Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, February 13, 2012


There we were at the airport in Dublin, Spouse and I, ready to depart Ireland again. Mater and Sibling K had accompanied us to the last point, and the minute of farewell had descended upon us all.
One of us exclaimed in a flurry, "look! Isn't that himself over there?"
We all turned our heads as one, and sure enough, it was himself.
Seamus Heaney: Ireland's distinguished premier poet, Nobel Prize Winner and, of most particular and immediate consequence to me, the author of not one but two books in my backpack on my back right there and then.
Spouse, Mater and Sibling K urged me forward, not merely because they know I read a great deal of poetry, but on account of the fortuitous, possibly star-aligned fact that Mr. Heaney's work was my chosen reading material for the journey home.
"I can't," I said, stalling. "I could never do it. Not I."
"Go on," they all said, mentally pushing and pulling and dragging me along- for my own good, you understand.
"Ah, no, what would I say to him anyway? 'Hello, it's me, I've got a couple of your books here. You can borrow one if you'd like.'"
They couldn't find much wrong with that at all, and begged me to go over, to wander five feet due north and greet the man himself.
The right words would come, they said, all I had to do was try.
I was nearly dizzy with the possibilities.
What if he looks through me like a pane of glass?
What if he doesn't care that I'm reading his books?
What if I forget my name?
What IS my name?

What if Mr. Heaney turned and strode away as I was dithering? What if, by the time I'd gathered my wits and determined to speak up, there was only a vacant space where he'd been standing? What if, in the end, the only story I'd emerge with was half a story about something that might have happened but didn't, really? Is half better than nothing?
I'll say this much: if I ever by chance see Seamus Heaney again, and if I then happen by more chance to have two of his books on my person, I'll be sure to ask him.
He might feel compelled to write an epic about it.

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