Through the upstairs window at the back of my house I can see as far as the Comeragh Mountains thirty miles off. They are a pleasure to look at, the ridges and coums delineated in ochres and purples in the mornings, deep blue cut outs against the setting sun in the evening, dusted with snow in the winter and patched with heather in summer. It is easy to ignore the foreground, the green hills with the tiny houses winking, twisted trees and green fields but there is a grassy wall a few fields away that often catches my eye.
I can’t quite explain why I am so captivated by this grassy wall but I know I have always been drawn to walls like this(a weird admission but you must be used to me by now). In the west of Ireland the bare stone wall has become iconic, a testimony to skill and pugnacity of the hard people of the islands in the face of stony fields and shallow earth and the wild storms riding in from the Atlantic.
It took me a while to realise that we have stone walls here in the east too but ours are often covered in earth and swirling grass that speak of a softer climate and deeper soil which the searching fingers of milder winds fails to dislodge from the nooks and crannys.
We relate to things in this world through our humanity, our bodies our feelings, and to me, a wall, where the soil and grass have been worn away, looks like rows of roundy, dirty teeth bared in an unthreatening grin, a harmless village idiot of a wall softer than its long-toothed western counterpart who, with its gritted grimace, stripped bare of any softness by its struggle with the elements is reminiscent of the scary old man we all instinctively, if unfairly, avoided when we were little.
Maybe its the teeth that brings skeletons to mind but I suppose that is what the stone is, the skeleton of the grassy bank and maybe its why the western wall seems a bit cold and creepy compared to its fleshed out eastern cousin. The appeal of a grassy wall for me could be merely a childlike curiosity with the mechanics of things, a sneaky peek at the interior but I suspect that it tells of a more general and human desire to know what’s inside of the unseen as well, not just the body but the soul.
As a race we are ravenous for a look inside as seen in popularity of fly-on-the-wall TV shows and celebrity magazines. To imagine the stone walls of the west as the over exposed celebrity of the wall world may be a bit of a leap but leaping is fun and its what we do here. The western stone wall?That is so last year my dear, so Angelina!
Our eastern grassy walls on the other hand are not about exposing all. Our walls know to keep some things hidden, because if nothing is hidden or private then there is nothing left at all, no body, no centre, no soul.