Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hidden Joys

I talked up my life with Paul Simon's early music in a previous post.  He it was who introduced me to Louisiana's unique fun-filled zydeco music through a catchy song about Lafayette LA on his '86 Graceland album. I was once thrilled to hear zydeco legend Queen Ida being interviewed on our local Radio Canada station. Her Cajun French was a hard to follow but the joie de vivre of her vocation came through loud and clear. Nowadays, through the magic of internet radio, I can easily travel musically down to the bayous and swamps in the Creole regions of Acadiana in Southern Louisiana.

Not long ago the New York Times had a long article about mysterious woodland horse rides down there that culminate deep in the back country in exuberant zydeco dance picnics. The Times author is excited by her good fortune in finding an unremarked and secret folk tradition. I once had similar luck in quite another country. 

When my kids were in their teens we holidayed in the largest of the Irish Gaeltachta, the regions where Gaelic remains the language of everyday. One fine afternoon in Connemara we were driving to no special purpose over single-lane roads deep in the mountainous region called the Twelve Bens. Up ahead on the skyline I was a bit startled to see a couple of fellows with a small table and two chairs straddling our way. They greeted us amicably and suggested a fee of a two punts would let us pass. No more information but, as it was too far into the boondocks for a Sinn Fein fund-raising and we were intrigued, I paid up and drove over the rise.

Before us down in a valley lay the most extraordinary sight - a chain of loughs on whose surface sailed simple-looking traditional boats of two sizes. I recall the smaller went by the memorable name of hooker as one was pictured on a pub sign near our rented bothy. Just as the Times writer and her friend were the only whites at zydeco horseback gatherings, our family were the only Saxons at this. In the heather across hillsides seemingly in the middle of nowhere local folk lay to watch these fabulous craft race against each other. All around we could hear the soft lilt of Erse, with the occasional sound of the fiddle or Irish pipes drifting faintly across the summer hills. I've not heard since of such an event and sometimes wonder if we hadn't witnessed a gathering of the Tuatha De Danann emerged from underneath their fairy mounds to have some fun in the upper world?

I love that such magic can still happen in our scientific age.

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