I am in Connemara, County Galway at the Sleepzone hostel. It’s really hard to describe how lovely it is here. The landscape has great character and ruggedness, and also great beauty. I’m struck by how individual each mountain face seems, much like a human’s face.
They have history, personality, lines of wear and erosion, signs of stress and pampering, rolling hills, jagged rocks and deep, dark water that’s tossed by the harsh Atlantic gusts.
One mountain in particular has captured my imagination. It looks almost like an old volcano that’s caved in on itself. One side has fallen in like an upset Yorkshire pudding. It stands on the far bank of the Killary Fjord, its faces constantly shifting as the clouds cast shadows on it from above.
I tried to draw it, and in the process got to know it better. I didn’t create a great work of art or even a truly fair representation. What I did is explored its contours and its personality. I got to know it. Every time I look out the window, its face changes. The structure remains the same, but light and shadow gives it new life with every cloud that drifts past.
This whole country is like that. There’s great character around every corner, great stories in every nook and cranny. Not just because this country has great history, or the wonderful quality of its people; it seems to have to do with the land itself.
It breathes of stories. It has such diversity from one side of the country to the other, yet is united in a way that’s hard to quantify. Depending on the day, depending on the weather, depending on your company, the whole face of Ireland can shift. Each is unique and drifting. No one ever has identical experiences.
There’s magic here in the true sense of the word. There’s an electricity in the air, but also an aura of tranquility. Eireann has seen many days. Her landscape is worn, her people divided, yet there is still a tremendous spirit here. Perhaps that’s part of the reason that this country has had such a turbulent history. The whole place is alive and charged.
As North Americans, we tend to think of beauty in nature as stemming from how untouched a place is. In Ireland, its real beauty is how it has been touched. Forests used to cover the whole country, so it was man who created the rolling pastoral landscape we know today.
Ruins that meld with the landscape, ancient dolmens and standing stones, churches, cobbled streets, brightly coloured houses – Ireland’s beauty is in how it has been touched by its people.
The communion is so complete and longstanding that Ireland were it have remained untouched would be nothing like it is today.
I like a little solitude, and that’s something I haven’t had much of since arriving here. Even in the remoteness of Connemara, this place has been fairly busy. But now I find myself virtually alone as the daytrippers and adventure seekers set off into the landscape for the day.
I regret not going along with my new international friends, but I’m also happy for a bit of space. Anyone who’s stayed in hostels knows that privacy is a rare treat that, if it comes, rarely lasts. As much as I adore meeting my fellow travelers, it’s quite relaxing to not have to make conversation or tell my story of why and for how long I’m here.
I can just feel the fleeting sun on my back and watch the faces of the mountain change in a gentle parade of light and shadow.