I pass by this old cottage on the Tramore-Waterford Road every day and in the last little while it has been lit up by the splash of deep pink rambling roses.
I’d love to know who planted them and if he/she ever thought that they would continue to add to the beauty of the house long after it had been abandoned.
Perennials make me think of the cyclical nature of life and, indeed, of circles. I’ve decided I’m much more of a circles person than a linear one. All kinds of circles appeal to me ~ wheels, clocks, the full moon, walks that are circular like the walk around Tramore Beach and Backstrand, oranges, tennis balls, spinning tops, globes, camera lenses, circles of friends, circus tents …..
There are times when I seriously doubt my sanity and those doubts came in massive waves the other morning when I went for the two hour walk around Tramore Beach on what was the most bitterly cold morning we’ve had in years.
I just couldn’t resist it and was heartened by a teenage memory of walking on Baltray Beach, Co. Louth with my father when our faces were battered by the hardest, cruelest hailstones that ever fell from the sky! It was a day we laughed about right up until he died over half a century later.
As I huddled into the wind, determined I would never tell anyone I’d gone for this mad walk, I doubled back to take a second look at a chair which someone had lodged securely against the elements and which was obviously a special place for him/her. It was at the half-way point where one walks up the ‘channel’ towards the Backstrand.
That chair brought me to this poem from one of my poetic heroes, Billy Collins. It’s a poem that I read over and over and is one which never fails to inspire me.
Advice to Writers
Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.
Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.
When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.
From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.
(Source: Billy Collins, 2000, Taking off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes: Selected Poems, Picador)
Co. Waterford ABC is a feature here on Social Bridge where I am identifying my highlights of this diverse county in Ireland where I was born and which has been ‘home’ for the last 26 years. There will be just 26 posts ~ one for each letter of the alphabet and I hope you will join me in discussing your views about the places, people, events, things that I select. Would you have chosen differently? In a county with such natural beauty and diversity in terms of history and heritage, one could quite easily identify 26+ highlights for each letter! ( See All Posts in this Series:
I have been wondering for a while if I dare write about the ‘Essence’ of Co. Waterford; what are the fundamental features of this ‘home’ county of mine? Yes, I do dare and I truly hope that others will add to this bubbling pot of words that have danced off all my senses.
On February 1, I took off before sunrise to walk around Tramore Beach and Backstrand to celebrate the move into spring. So much of the essence of my Co. Waterford engulfed me in those three delicious hours. Huge waves crashed onto the shore spraying me with the salty invigorating air that I have so long associated with Co. Waterford. The grasses on the dunes glinted as the breeze combed the flowing locks of the waking beauty.
As the sun rose, my mind was drawn around Brownstown Head, passed Dunmore East and up the Estuary to Waterford City. I had sat in the Tower Hotel , late the night before, just across from historic Reginald’s Tower. I had been transfixed with thoughts of the history associated with Waterford City, the oldest city in Ireland, as I watched the traffic coming along the Quay and rounding the corner at Reginald’s Tower. Thoughts of the centrality of Reginald’s Tower to the defence of Waterford; a fleeting glimpse of my late father running towards his ‘digs’ on the Mall in the 1940s; eyes caught by the imposing statue of Thomas Francis Meagher and fascination with his connections to such places as France, Fredericksburg and Montana which have come to have meaning for me too through life’s weavings.
A glance back along Tramore Beach before rounding the bend at the channel and the whole coast presented itself ~ the magic of the Copper Coast, Dungarvan, the Ring Penninsula, Ardmore ~ a wondrous stretch of coastline, each place with its uniqueness, history and colour. I wondered if Pride and Joy was safely moored at Boatstrand. Its name has long captured my imagination in a beautiful harbour that exudes Co. Waterford for me.
Walking along the Backstrand, the mountains of Co. Waterford come into view. Thoughts of Mahon Falls; the stunning scenery of the Nire Valley; West Waterford and the Blackwater Valley. Anticipation of this years Immrama Travel Writers’ Festival in Lismore; stolen visits to Lismore Castle, Mount Melleray, the old world beauty of Cappoquin.
As I near Tramore, the town that is ‘home’ is lit by the morning sun. I meet Mark Roper and Paddy Dwan, who have such passion for the Backstrand and Co. Waterford generally. Tramore continues to look down; the Racecourse stands out with its long history and at the other side of the town, above the Doneraile walk, is Tramore Tennis Club, which has such personal meaning for me and which is now the proud club of so many of Ireland’s young tennis stars.
Back on the Prom, I watch the surfers enjoying the waves and totally immersed in the very essence of this sporting county. Only the day before, I had a chance meeting with Ken McGrath, undoubtedly one of the greatest hurlers Waterford will ever see. Here’s a man who knows the full meaning of Rudyard Kipling’s words in his great poem If:
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch…
Ken McGrath has no airs and graces and is an essential part of the passion that Waterford hurling engenders.
To those who know me, it will probably come as no surprise that I was drawn out to the lay-by between Boatstrand and Kilmurrin to write this piece. Sea beneath me; mountains behind; gulls overhead; Ardkeen Stores in Waterford, which is my treasure trove for sourcing Co. Waterford produce, calling; and happy thoughts of my beloved Mount Congreve Gardens after recently seeing Tony Gunning’s Exhibition of colourful paintings at Greyfriar’s Church in Waterford.
As I write, I am surrounded by immense natural beauty and a silvery sheen on the horizon symbolises the hope, colour and buoyancy that I associate with Co. Waterford ~ past, present and future.