Jan. 25th, 2011

taabe: Tipsy sylph with a cat on her shoulder (Default)
He's called the small, dark man. He's an Irishman out of Glen Glounagrianaan, a school teacher who can sing a come-all-ye and wrap a bandage and tickle a trout out of a stream for breakfast. And he's in my thoughts at the moment.

His name is Aodh McFirbis, Hugh Forbes. If you've met him, I'll be delighted and surprised — because he's the soul of a novel written in 1929, and I only know Maurice Walsh from the hard-back books my parents stumbled on in a used bookstore decades ago. My town library gets tremendous points for having a couple of his short story collections and a film based on one with Maureen O'Hara.

I read and loved The Small Dark Man in high school. It's been more than ten years, and I borrowed it last time I was home. I didn't know until I opened it how much Aodh reminds me of another small, dark man. They both had a gift for conversation, and they both lived solitary. They both had a bedrock resilience, brashness over philosophy, fine vintage non-sequiturs and a nose for whisky. They were both, in Walsh's words, men you could be frank with.

On heather, whiskey and damned stubborn whole men )

I still don't know why that moves me the way it does. But what gets me is that Aodh does what he has to. He does the work he has to do. He may get it wrong, he may hurt himself, but he doesn't walk away. The book most often calls him resourceful. His resources are not always extensive — a kettle, a handkercheif, cheese and crackers — but they fit the need, because he is willing to see what the need really is and then to do what he can. And sometimes, the need is only that, for someone who will sit quietly and look at what the need really is.

I grew up learning by example how far doing the work can take you, and what a rush it can give. Like climbing up Ragged Mountain to sit on the rock at the summit under the scrub pine, gulping water out of my leaking thermos and looking for a view through the trees.

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taabe: Tipsy sylph with a cat on her shoulder (Default)
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