Rufus, my trusted friend and spaniel companion these eleven years, follows me everywhere.
Around the house, up the stairs, out to the garden, into the bathroom.
I often encourage him to adopt a less derivative approach to his life; take up a hobby, make plans, go on a holiday.
Thus far, he does not seem to have taken my advice to heart. He still insists on following me around, as if his heartbeat were dependent on mine. B-beat. B-beat.
But somehow, sometime, I fully expect that this will change. I have confidence that Rufus will one day break free, and become the dog he was born to be.
One of the great contributions of Latin American culture to our world is the art-form known as ‘magical realism’.
It is a fresh way to record the human experience, evoking not just the physical and the possible, but integrating many other parts of our human reality – wishes, fears, hopes, expectations, imagination and desires. It is an art-form which fills in the blanks.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez famously created a town, within the pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude (note the unlikely title), where it rained for 4 years, 11 months and 2 days. Precision is just as important in the world of the marvellous as it is on the plains of pragmatism.
Juan Luis Guerra became a favourite singer of mine when I was learning Spanish in South America as he somehow always sang in the subjunctive. He lilted joyfully of his hope – amounting to expectation – that it would rain coffee from the sky and that the mountains would become bulbous receptacles of honey and watercress.
It is interesting that in Spanish the subjunctive is employed very often and describes real possibility. In our English language the subjunctive is mostly a polite form of negation: were coffee to rain from the sky, then and only then, might I love you.
Because words create worlds, I have a vested interest in his deep desire:
Ojala que llueva cafe!
Perhaps Mexican painter Frida Kahlo explains magical realism best when she asserts that, in her enigmatic wonderland trip through a strange and marvellous reality on canvass, she does not paint her dreams, but her reality.
The challenge of magical realism is not to be transported to a childlike fantasy of make-believe, but to discover layers of the inspirationally non-linear in our lives.
It is a source of enduring happiness once unearthed.
For example, and as strongly suggested heretofore, I talk to animals.
My chattiness has increased since I’m on the bike.
When I converse with animals, I find myself to be witty, not at all shy, and constantly willing to fill in little moments of silence. (Yes. Alas, they do occur)
This is my favourite way to engage cows in conversations. True, they sometimes simply chew away, but I also note that they slowly rotate their necks to catch my eloquent words. I expect the cud creates an enormous din in their ears.
Still, the result is ,for me, a quality conversation, as can be gleaned from the calmness in their eyes. Non verbal communication is so under-rated.
For sheep, I reserve one of my favourite little jokes which never fails to lift my spirits, and, one assumes, theirs as well (although I would be disappointed to discover that they were laughing behind my back).
I will speak to sheep, warmly and invitingly, with just enough sense of intimacy of tone so as not to startle (Sheep are noted for being ‘followers’ in life, but this is an error psychologists term ‘proximate cause’. They may present as lemmings, but the ultimate cause of their behaviour is simply a nervous, jumpy disposition. I am quite sure sheep can think as independently as any other animal, given the chance, and there is much evidence in our human world to suggest this is so).
Just yesterday I had quite a protracted conversation with a torchbearer sheep who, it seemed, was stepping out with a new fashion statement.
It consisted of the back part of her coat being shorn away completely whilst the front-end had a whole season’s worth of wool still present and attached.
The effect was, let’s say, surprising.
Darling, I intoned, cycling slowly by. Do you really think that’s working?
The sound of my voice had her moving away. But I wasn’t giving up there.
What are the inspirations of your look?, I further inquired.
Paris? Milan? Darling, let’s talk provenance.
She clearly had PR training and was in ‘no comment’ mode. But I was glad to make sure she knew that those who choose to be at the vanguard must expect a little, good-natured flak.
It is impossible not to traverse the byroads of Ireland and see something more.
More than an economy half-broken; more than a people half-betrayed, half-exhausted; more than a series of towns which advertise their wares with bunting and garish, star-shaped price markers in windows.
Yes. There is more.
I have the full intention of talking to rainbows very soon.
I am unclear as to why they should be so gay and bright and precocious, given their very presence demands that I be drenched. My current view is that the conversation is best begun with Indigo. Of all of the colours, it seems the most approachable.
And I feel sure that it will tell me when our rains, already lasting over four years, eleven months and two days, may eventually, and quietly, ease.
Brian McIntyre. August 2013
About Rothar Republic
My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).
In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.
I figure this is a 27 day-long expedition covering about 2,200km.
All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.
If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.