I’m listening to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men on audiobook at the moment and feel completely intimidated in my writing. I have been knocked sideways by his ability to create a sense of sound through great choice of words. The other writer (also a Nobel Prize Winner) who I see as having that extraordinary talent is Irish poet Seamus Heaney.
Part of my birthday expedition yesterday brought me to Hook Head Light House in Co. Wexford ~ which I’ve written about here many times before. It’s one of those places that I love both up close and from afar. On dark nights in Tramore, we can see the light of the Hook, like an old friend, smiling in the distance. And to be beside this 800 year old lighthouse is just something special.
It was coming towards sunset when I got there yesterday and I just stood in awe, like I always do, gazing at its solidity out there in the wilds of the Hook Penninsula.
Just beneath the lighthouse, facing out to sea were two very ordinary, well-worn kitchen chairs. The sight of them, clearly with a history, but now empty, completely knocked the wind out of my sails.
I was glad that the chairs had each other and they looked so comfortable in their ‘companionable silence,’ to steal from W.B. Yeats.
Their emptiness was piercing, at one level, as they reminded me of Mother and Father’s empty chairs in their kitchen after they had died ~ first one and then the other. Their chairs faced each other, though, at either end of the kitchen table, not like this pair.
The little glint as the setting sun caught the chair on the left gave these a sense of warmth, a sense of hope, a deep sense of ongoing love. I felt that if I waited I would see the lovers return to watch the sun set fully and the bright beacon of Hook Lighthouse take over but time called me too ~ called me to go back home to our kitchen chairs that we’ve had for twenty-five years now.
It usually happens around this time of year in Ireland and it happened to me yesterday out on the Cliff Walk in Dunmore East.
There I was listening to the gulls and mesmerised by the pastel shades all around me when I felt a deep glow of heat on my back. I call it the hug of the sun and it reminds me that Summer is on her way.
Once you get this feeling, everything starts to fall into place and yesterday there were signs of Summer all around me.
Joggers in T-shirts and shorts chatting and laughing as they ran like free birds:
The deep blue sea and the sight of Hook Head Lighthouse basking in the sun:
And down below me, a colourful fishing boat dancing along towards Dunmore East Harbour:
I’m not saying for one moment that I want Summer to hurry along. Spring has far too much to offer us yet but these little glimpses of Summer are what make ‘pet’ days so magical.
Economics has never been my favourite subject and I can’t say that I have brought much of what I studied of it in College into my everyday life. However, the simple, yet profound, concept of Opportunity Cost has never left me.
Yesterday, as I walked along the Coastal Path in Dunmore East here in Co. Waterford, I found myself thinking about it yet again:
Opportunity Costs: The loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.
In particular, I got to thinking about the extent to which social media has become such an integral part of life and of the endless hours one can spend on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and so many more.
I wondered about the percentage of people who will look back on their lives knowing that their end is near and delight in memories of time spent reading their timelines.
No doubt some people may be Facebooking or Tweeting with their last grain of energy but I suspect that Social Media won’t even enter the minds of the vast majority.
Yes, I would much prefer to be out walking along the cliffs in Dunmore East, soaking up the sun, taking time to touch the Sea Pinks, watch the seagulls gliding, gaze across at Hook Head Lighthouse, be enraptured by the layers and layers of colour, scent, texture … than living a life or a half life through social media.
I’d certainly much prefer to depart this earth to a memory of swaying Sea Pinks than of timelines scrolling on and on and …..
I was awake very early yesterday morning and had one of those pre-dawn walks with puppy Stan before the birds were even chirping.
Just as we were coming home I could see that there was the prospect of a glorious sunrise out at Dunmore East. I haven’t said much before about how Co. Waterford is very much divided into the East and West for all sorts of things, including sport. But I suspect the division may have started with the sun, like so many other traditions.
I knew I just had to get to the Coastal Walk in Dunmore ~ a place that is fast becoming very special to me because of the magnificent vistas it presents and, of course, its view across the Waterford Estuary to the Hook Head Lighthouse in Co. Wexford, the oldest operational lighthouse in the world.
I didn’t meet a soul on my travels; just as well really as I felt like a character in Wuthering Heights and only realised when I got home that I was wearing odd shoes and the raggediest jacket in the place ~ one that served as Stan’s emergency bedding for a while.
Here’s the drama that unfolded before my very eyes out on that glorious Coastal Walk high up on the cliffs.
Bridge of Dreams
Back at Dunmore East Harbour, the boats were swaying as the gulls screeched. And there among the fishing boats was this one:
I caught this glimpse of Tramore on my way home, taking a few of the lovely by-roads on the eight mile trip. The tide was almost fully in so the sand dunes were surrounded by water with the Back Strand sky blue and I suspected the gentle waves lapping up on to my beloved beach. I always feel gleeful when I can see the Comeragh Mountains standing tall behind Tramore and think Waterford is a county that has everything I could ever want.
There are tourist attractions and there are Tourist Attractions.Hook Lighthouse, which is 800 years old and the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world is my idea of the real deal. http://hookheritage.ie/
I was back there again yesterday and, yes, I went on the Tour of Lighthouse for what must be at least the tenth time in ten years. I just can’t get enough of the history of this amazing place and am like a child craving to hear a favourite bedtime story ‘ just one more last time.’
Jeff Barry, our tour guide, was just brilliant. He lives locally and clearly has a deep love of the lighthouse. I just loved the way he talked about the how he misses the foghorn, dreary though it sounded, which has now been de-commissioned.
I’m determined that next Halloween I will find a brave youngster and have the perfect excuse to go on a Scary Tour of The Hook. Now that would be magic!
One of my passions as a kid was tracing the map of Ireland. My attention was always on the edge where sea and land met and I would have wild imaginings about all the inlets ~ caves, coves, sand, shingle, rocks, waves, isolation, population, horizon …..
I couldn’t but think of all those tracings, using greaseproof paper, smooth dark lead and every ounce of my concentration, as I spent a glorious while at Portally Cove this afternoon.
Portally is just south of Dunmore East here in Co. Waterford in the South-East and can be reached either by road or along the stunning Cliff Walk from Dunmore East village.
It was quite late in the afternoon and the only other person there was a man in a red jumper which blended beautifully with blackberries yet to ripen on the winding path down to the cove. We said our hellos but it was obvious to me that he wanted solitude so we didn’t get into chat.
Here’s the the beauty that was ours. I wonder now if he, too, spent hours tracing maps of Ireland or maybe maps of other spaces, places, people, dreams …..