North-South in a Swirl

Up at 6 am, or 1 am for the me left in Virginia, who is receding into thin air. Still not fully linked in, synced, converted, MSWorded, netted, tweeted or mediated. Feeling shorthanded and web-footed. My contact, the AP man for the whole of Ireland, gone camping in France for the month. But left me with a host of BBC contacts in Belfast. Will contact when fone gets smart or spots get hot again here in cool hostel.

No straight streets here at the hilltop center of Armagh. I check the map. Straight roads leading in as A28 from Dundalk or A3 from Portadown, etc., begin to curve as they approach the locus mundi in the high middle, like time-space warping around some dense matter in a grid map of galaxies. A28 from west veers to the right as Navan Street which becomes Ogle (our walk home from another pub last night) to become Thomas St. to become Upper English, sweeping left, rising more, to become Abbey Street, tighter swerve still to become Dawson, then Cathedral Close, jag right and we’re hostel home.

Top of Hill

Navan Fort hill, before tumbling down.

This vortex of streets, it hits me, is like the grassy pathway up the sacred hill at Navan Fort. Our whole group walked up that drumlin (a hill) yesterday, across “the oldest road in Ireland” (do we believe it? “caution: road bowling,”) and past the sacred rowan tree with pagan ribbons tied by local heathens, slowly rising and curving to the sunny grassy top. No straight lines in nature, or in celtic art. But at the center of the world, the top of the hill that overlies what archeologists in the 1960s found, a gigantic round wooden temple ritually burned underground here while the Romans were sacking Carthage. Sunny spot with the country greening all around, in the capriciousness of summer air (I think of that Frost poem “A Silken Tent” and wonder if the poet had a Druid temple in mind), and all fall down. Dizzying down the hill they roll, Rachel, Clare, Kelly. . . What fun.

My AP contact says he began as a U.S. journalism student in 1988 who fell in love with “ornery old Northern Ireland.” Joyce may be the skeleton key to this place, playing with words where language, like nature, has no straight lines. Ire-Land, Land of Ire? Or irony? Of iron and iridescence and irritation. Dies ire, days of rage. Long live Eire, and its eras of errors. In one Earwicker and out the other.

Doug Cumming


  1. Oh do keep this up!

  2. Joe and Emily · · Reply

    What a wild wonder of old and older Celtic tanglement. As for two cathedrals, is one orange and the other green? Keep the Joycean juice flowing. Your detail is fetching, and keeps us on the scene.with your new language. LOve, Daddy and Mum

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