The lure of the woods

‘Now I am traversed by bridle paths, under the seal of sun and shade … I live in great density … Shelter lures me. I slump down into the thick foliage … In the forest, I am my entire self. Everything is possible in my heart just as it is in the hiding places in ravines. Thickly wooded distance separates me from moral codes and cities.’

René Ménard, ‘Le Livre des Arbres’, quoted & translated in Gaston Bachelard’s ‘The Poetics of Space’

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The woods are lovely, dark and deep

It would be easy to say that I should never have left. It would be easy to tell myself that I should have known better, twenty years ago, than to leave. When a land claims you from the first moment you set foot upon it; when it is the only place you ever felt that your feet were in the right place, that you have ever felt that anything and maybe even everything in this crazy, fucked-up world we have created for ourselves might make sense, what sense can it ever make to go? Read More

Coming home

‘Have we died and gone to heaven?’ David asks, after our first dinner here in Connemara, cosied up around the old pine table which has sat in two other kitchens and seen many dramas unfold. It is the first dinner I have cooked on the old green reconditioned Rayburn; the first dinner in our big bright ochre-yellow kitchen, looking out of the back windows at the bee hives and chicken house. Yes, the bees came here first: the Blackthorn Beeing and its offspring from last year’s swarming season. Read More

Imbolg: the constancy of change, and the ‘end-of-history’ illusion

Imbolg, sometimes written as Imbolc, is probably derived from the Irish word bolg, for ‘belly’, so meaning ‘in the belly’; it has also been speculated that it might come from the word oimelc, meaning ‘ewe’s milk’.  (And please note: contrary to what many helpful sites on the web try to tell you, you don’t pronounce the ‘b’: the word is pronounced ‘i-molg’.) Imbolg is one of the festivals known as ‘cross-quarter days’; it comes midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Although it’s sometimes called St Brigid’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde, this festival is ancient, and predates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It’s likely to have been associated with the old goddess Brigid, who was later appropriated into the new religion. Read More

Siar amach, siar go Conamara*

* Away to the west, back to Connemara

It is strange to be going south to the place of my belonging. I have always believed that belonging, for me, is a north-westerly phenomenon; now I find that actually, my internal compass points largely west. North may be a secondary component, but it is strange, nevertheless, to be heading homewards to the south.

I am on the road before 5am, with the sky crisp and the moon almost full. I love to travel in the dark, when the world is largely still asleep; it always feels as if I am travelling through a landscape peopled with the dreams of others. The car rattles, crammed with bedding and crockery, and all the contraptions I imagine I’ll need for the coming year of to-ing and fro-ing, of living here and living there: a year of navigating transience.

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