Sheep leave trails in the green, dew soaked, lowland pasture. A dense thicket of oak encloses the grazing on one side. On the edge of the thicket a deer stands watching, his great antlers forking like the branches of a tree. The path winds along the edge of the thicket, dips into a hollow and then climbs toward the brow of a hill.
The Tomb At Coll- -chairn
Patrick is walking north to collect some sheep for Conchubhar's brother, Aenghus. Aenghus has taken over Conchubhar's flock and intends to add it to his own. Not content with this he wants to increase the number of his sheep still further and has sent Patrick on a long journey to the north coast to bring a flock of sheep back to Slieve Miss. Patrick contemplates the conversation he had with Aenghus. He is lost in thought.
"I really don't understand why he wants to keep adding and adding to the flock on Slieve Miss. There isn't enough grass. I explained this to him but he just goes on adding more and more sheep. When all the grass is eaten these sheep will starve."
Although Patrick had conveyed his doubts, Aenghus was adamant.
When he arrives at the brow of the hill, Patrick sees that the path north curves away from the thicket into a dip past the Tomb of Coll- -chairn. He had often heard of this place, a burial tomb built by ancient peoples. The tomb is so old that no one can remember where these people came from, who they were or where they had gone. As he nears the tomb he can see the standing stones shrouded in white mist that has gathered in the hollow.
"This is a good place to stop and have something to eat," he muses as the stones of the tomb come closer into view. He stops and sits on the grass bank to one side of the tomb, unties his leather bag where he keeps his food and begins to eat. The low slanting rays from the winter sun cast long deep shadows across the face of the tombstones. At the foot of the stones the mist forms a gently moving carpet of white. The gentle sound of sheep bleating drifts across the pasture.
These stones evoke in Patrick a time so old, so far away, that he cannot imagine it. He falls into a reverie. In the mistiness of his mind he feels the preoccupations and concerns of the day slip away, replaced by the timeless and the eternal.
"What are the preoccupations of today when set against eternity?" he thinks to himself.
For a brief moment he tries to imagine his whole life as a shepherd on Slieve Miss. This image does not rest easy in his heart and he feels more strongly than ever that he must escape. As he drifts in this ocean of timelessness he dreams of a great mystical bird that will help him, and of a ship setting sail across the sea with him on board.
When he emerges from his reverie he decides to go ahead with the escape plan. Patrick resolves to return to the Vanishing Lake and meet once again with the children of the forest. He lies back against the grass bank and feels deep contentment rise within.
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