The weather today is beautiful, and it’s reminding me of the fields from my childhood.
Writing Prompt: Where did you play when you were a child?
When the sun is shining and there’s nothing to do, we go out to the fields. To get to the fields you can go any which way from our house because there are fields everywhere, really. If you go just across the road, you just climb over the ditch, always watching out for the nettles, of course. Everyone’s been stung by nettles, and I fell in a big pile once down by the Hartnett’s house when the dog scared me and I went over the ditch too fast, but then Mrs. Hartnett said where there’s nettles there’s always dock leaves too, and these will calm the sting if you rub them on where it hurts, and it works because I tried it and now that’s another trick I know, just like how if you sleep with a cut onion next to your ear at night it will take away an earache.
The field across the road just has cows, with new wet and old dried cow-pucky everywhere, and once I saw big rats in the corner where the neighbors put out some rubbish, and we don’t really go in that field much.We sometimes go down the road, where the blackberries and foxgloves grow, and when you get to the old crashed car at the end of the hill, you can turn into the field where there are mushrooms. I don’t really like to eat them, but our neighbor showed us how to find the safe ones, and now we pick them when we can, and when we remember to bring a bag to carry them home. They are sometimes wet underneath, and their folds are soft like feathers, and I like the sound they make when you pick them, a little snap. You think they’ll be like rubber and bend, but they don’t; they snap and sometimes I ruin them snapping little pieces apart just to watch them break. They grow like mad, fast and all around in this field, and I like to pick them, but only when I’m with my sisters or brother.
I prefer to walk up the hill past the old teachers’ house where the roses grow wild now. Just past the roses and the house is the boreen or small road, and if you go up that way, you’ll see lots of big daisies sprouting from the cracks in the rock wall that lines one side. The primroses come in spring, and they’re lovely, their yellow heads peeking out and spreading their green leaves around them like pillowy skirts. Walking up the boreen is what we do with out of town grownup guests because it gives them time to talk, and we can skip or run or climb if we want to. There’s an electric wire that goes along the field on one side, and it’s on, we’ve all tested it. At first, you don’t feel anything, but then there’s a numbing, a pulse of something that you feel in your fingers that moves up your arm and makes you scream and shake and jump back fast. Once is enough to keep you away after that, even when the cows have gone home and it’s probably turned off, because just in case it’s on, I don’t want to be the one who was stupid enough to get shocked twice.
At the top of the boreen, you can see all the hills around with their different greens and where the shadows spread, slowing adjusting themselves as the day breathes its way toward evening. When there’s a red sky at night–shepherd’s delight–this is the best place to see it, and we like it best when American visitors are impressed and think we’re so lucky. We tell them the best part is going down, and there’s stone steps built into the corner of the ditch. Who built them, we don’t know, but it might have been old Miley, the farmer who lives up the road, for the ruins of the house where he was born are right up there just a field or two away. They’re just some old piles of rocks now, but you can see how small the place was, one small room, and can you imagine he was born there in that very place?
Once we climb the stone steps, the electric fence is behind us, and we are in the field. We know there are rabbit snares along the side, and at the bottom on the right, where the trees grow, there is a real fox hole. We have a secret fort nearby where the stream bubbles through the ditches and trees, forming a cave where we can paddle and send treasures downstream. Right now, though, those secrets stay with us as we run laughing down the hill, too impatient to wait for the grownups who are still threading their way over the ditch, being careful to keep their clothes dry and tidy. We, who know nothing is ever quite dry in these fields, have thrown our arms out and are shouting as we fly, racing each other to see who can be the first to the end–or the first to fall and roll the rest of the way.
At the end, we are back in our own field, the one where Miley’s donkey grazes and where he taught D. how to plant potatoes. This is the only field we own, but really they’re all ours, I think. We are the ones who know them, who have time to explore them, who can be still enough to listen to their stories. I know the way the moss grows on the trees that surround them, how the cows trampling brings the mud, how the potato ridges look in winter, and how it feels to hide in their tall grasses in the late summer before the haying is done. I know their bunnies and birds, their purple and yellow wildflowers, their endless surprises. And I know, too, their quiet sameness, bringing them all together despite borders and boundaries.