Of Minnows and a White Fish

The minnows sparkled below the threads of wet sunlight. Too fast for me to catch. Wading through
the water, so cold despite the warm June weather; water straight from the Blackstairs; cool, and
clean, and pure. The straight monolithic bridge cut across the curving of the stream, and the weeds,
and the trees. This, the boundary between Ballprecus and Barnahask: Wexford and Carlow; and this
steel line deviated that boundary. Nana watched from the safety of the bank as I walked atop the
great flat rock in the middle of the stream warning me to be careful. It was slippy. The stones in the
river were like coins. Brown and gold and copper below the mineral-tinged waters. This place, this
scene, was what marked my last summer with her, a passing that cut my childhood in two.
To follow the river would bring you to the town that bore its name Bun Clóidí; bottom of the Clody;
through which its manmade tributary cut; the Mall, flanked by great limes and sycamores. Nana
worked as a cook for the nuns at the convent. On Saturdays, we would collect her from there to go
shopping. I would wait by the fishpond. Massive goldfish simmered below the surface and one giant
white fish, all writhing in a perfectly circular stone-rimmed mirror to the world. Trapped and bulging
within their confines. I saw myself reflected.
Streams begin small. Unassuming. Trickles of rainwater from a rock upon a mountaintop. Carving
their way through stone and soil, picking up traces of the land as they go. Widening to harbour life,
nourishing as they go. Growing and rushing, always running from their source, making their slow and
determined way to the sea.
I only once since crossed that bridge to the Barnahask side, again, in summer, the day grandad sold
the house and we went to clear the things, picking up trinkets and memories of nana. The kitchen
still smelled of buttermilk and bran though it had been years since she had gone. We went to the
river afterwards. It was almost thick, viscous in the slanting honey light. The trees, sepia-fringed,
hung lazily in the fragrant air. The water sparkled but there were no minnows to be seen.