I realised that I hadn’t written about nature in a while (one of my favourite topics) so decided to revisit my grandparents place in the west of Ireland, and channel some of the memories. I hope it brings you to a place you wouldn’t have been otherwise.
We hid behind briars, looped with angry branches. Baby blackberries, green and scaly were out, safe beside long thorns. Donal breathed loudly just like a horse after a race. His breaths smelt of gum and garlic. In the field, cows snorted and chomped grass that left green bubbles at the sides of their mouths. Whenever we popped up our heads, they turned and stared with marble eyes. It was our Saturday morning ritual, one my brother loved, that got me a punch if I said I didn’t want to go.
“There’s one.” Donal pointed at a patch of sky, grey as the ash in a burnt out fire.
“Over there. Beside the trough.”
And there it was; a brown and red pair of wings fluttering over a patch of buttercups.
“C’mon let’s go.”
He held the net in his hand, a big one that our dad used to scoop up fish. Gravel scrunched beneath our feet. He vaulted over a wall while I climbed the gate. As I clambered up the bars it squeaked, a noise that got a Donal eye roll. “Hurry up will ya, it’ll be gone before you get your fat bum over it.”
On softer ground, our steps sunk. I scanned the grass, careful to avoid the sloppy cow pats, while Donal balanced on the tops of his wellies and tiptoed. A few steps from the trough we stopped. The wings glided above the flowers, silent and calm. I stood and watched, afraid to breathe. With a dip the wings landed, spread out across a yellow buttercup. Ignoring my brother’s hiss, I moved in and bent down. The wings were the colour of chocolate with red puddle-shaped spots and specks of cotton wool white. They twitched softly while the flower swayed. I had never seen something so beautiful up close.
With a quick arm the net was thrown, a blue string cage across the ground. The wings tried to flap, while its furry black body squirmed like a worm in soil. With a “gotcha” Donal moved towards the net, a smile streaked across his face. I watched the wings, now still and stuck to the buttercup, its wiry long ears bent in half.
I thought of our shed. Shelves lined with bottles and jam jars full of upside down wings and tiny legs in the air. With a roar I stood and charged, Donal’s mouth now a circle of surprise. I pushed him back and we fell, arms wrapped round each other like snakes. He pulled at my hair, a big clump right near my ear. I clawed at his face, fingers sinking into damp holes. He screamed out words he wasn’t meant to use. Lines of red started to appear, on his neck, across his cheeks.
“You have to let it go. You have to.”
He grabbed my hands and clamped his fingers round my wrist. “What the hell’s wrong with you?”
My heart went buh-duh, buh-duh. “We can’t kill it.”
He scrunched his face, a criss-cross of my scratches. “What’s the big deal? It’s only a bug.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want to catch them anymore. Let it go.”
I clamped my legs tight round his sides, with all the strength I had. He pushed out his lips, the way he did when mum told him off. “Fine. But, just this one.”
I pulled away from his grip and rushed to the net. The wings were too still to be good. I leaned over and blew. Donal stood behind me, arms crossed. “Well, that’s not gonna work stupid.”
I blew again, harder this time. “C’mon Puddles, you can do it”. With a twitch the wings drew back, closed so it was just one, its red puddles now eyes. “That’s it. Flap again”. With a shiver it flapped, so fast it made the flower patch shake. The wings rose up and up, and stopped right over my head as if dangled by string. “Goodbye Puddles.” Then it flew, past the trough, over the shed and into the ash coloured sky.