Friday, February 17, 2006

The Ivy on the Old Mill

Ireland of the Welcomes, Mar/Apr 1991
Wild ivy brushed the arched bridge by the village school, creeping blindly, silently, on woody limbs towards the field and thorny hedgerow, gliding onwards by the boundary fence, until it found a quiet, unfrequented place, and gathered itself to leap suddenly upwards to prowl the weathered stones of the ruined mill. It paced the dizzy heights in one, slow stretch, plunged carelessly through the veiled windows to pad the lower levels where fogs gathered in the hollow of the evening. It peered through wind-hewn crevices where mice nested and reddish spiders swarmed. It slunk through mossy banks to twine about old roots, or dipped its spreading leaves towards the stream where moonlight gathered on the water. It menaced the blackthorn and the hazel tree, then glibly shrugged along the footpath, questing and curious.

It was careless too of the worn banks, where a wooden wheel once creaked, where a miller sweated and coughed to the sound of toothed wheels and pulleys, counterweights, the crackle of the drying-kiln, and the rounded stone, turning on its axle. Instead, it hung languorously from a mouldering beam of the aged floors, dangling, tail-like, one branch of waxy leaves, nonchalantly swinging in the breeze, caressing the splintered wood with gnarly fingers, whispering a tune as ancient as the bones of the mountains, as unchanging as the works of men fleet by. It may have listened to the evensong, as the brook, unfettered, scoured the fallen masonry, lilting to the nightime chorus of frogs and hunting-beetles in the grasses. It may have sensed the stirring of the barn-owl, emerging from the cleft behind the sheltered window, peering forth into the gathering gloom, or heard the faint scratching of mice beneath the hazel tree. It may have simply lain there, prying, insouciantly, at old, mortared blocks, loosening a stone here, another coping there, adding to the small, night noises the low patter of trickling dust.

Oblivious to the ghosts of labours past, it grows there, ignoring the rusted gears and cracked stone of the long-dead miller. Redundant, forgotten, and disused, they lie enshrouded in gossamer, faithful servants of another age. Slowly, as the moon rides lower, they decay a little more in their crumbled mausoleum, while the ivy, resting, waiting, sighing in the freshening breeze, clings comfortably, snarling shoots around a ledge as the sun rises and a trout breaks the surface of the stream below. It drinks in pure water of the mountains, extending, in one, sure movement, feeling the sun and its heat, putting forth a tightening grip on the living stone and pulling upwards to the blessed blue of the morning sky.

No comments: