Thursday, May 29, 2008

St. David's, 8.5.06: Wild Strawberries and Holy Wells

St. David’s now. Drove here from S. yesterday. Words aren’t adequate, even when I follow Susan Ellen Toth’s suggestion to write impressionistic notes to jog memory afterwards.

I read in the car, partly to catch up and partly to avoid having to see the horror of traffic on the M roads. But when we got to Pembrokeshire, I put my books away and looked.

Lush green fields, some with sheep and Welsh cattle. Rain recently, puddles in lanes, though another gloriously sunny day allowing wide vistas onto the hillsides.

Pee stops: one hear Haverford leading to a little lane between roads that was filthy. Rubbish everywhere. Another—and this is the curious clashing character of Wales—absolutely unspoilt, with wild strawberries trailing on a hillside of black damp earth by the road, and flowering wild primroses. I picked a strawberry and Steve a bunch of primroses, and they’re dried in the preceding page.

Many wildflowers I don’t recognize and haven’t seen in England, both on the roadsides as we drove and on the seaside cliffs as we walked last evening. One looks like a wild pink, and is pink in color, very much like fire pinks at home except for its color. Bluebells in many shades—light to dark blue, white, pink, violet.

On the seaside cliffs, clumps of a white sweet-smelling flower like sweet alyssum, but I don’t think that’s what it was: candytuft? A delicate purple flower, small, tracery of green, growing in nooks and crannies of walls. Violets just under the fringe of green along laneways. Buttercups and dandelions, of course. A curious bladder-shaped low-growing flower, white with maroon lips.

B and b, Cromlech House, interesting: 20 New Street. It’s the old family house of the wife Sara Davies, who’s an artist. Paintings of hers all around—some especially striking watercolor butterflies in the kitchen. She tells us that the back yard has a cromlech, hence the house’s name. Lech must be related to Irish leac, since what she describes—a burial monument of three standing stones—is very like Leac an Scail that we saw near Mullinavat.

Her husband James Crisp a musician who has recorded a c.d. with his compositions, pan-Celtic. She’s raising three young children, Jack, Maggie and Dylan, a babe in arms, and sometimes seems overburdened.

People standoffish till they hear American accents and then very friendly. If they take us for English, I understand, since a group of English ordering tea in the cathedral cafeteria yesterday were oh so supercilious and demanding in that pretend-polite English way, and so demanding: asking twice for milk for their tea, frostier and more polite each time. The implication was that the Welsh never get it quite right.

Yet the person staffing the cash register wasn’t even Welsh. He was a Jakob from Prague and didn’t understand all they were saying to him.

St. David’s: the end of things. Perhaps one reason I felt perturbed as we left for here yesterday is that I sense this.

Every pilgrimage has an end. This destination is a reminder of the ultimate westering of life. What could be further west—and more cut off and distant from everything else—than those old Celtic holy sites on the western fringe of Britain?

The wildness seems to attract poets, artists, nature lovers. Long, exhausting walk to St. Non’s well in the evening, but worth it for the sea vistas, the sense of visiting a site with ancient holy roots.

So much I’m seeing demands the artist’s brush to capture it, not words.

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