Years ago, I took a tour of the bogs in Ireland.
Bogs are an integral part of Ireland’s natural landscape. These waterlogged, nutrient-rich patches of land are used as a source of fuel, as an entire ecosystem for wildlife and plant life. And so in this, but you could feel the despair of the ancestors coming up from the bowels.
The energy was palpable. That and the tour guide told us that the times of the famine, the people lived there. (In Ireland, the word poor is like the word snow in Innuit. It has 1000 different meanings. )And years ago, the archeologists had retrieved these mummified bodies, 57 in total, and put a few in the museum. They were known as bog people. And their remains dated as recent as World War two and far back as 3000 B.C.
Most of these people died from natural causes, but this Irish tour guide who had a flare for the dramatic declared that people died in the bog trying to escape the famine.
My sister in law and I had been just on the famine wall tour and couldn’t imagine such a horror of ending up in this peat mess. For Mary Lynne, she was a bit of hypochondriac, and when we signed up for the bog tour, she armed her self with a puffer. “It will likely be damp in there.” Her purse was brimming an array of natural remedies, but she’d often just pop a Gravol and an Ativan chaser when that failed. Me? I was worried whether the bog had a lunch spot.
This was our first trip to Ireland, and we were having a ball together. During our trip, we had seen a real estate sign that was called Silk And Finn Real estate. So we nicknamed ourselves Silk and Finn. As the years have gone by, we can’t remember who was who.
The tour guide walked in a hurry. Even though we were younger than most of the crowd, we both struggled to keep up with the other’s pace. She the asthmatic and me, the obese. This diagnosis was one that my malnourished doctor during my annual exam.
Even though Silk and I weren’t walking as fast as the rest of the group our gums never kept flapping.
We needed to sort out the historical facts of the bog people.
“Well, Silk, let’s get this straight, all the peasants were eating were potatoes that grew twice a year, and then the potatoes caught a fungus, and the English blamed them, and so they had to eat the pig.
“And the pig was the rent they were to pay to the landowner. And when the landowner didn’t get his pig-rent he burnt their thatched roofs.”
“Yes: Silk so that meant they were already starving by the time they got to the bogs, and then on top of that, they had rickets!”
“God almighty, rickets! What is rickets, again?”
“No idea. Why don’t you Google it?”
“No, I don’t have any signal here in this flipping bog.”
“So you mean to tell me, that these poor people had no potatoes and no WIFI, and they were living in a bog, and someone says to them, “Look we got to get out of here. Go to NorthAmerica. “And so they got on a ship, stuck in the creaky ship, with already weak people breathing on them and puking and stinking up the place.”
Mary Lynne then popped a Gravol in solidarity.
And then we both took a breath and almost simultaneously said, “You and I would have never made it out of the bog.”
“No, Finn, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t have nearly hearty enough.”
“And likely they’d have left us behind. Afterall a fat comic and an asthmatic wouldn’t have been much use in the new country.”
“No use at all, Finn. As they wandered off I can just see us lying in the wetlands, weakly crying out:”Go on ahead without us.”
“And we would have laid there Silk until we both died and would have become one of the bog women. And then you and I might have been put in some museum somewhere, all mummified. You with your puffer up to yer mouth.”
“And you with your fat arse sticking out.”
I’ve thought of this story many times as I stand in this pandemic bog. How many nights have I have uttered a primal scream into my pillow: “Go on ahead without me. I can’t take any more change. I don’t want to evolve any more.”
Then without willingness or desire, the hand of the human spirit continues to reach for life, and before I know it I hear myself saying, to life itself.
“Hey Finn, where are we stopping for lunch?”