Wood  ~ my place of solace.

Newtown Wood, Tramore, Co. Waterford.
Newtown Wood, Tramore, Co. Waterford.

The path in the wood has been cleared over the last week or so and I got to thinking about Seamus Heaney’s  many references to space and his Clearances. 

I had been reading somewhere yesterday how he talked about space in terms of carrying buckets, saying that carrying two buckets was easier than carrying one and that he had walked in the space between them.  It stretched my imagination to breaking point to even think about this way of describing himself.

There was birdsong all around and it felt that the birds were determined to pay their homage to a poet who had written so appreciatively of them. Nowhere is this more profound than in Changes in which he describes a nesting bird and finishes with:

So tender, I said, ‘Remember this.

It will be good for you to retrace this path

when you have grown away and stand at last

at the very centre of the empty city.

Standing under an oak tree, looking down at Newtown Cove, a cluster of ripe blackberries glinted at me. And yes, I thought of Seamus Heaney’s Blackberry-Picking as I grazed:

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet 
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it 
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for 
Picking.

I realised as I savoured the blackberries that Seamus Heaney’s presence will always remain. He has given  us so many ways to view the world in all its simplicity and complexity, sorrow and joy.

How fortunate  we are that, as he wrote in Digging:

But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.