Tonight as I write, the wind is howling and snow is falling for our first winter storm in Kentucky this year. Every time the mercury falls way below freezing and the icy winds blow, I think of the homeless and pray they find warm shelter.
A poem I learned at school a long, long time ago comes to mind. The Old Woman Of The Roads is the prayer of a homeless woman, longing for a little house to call her own.
The words of this poem will probably resonate through my head until I am old and gray. I couldn’t remember the words of a song I heard yesterday if you paid me, but poems from my youth come easily. Perhaps this is because I committed them to memory when I was young. Or perhaps these simple words struck a nostalgic chord in my heart and therefore became part of me.
The Old Woman Of The Roads
Oh to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods upon the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains,
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled with white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Cleaning and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loath to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house – a house of my own –
Out of the wind and the rain’s way.
By Padraic Colum
Every time I hear these words I think of my Granny’s house in County Cork. It was everything the old woman of the roads ever prayed for. Blue and white willow pattern plates adorned the dresser, a cuckoo clock ticked and chimed, echoing through the warm cottage. The air was tinged with the sweet smell of a turf fire, and an ever-boiling kettle hung on a blackened hook above the lapping flames.
My Granny lived the simple life this old woman yearned for. Perhaps, because I knew every corner of her dream house, this old woman’s unfulfilled prayer made me sad as a little girl. Now that I am a grown woman, I am thankful for her lesson. It has made me more aware of the plight of so many homeless people here in America and around the world.
Tonight as the wind blows, and the ice sheets form, I pray that my fellow Kentuckians, who are homeless on this bitter night, may find a place to lay down and rest, out of the wind and the snow’s way.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom