Down from the Mountains

My eyes have adjusted to the darkness.  I can make out the feint outlines of the trees and the low stone walls between each field.  The cows lying silent, their outline making ghostly shapes in the freezing cold early morning.  The occasional stone house with a crooked chimney.  I see them every morning on my walk to town, it makes them no less haunting.

The walk past the ancient monastery.  The place where monks used to live.  Back in the days when there was nothing in this part of the world.  No roads, only mountains, rocks and grass.  The black gravestones rising up from the ground.  Having the feeling that someone is watching me as I pass each one.

Each sound in the night carries across the flat land.  The screech of a fox, the moo of a cow.  A sound so normal during the day yet so terrifying in the pitch dark.  The sounds of the birds in the trees, unknown animals rustling and scratching as you disturb them on your path.  A cold shiver running down my spine on hearing each and every sound.

The smell of burning peat coming from distant chimneys reminds me of sitting by the fire as a child.  My grandmother telling us stories of the ghosts that walk the nights.  The young lady dressed in her black shawl, walking lonely, searching for her dead son who died of starvation.  Wailing as her search never ends.

The land held the bodies of all those that had died a hundred years ago.  Died from hunger, destitute and forlorn.  The stories of them wandering the dark open spaces at night still looking for food, unable to escape their torment.  And here I am walking the same land, the darkness forming figures as I imagined their pain.

I do it every morning.  The same path, past the same places and still the fear is there.  A land built on stories.  Stories told by the fireside on cold winter nights.  Warning you of what walks in the darkness.  My walk down from the mountains to the town is filled with ghosts of the past.

Each time looking back and seeing the dark shadowy mountains further and further away. The sky slowly turning pink as the light gradually appears.  The first rays of dim light taking away the fear.  As the sun rises into the sky you realise that they were only stories.  Until this evening when you make the long journey back.

This was inspired by mother telling me about her relatives that used to walk down from the mountains to the town that she grew up in in the west of Ireland.  They would make the journey every day to go to work.  Even now the route which they would have took is not one that I would walk myself.  It’s barren with ruins of houses and the abbey.  I tried to imagine what would be going through their minds as they walked it.  (The feature image is the actual monastery).



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