West Cork

A Long Island

Its that few days between Christmas and the New Year when life slows down and you slip into a nether world of not knowing what day it is. I’ve been to Long Island before, about a mile long, only 5 people living there now but once it had three hundred and a school and that before engines and cars and phones. John, our charming neighbour has a twenty foot punt with a seagull engine at the back. He’ll take us over. Not today as the tide is low and the boat is way up the strand. Tomorrow – yes fine – 11 is good – see you at the pier.

Don’t Pay the Ferryman!

We board after Zoe the labrador across a mirror like sound, John’s voice weaving stories above the drone of the engine. We are left at the Easternway pier, three hours to kill. We make it to the milk bottle point through mud and over walls. Its New Years Day and we can’t quite believe that its 12 degrees and there are heron rising and cormorants launching into the surf off the black black rocks.

Fishing takes patience and stillness

We make our way back to the pier and strike west for the other end. We stop outside a house to photograph a fish crafted out of stone. The dog of the house inspects us and finding we are okay, he leads off ahead of us. The deserted, lonesome, winding road is flanked by low walls full of the colour of lichen and white stones and grey shades and shapes etched by the changing weather, the dog’s rear end trotting gleefully ahead of us . He leads us straight down to a beach where he waits for a stick to be thrown, communicating this to us so quickly and effectively that we are in his thrall immediately. He has a tendency to growl in the midst of his play and he is highly protective and alert to dogs that attempt to come down on the beach at the same time as us. This is no domesticated mutt that needs his poo picked up by his owner. He is all dog and nature and instinct unleashed on the world.

The sun comes out and the odd neighbour – they are all odd here- remarks how remarkable it is for a new years day and its a good thing we didn’t try to come out tomorrow as its to rain. We rendevous at the pier and have a wait for our ferryman. I sit on the ground relishing the last moments of our island escape. The dog – Kerry – nuzzles my hand, hungry for affection and leans against me. The wild nature craves the loving touch same as the rest of us.

John arrives at the pier in an ancient renault 5 with Billy, one of the 5 residents. He will get his daily dozen by walking back to the western end.

As we round the pier Kerry frantically runs down the steps, looking like he will jump in after us. Then he stands and barks until we are out of hearing.

New Year Succour

Taking it all in on New Years Day

I’m a sucker for News Years resolutions and reviews and looking back and looking forward. Last decade I looked back too much. Disbelieving about loss and how life can change so drastically. Now, more careful, I gauge where the pain is coming from.

I look for peace in the beauty of West Cork. and am confronted by memories tainted by family strife and unhappiness. I feel myself dragged down into a cycle of hurt and unfairness. I want to lash out, to hurt whats left of our disjointed, devastated and divided family.

I go to Mass , the first one after Christmas and I hear that its the day of the Holy Family. When we must all try to forgive and reconcile like Joseph did when he thought his wife had done the dirty on him. Instead of having her stoned, he married her and stood by her. The thanks he got was to be the only man in the Bible defined by his relationship to a woman rather than a man. You know Jacob, the son of… etc.

Instead, I feel like stoning my brothers. Where am I going to find the strength to deal with the anger and frustration of their lies and dishonesty.I pray for a sign. I walk to where I can look out over a hundred islands and God’s majesty is undeniable. I say what can I do to break this burden and cycle of hurt. Digging deep, or inspired by God, it comes to me.- My brothers feel scourged by me already. That is why they lie and pick their words with such precision. A load is lifted and I float down the hill. They can carry the hurt from now on. I look around and start to notice the ditches full of orange withered ferns, the flowerless fuschia trying to bud already, the green grass that never dies away in this climate washed by a gulf Stream of warmth and magic.