After a day like today, I daydream of mountains. Of a place that reminds me of good times past and more to come. Everyone’s got somewhere that, no matter where they are, their soul can escape to.
Mine’s near a place called Dingle on the southwest coast of Ireland – the westernmost tip of Europe and the closest that continent gets to North America. There’s a sense of yearning about the place – the years of the Great Famine in the 1800s weren’t good to the population and many young people from the west coast left for America. You can picture them looking out over the churning sea toward the huge grey horizon, before then heading for one of the famine ships to take them to a new life.
While so many people left, there is also an intense sense of continuity and history about the place – in the monastery built by monks on a small island – Skellig Michael – 12 km off the coast, for example, and inaccessible by boat for much of the year.
Huts that have survived thousands of years, made of nothing but stone and ingenuity – with no mortar or cross-beams, they’re solid and dry simply because the stones were stacked well.
It’s a place that’s rugged and uncompromising – sheep cling to the mountainsides. Houses do, too. And there are great contrasts – the delicate hardiness of the bright pink fuscia that grows in vast hedges throughout the peninsula (yet, in Canada, I have a tough time encouraging one small fuscia plant to survive the summer).
Still, somehow people kept coming to this place, carving a life for themselves from the land and the sea. On a rainy day – a soft day they call it here if it’s only misty, enough to soak you, but not enough to deter you – people will still get dressed and go out for a walk. If you stayed and waited for the weather to be what you wanted it to be, you’d never do anything. This idea, if no other, is one that gives me fortitude on a bad day.
Lots of other people have fallen for Dingle, too, and the nearby Blasket Islands – you can read more about that beautiful place here Life on an Irish Island.