I seem to have more downtime this Christmas season than I expected so I am going to sit by my fire with my cup of tea and try to keep myself and you updated on my goings on in the world of West Cork
I am in Ireland…I keep saying this to myself hoping it sinks in; the picture in my mind actually unfolding into my reality. How often do you get that lucky??
I arrived three days ago, picked up by my new employers Giana and Tom Ferguson of Gubbeen Farm. For the next 10 weeks, I will be interning here with Giana and learning about all things cheese.
I have been living in Italy now for nine months. The food, chaos and juxtaposed simplicity of life is now ending. For nine months my life revolved around my 24 brilliant classmates. We studied theories and tradition, drank copious amounts of alcohol, ate everything from seafood pulled from the sea in front of us to donkey meat in the mountains. I am ready for something different. I am ready for manual labor, working my muscles and simultaneously my mind, thoughtfully processing what I just experienced and what I want to do now. I have no doubt both will be difficult tasks.
Last night I had a moment of absolute euphoria, a feeling both profound and comforting. After a day of running around the farm collecting cured meats from the smoke house, filling crates for market day, learning how to turn the newly pressed cheeses, and meeting dozens of the most lovely locals and staff, I was asked to make dinner for the family. I stood in the old farmhouse, dried herbs and bobbles hanging from the low-beamed ceiling. A pile of wild mushrooms sizzling in the pan while a chubby puppy gnawed on my shoe begging to be picked up. Tom walked in, handing me a whiskey and soda while his farm calloused hand patted the back of my head, welcoming me into the fold. We listened to music and talked about the days ahead. Giana hung garlands of dried oranges, peppers, hops and anise pods from the window-sills and lit candles to celebrate the winter solstice; the rain pounding the old slate roof. I took pause at what powers came together to place me here at this moment. This feels of home and quiet strength and a place to grow.
I have felt for some time that I was not ready to go back to Portland. I am not done here. I knew that place would not be Italy. For all of its wonder and beauty, it was not home for me. Is it Ireland? Is this where I will move toward my next self? Perhaps. Time will tell but for the moment, I can think of no place I would rather be.
Today Giana set me loose in the curing room; one rack to turn, two more to wash with wine and salt water and two more to inoculate. The process is repetitive. Giana told me that in repetition one can be truly immersed in process, creating a form of meditative perfection. This was the way to really understand what I was doing here. I never thought of it this way. I always get impatient with myself when I have to do the same thing over and over…today I tested myself. Without music or conversation I turned cheeses, 462 of them; washed, massaged and turned. I will see them become the beautiful washed-rind cheeses I’ve grown to love.
Christmas Eve Eve…today is the final market day. I finished turning cheeses and walked a mile into Schull to help with the market. For some time I stood around feeling in the way and useless…until someone asked for a hunk of Cashel Blue..I can do that. Cut, weighed, wrapped. First sale. Done. Hundreds of people came through the small market area ordering hams and bacon and wheels of Gubbeen for the holidays. Santa was nearby playing the accordion. The sun popped up behind a cloud and flooded the waterfront with winter light. Christmas has arrived. I cant wait for market days to reopen in January!