In that half way house between sleeping and waking, an old slide projector played in my head. I saw seascape, pastures, an orchard before the picture formed of my bedroom here and with some reluctance I opened my eyes to check that it was true. The holiday is over. I’ll have another few mornings like that until reality sinks. The disorientation in part from 18 days away with nights spent in 6 different homes.
Made up of moments like these…
Joining my parents as they farm sat for my uncle. We counted cows, podded peas, and fed sweet meadow to his 3 horses resurrecting the names we’d given them last year.
Watching my nieces play their fiddles in a music extravaganza. Though it featured Irish dance and Spanish flamingo, the harps and fiddles, the accordions and flutes stole the show.
Trying on the shoes my niece planned on wearing to her debs ball.
Being a passenger in a car driven by my 18 year old niece – the first of that generation to drive. Check out her window sticker – no gimmick – her brother, my nephew, has landed himself a dream job.
Two Mackerel “acquired” off the pier at New Quay in Clare – one died of natural causes and the other was a gift from a benevolent fisherman. The next night my brother-in-law went fishing without the girls he caught 11.
Passing down the joys of mud pie making. The kids were so enthused , opening up two “mud bakeries” – boys v girls- to start with. Later came pillage and sabotage before a merger was suggested and peace restored. An afternoon of foraging and reclaiming. Discarded oyster shells, leaves for sandwiches, wild flowers to decorate. Crab apples chopped and floating in water as cordial. Blackberries squashed as red wine. The makings of a feast.
Sitting by an open turf fire with one of my oldest and dearest pals, putting our worlds to right. It took us until 3.30am.
My boy asking what he had to do to become 100% Irish – the better half no longer being enough.
A stopover at Knock shrine (Ireland’s Lourdes) and thinking in a weird way how it’s not dissimilar to Disney world – land of make believe there, land of belief here. Thrills for the devout. Multi-armed sign posts, the shuttle, the statues and colourful crystal beads in the souvenir shop, the holy water fonts by the entrance/exits, the marriage bureau, the information centre, the scale – 100 acre landscaped gardens and the visitor figures (1.6m came last year).
The Irish love to visit. Calling in and paying respects. And it doesn’t stop just because someone has died. I visited the final resting place of three literary greats this holiday.
I’d often take people to see WB Yeats grave at Drumcliff (and now to the newly drawn portrait on this gable wall).
Further up the road lies the recently deceased Irish writer (playwright, poet, novelist) Dermot Healy. I felt a little uncomfortable searching out his grave. The clay still in a heap, like a person sleeping on their side beneath an earthen blanket.
I paid last respects to John O’Donohue (Irish poet, author, priest, and Hegelian philosopher), author of Anam Cara, the bestseller on celtic wisdom. He was native of the Burren, Co Clare. We spent a week in the Burren. I knew we were staying near the village of his birth so I figured it would be here where he was buried too. One day after we’d spent an afternoon swimming on a beach nearby I sought it out. The weather had turned. My dad and I were the two to leave the car and face the wind and rain to find the simple grave. He died suddenly in his sleep aged 52. The inscription on his headstone (head-bark) reads “1956 -2008 and beyond…” His words and teachings live on.
Ice creams and beaches.
Mountains and music
And precious time spent with my parents and other family.