This is a story I wrote for an anthology, full of other lovely works by local Longford writers. You can get it here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/p/homemadebook
Here is a video we did through Scéalta Beo with Creative Ireland – Longford: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=934428363634274
Mide was curled up on her father’s lap, at the campfire in the middle of their enclosure. She was listening to her elders talking of the ancestors, their great feats and desperate defeats. She loved hearing the stories of how the people that created their home, their Crannóg, first came to this area on foot, from over the mythical hills of Brí Leith carrying all that they could with them. They wanted to start afresh in these lakes far from the fires and fighting.
They left in the night after spending months of preparation, gathering seeds, making food that would last the journey and beyond until the seeds had been planted, grown and harvested in their new home. They cured meat, made butter, made clothing, learned and taught each other skills they would need. In truth they had been preparing for many years before they left as they knew that their world was changing rapidly and in order to keep their people, their families and community safe, they would need to leave their ancient home and start anew elsewhere.
They had scouted far and wide and were happy that somewhere safe and secluded, somewhere hard to get to was found. They headed off under nightfall to this place to sit out the madness and emerge when all had settled again and was right with the world.
Mide snuggled into the sheepskin rug her father had gently put around her while the stories were told as they were every night, since the beginning, of how her people walked quietly through the bog and over the hills to this lake, a lake that others thought too still and full of death. The stories of stillness and death would keep them safe here when the hunger and desperation hit harder in the world.
Her people had found new life in this lake, not much at first but life and therefore hope. The lake was rebirthing as the goddess Etain rebirthed in the ancient stories of Brí Leith and so they knew it would serve well as their new home. They fueled the stories of stillness and darkness in whispers to the others so that the many would not come this far and they would be safe, at least for a time. Desperate times brought out the primal tribal feelings of protecting your own. Even with this they had taken in other families and people deserted by their own as deep down they were a kind and caring clan. They also sought out strong and fit people trained in the skills of protection and battle if the need occurred.
Some of their clan had spent time creating the group of manmades islands that had become their home by building up the mounds of mud within the lake and once they were completed they then began the building of the huts and fencing all around. They took their time over the naming of their new home and after much debate agreed to call it Tuatha, which meant, in simple terms the people, the tribe, the community but their ancient language was never ‘in simple terms’ and so Tuatha meant much more – it is a sense of place, something they needed more now than ever before.
They built their logboats and created a secret path for those who might be on the shoreline needing to get back inside the enclosure quickly. When crossing on the underwater stepping stones it looked as if they walked on water. It was Godlike, Mide was told by her father.
When all the community arrived at the shoreline they began to take the animals over first to the large natural island further in the lake. It was a difficult task, they had to go in two boats each side and get the animals to swim along between them, one by one until they reached the other side. The island, which was hidden from the shoreline, would do their livestock. They hadn’t brought many, the rest they had bartered with others for items they knew to be needed while the others thought they were quite mad getting rid of the only treasure worth having anymore.
Once they had established themselves in their Crannógs and everyone was assigned their tasks they settled into life and many forgot the destruction they had left behind them. The days blended into each other. Each night at the campfire the Elders told the stories of the past so that no important lesson or skill was forgotten and read from the few ancient manuscripts they had managed to save from destruction. They taught the young to read the symbols and all the knowledge of the past at the evening gatherings. They lived there peacefully together doing their daily tasks, growing their seeds on the island, farming the land and gathering what grew there.
Every so often a brave one went out to find out if calmness had been restored on the shores and the family waited, worried and excited to find out what news they brought back. Some never came back and they were mourned and stories were told of their lives and added to the nightly learnings. When they did get back everyone watched to see were they followed for days and weeks later. They rarely brought good news. The hardest time for Mide was when her mother didn’t return but hearing her story every night made her feel like she was there with her and her father and she liked to sleep dreaming of her smile.
The first brave scout that came back told of war and dying, of diseases and hunger, many areas of silence. Gradually they told of slow new growth but not enough for all the many needing food.
They brought strange tales of magnificent structures made by the old people, of strange instruments found and brought some home with them. Some of the elders knew what they were for and taught the clan to use them. The elders waited excitedly for each return to see what treasures returned. Mide, her father and all the new generation were just curious and at times thought most of it was pointless rather than useful.
The last came back so long after they left that people weren’t sure if they really were their kin, but they knew the way and the path across the water so they surely were. If doubt lingered about them no one said as no one wanted to send another being away. There were too few now.
They hoped in time they would find more communities like their own to trade, learn new skills from and share their knowledge. They hoped that those that had survived had learned the lesson well how cooperation rather than competition was the natural way and working with Mother Earth would serve them better than against. The biggest lesson they all learned every night from the elders was not to casually destroy Mother Earth for she will fight back and she will win.
Mide slowly drifted off to sleep, dreaming of her mother, warm and safe within the strong arms of her father. The large egg she was fiddling with fell out of her hands, rolled towards the fire and suddenly began to crack. The family looked on in bewilderment as a furry robot creature hatched out of the plastic shell making sounds they hadn’t heard before. Was this instrument for communicating like the many slim black boxes they had found but didn’t work? They had taken them apart to use whatever they could from inside. One reached out to do the same to this when Mide woke and grabbed it.
“No don’t break it! This is mine!”