Even by Irish standards we’ve had a fair dose of rain recently. I’ve been happy to run through it at every opportunity as it beat the hell out of complaining about it.
Like most winter running there is a period at the start of every run (you’re about to step out of the house) when your toes are dry, your clothes are clean and the fire is warm. This winter I’ve found this feeling giving way to the spaniel-on-a-beach feeling of rejoicing in the mud and rain almost imminently. Like a child let off the leash I’ve been running into the puddles as opposed to my normal Baryshnikov routine of pirouetting over them. As the roads and paths have dried up I’ve felt like the runs just aren’t what they could be. I miss the muddy solitude of the storms and flooding on my runs.
This unusual enthusiasm for mud, misery and mischief has set me thinking about where I am in life (a child’s mind in an ageing body) and this has got me thinking about how the significance of simple things changes as you grow (up).
There is an age in a man’s life, sometime between the start of the end of being young and the end of the start of being a parent, when he becomes overwhelmed by poetry.
Not the penitent school poetry of your teenage years and not even words on a page poetry.
No, it’s a wider concept, more about how the aesthetic quality of an experience can overwhelm you. If you look around you right now you’ll notice that most men over a certain age are not crying in public as they contemplate the innocence of a new born. This, if nothing else, will tell you that we can survive on the surface and don’t have to expose our emotions at every twist and turn (stiff upper lip, etc). But, if you dig a bit you’ll find all men over a certain age and IQ will often become overwhelmed by the ordinary.
When myself and my brother were but garsúns we found ourselves one summer travelling around west Clare with our late father. There was no such thing as a straight line between A and B with our dad so we ended up on a tangential errand of stopping in on some random man. This random man and the purpose of the stop off were not important to us at the time. The only thing either of us can remember was the two adults talking about the constant rain of that summer and that is was always pishing down out of the heavens. They stood and surveyed the Atlantic and cursed and chatted and we, me and my brother, stared at each other agog at this outburst from our father, a man from a generation of professional men not given to public displays of cursing.
And what is the link between that little anecdote and my running through mud and my predisposition for finding poetry in a puddle?
All those years ago, when my father’s stopped off with the cursing man he was close to my age now. He was calling to the stranger to have him sign a book of the stranger’s poetry. The joy of a view, the fall of rain, the pleasure of forked soil. It’s starting to make more sense now.