Tuesday, January 30, 2007

April Showers

The gods of weather are fighting it out above the city today: the contest sparked by a row over the glorious spring weather, sponsored in a fit of generosity by Dagda the great father whose special interest in crops seems to have prompted him to provide the nearest thing to a summer we've seen in five years. Albeit in April.
But on the other side we have Manannán, undisputed king of the sea, ruler of the western wave and traditional ruler of Dublin, ably assisted by Anna Livia Herself, the great Liffey lover of Manannán.
"Oh, Anna, " He sighs in the wind, the seagulls driven inwards to the city to act as a chorus to His love poems; "Oh Anna, 'tis too dry, too still, too quiet"

Anna Livia, basking in the unaccustomed warmth and sunshine, rouses Herself with a guilty start, and tries to look as busy as possible. Manannan calls again sadly "O! Anna, sweet Livia, Where are the wild winds of April, the showers of sweet rain, the rainbows the ark like a virgins promise from land to heaven? Where are the last great storms of winter, my last crashing waves against the shore?"
Anna caresses the land as She passes, not wishing to reply, not wishing to fight, wishing only to surrender Herself to the waiting arms of Her lover. But She knows enough to know He'll sulk if She doesn't say something, so She murmurs her sympathy and watches the sunlight through the trees as She croons.

The Dagda smiles down and with a flick of a lazy wrist adjusts the clouds, little wispy summer clouds, hard to conjure out of nowhere in April, soft clouds that adorn the pale blue sky. "Come now, Manannán ," His voice is like laughter on the wind, like ice-cream in a pink bowl. "It's been almost ten years since they had a good summer!"
"Who?" Manannan is puzzled. The gods? the Sheep? the fish? The ants?
"The children," Dagda says casting an indulgent eye over Grafton Street, his favourite street although He knows he should really have chosen Kildare street, for the Politics or one of the Gracious Georgian Squares for a bit of class. What can He say? He likes Brown Thomas' and Monsoon. He likes the young women in flighty minis and the boys in trousers that remind Him vaguely of harem pants He saw once on holiday.
He quite likes the buskers except the ones who play Van Morrison. He wishes He'd never thought to give "Van the Man" an interest in music - He'd thought maybe the boy would take up the fiddle or even be a music journalist. He really hadn't meant Van Morrison. But the ones playing Allison Moyet were pretty good. He liked the little colourful stalls and he really liked the smell of coffee from Bewleys, and the little winding streets off Grafton street, they were pretty damn fine if He said so Himself.
He frowns momentarily: that cheeky Viking upstart taking credit for His winding streets...but no, He smiles again and the sun reappears, the sudden cool shadow cast over the city lifting like gossamer in a summer breeze. He'd proven his point, and now all was well with the world: and the spring having gone down so well with the kids, He had big plans for the summer, long hazy days, hot afternoons, impossibly blue skies. It had been ages, ages, since He'd pulled out all the stops. Manannan growled softly."I've told you before, it shouldn't matter what they think" He spread His arms and the waves rose against the shore beating against the rocks in ceaseless rebellion.
He tossed His head and the rain spat against the cobbles and assaulted the window panes in venomous sprays."Don't be so hard!" Dagda chides. Anna Livia stirs Herself, jealous for Her lovers sake, quick to take offence on His behalf, "Don't you speak to Him like that!" she hisses, undulating in her bed like a lustful snake. And as Manannán stirs the air She raises herself to meet him, baring Her beautiful shoulders and breasts and swelling above the tight marble lines of Her city clothes. "Look" Manannán says proudly. "look. I am the Sea, I am life to these little men. I am the last refuge of the first creatures. I am the loins from which they crawled mewling and gasping, amphibious monsters noone else would tolerate. I fed them, I bore them, but what am I if I listen to them! I am the Sea. I am the Ocean. I am Implacable, Unbridled, Unpredictable. I must roar out the last of my winter blues, I must stretch myself against two continents. I miss the wind, where is my wind"

At this the four winds hear the call of their master and in their haste to reach His side, alarmed by the rising note of anger and frustration in His voice, collide in mid air and the clouds swirl in confusion, Anna Livia eddies and flows in a whirlpool of movement and the Great Dagda himself is momentarily thrown off balance, a thing He hates. He glares at Manannán and with a click of His fingers restores the clear sky and the sun, the city looking skyward in surprise at the sudden spate of rain and wind, and the as-sudden restoration of glorious unseasonable heat.

"Don't you dare" Dagda snarls. "It's taken me three months to plan this spring."Manannán gives a mocking little mince. "ooooooh, three whole months! I've only been at this game a few hundred thousand years, myself. I suppose you think they'll be grateful do you? think they'll be planning a feast like the old days? oooh, dear Dagda, thank you for the decent weather and could you keep it dry for the bank holiday? At least I still get the occasional offering, Old Boy and do you know why? because I don't pander to them, me. They respect me."

Dagda turns his dark eyes upon the defiant Manannán, the indomitable Sea-lord, who stares into those dark stars without a trace of fear or awe. Anna Livia thrills with excitement....a storm, a storm...perhaps even some lightening. Already the rain begins to fall softly at first then in great teardrops splashing dark against the pastels and tans of the fashion conscious. It takes all of the Father's concentration to hold the spring together: the rain and cold howling in the outer darkness, banished but resentful, probing for a weak moment so they can roar back into town, take over once more, play with the citizens as they were used to do. Hold off, threaten, hold off, threaten, wait for it, wait for it, she's got a new hairdo, he's not wearing a jacket, wait for it, NOW! rain at will!

Dagda swears in annoyance and throws a small blast of anger at the Sea-Lord. "Now look what you made me do, " he grumbles, "it'll take all afternoon to round them up again. You've ruined today."Manannán roars in pure anger, dwarfing the Daghda's kindly grumbling or the bitter spite of the rain and cold, summoning up the memories of great storms, hurricanes, tidal waves, continental shift, shark-fins at night, icebergs scraping against iron, lifeboats floating forlornly. "I am Manannán Mac Lir, King of the Sea. I will not cease to roar so that they may have a picnic on my beaches!"

The winds regroup and spin in harmony around His head, a halo of wiry sprites, cheeks puffing and huffing with the desire to blow and wail. The fish settle nervously on the sea bottom, the sharks of the Atlantic take a sharp left away from the west coast, the three headed mutant fish colony of the Irish sea dance their mad dance of glee, too stupid and too crazed to know when to hide. The sky grows dark. The winds rise. The city holds its breath, staring at the sky anxiously, willing the weather to stay good, just few more days, o don't break now, don't let us down!and the sweet sound of the Mother Danaan soothes the air, her voice like honey pouring from a silver spoon.

"Be quiet" she sighs, and raises her head from its slumbers. Her hair spread like red-gold across the Dublin Mountains, her profile raised to the stars, noble in its matronly beauty. She smiles and the sun forces its way through the gathering storm, shinning its rainbow across her brow, His love for Her in every hue. She winks at Him, her oldest friend and admirer and then looks reproachfully at the quarrelling Gods."I was having a nap" Dagda looks sheepishly at His feet and Manannán almost bites off his own tongue in His haste to excuse Himself. His wife Fand smiles up at Danaan, enjoying Her husband's moment of embarrassment. "hush, now" She says, languid and redolent.
"Dagda, I agree with you. The children deserve a little good weather. but Manannán must do as He pleases at sea. He has always ruled the sea."Her voice caresses the city like the smell of chips at dusk, when you're hungry and tired from the play of long summer day, like the memory of childhood, like the feel of warm sand between your toes. The rain dies down, fades in the face of Her wish, and the Sun makes His triumphant return to the loud applause of the citizens.

"I hear, " She smiles at the Sealord, "I hear there is room for a storm out in the Atlantic. I did enjoy that storm you did there last November. I always think they look so much better out there, out in the open. I can really appreciate the subtleties of your craft when I can see the whole storm on the big screen, you know?"Manannán brightens perceptibly. "we-ell," He says diffidently "I might as well get a bit of practice in, I suppose" He turns his chariot and raises His whip but pauses to ask somewhat suspiciously "you will be watching now, won't you" Danaan smiles their special secret smile...."Of course I will" and Manannán races happily across the waves. "Humpph" Dagda settles himself again, to look at the city. "I suppose I had better try to get this sorted....a whole day ruined though. Pity." Danaan leans gently across His shoulder and looks at the little city, now slightly bedraggled, the puddles gleaming like jewels in the smug rays of the reinstated afternoon Sun."No, I think it looks nice. You should do another sunset, last night's was beautiful"
The Dagda grinned involuntarily. "I wondered if you'd noticed!" He exclaims. "It was quite some job getting that orange-red shade at this time of year, I can tell you. And the Shaded Violets and Indigoes took hours to perfect!"
"lovely" Danaan says hastily, "well, one just like it then!""Oh, yes, okay," She looks at the great shoulders of Her kindly husband, His earnest good nature showing in every line as He poured over the city streets, trying to catch at the perfect shade of afternoon to suit its mood. His beloved Dublin, his Crossing at the Ford, His Baile Atha Cliath. She smiled at Him, the helpless affection of ten thousand years. "Here" she says plucking it from her perfect brow and handing to Him. "You can have my rainbow"


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