I wrote the following piece in Achill last week. I was exhausted after working hard all summer and the break was great. There was no wifi in the house so I paid regular trips to Marty Mac’s in the evenings.
Needless to say I’ve been so busy since I got back that I’m only getting to post this now.
It’s a sunny morning in Achill. I have been in a friend’s house in Baile Sliabh Mór for the past five days. Outside it is still and quiet except for the droning of a bee or wasp somewhere in the background, some birds gossiping in the hedge. Sliabh Mór towers up behind the house in shades of soft browns dotted with the grey of shale. Usually the top disappears in curls of white but today the line of it is mostly clear.
Out front the land stretches flat towards the sea, across the Sandybanks towards the Minaun cliffs and the tiny houses dotted in front like paperchain houses. The cliffs too are clear today other than a soft haze softening the dark shades of the rock. There is no movement, there are no people passing or cars moving in the landscape. To the right there’s the tiny white houses of Keel and Pollagh in the distance- a view of flat bogland, shades of rust, with darker clumps of bushes and white dots of grazing sheep. In Achill those mountain sheep are everywhere. They own the land as much as the people. They move in twos and threes, wandering in and out of gardens, along the roads, sitting down anywhere at all that takes their fancy. Sometimes when you are driving they take fright and run along ahead of the car before veering off into a gateway or ditch- reminiscent of dogs in housing estates yapping at the wheels of cars.
I came here to think and write and read. Five whole days to recharge the batteries. I haven’t done a lot of actual writing but that doesn’t matter as my notebook now has pages filled with notes and ideas and plans for my novel. I am reading a wonderful book- ‘The Art of the novel’ by Milan Kundera and it is absorbing and inspiring.
I wrote a short piece recently for the Roscommon Herald called ‘Filling the Well’ and the subject is similar though it’s about taking shorter regular ‘time outs’..
Filling the well
Take time out once a week and do something that inspires you. This is what Julia Cameron recommends in her book ‘The Artists Way’ to enhance your creativity. It can be as simple as visiting a lovely garden, going to a local craft shop that sells beautiful hand made work, any activity that slows you down, lifts you beyond daily reality and allows space to let some creative inspiration in.
Whenever I am at home in Athleague a visit to the lake at Hollygrove is my way of filling the well. I live mostly in Kildare with its dual carriageways and motorways and while those wide expanses of the Curragh plains have a certain charm, for a woman brought up on the banks of the Suck there’s something about gnarly old hedges and ash trees and unassuming roads that has an enduring call for the psyche. Driving the quiet road through Rookwood with its overhanging trees and glimpses of the fields beyond is inspiring in itself.
When you’re not used to it, turning off a narrow road onto an even narrower one is a bit unsettling but somehow the possibility that another car might come around the next bend seems as unlikely as meeting Enda Kenny out for a stroll. There’s a turn off for the lake. Driving down involves slowly easing the car through brambles and all sorts of vegetation and negotiating waterfilled ruts so unless I’m in a ‘living on the edge’ mode, I walk. Beyond the clearing there’s a wooden walkway across the water amid tall rushes on either side and you can stand there and shut your mind down to everything but the sounds of birds and insects, the call of sheep, maybe the drone of a tractor, the odd bark from a sheepdog. There’s the view over the rushes across the lake, the reflections in the water, the smell of waterlogged vegetation, the breeze rippling through the rushes. The greeny smells of summer; in autumn the sweet smell of ripening; in winter the smell of decay. My lake of inspiration.
If you live in the country perhaps your idea of filling the well is going to the city and experiencing the joy of beautiful old buildings or going to the theatre- I too have many other ways of ‘filling the well’, but Hollygrove lake and the roads around it will always be a special place.
Achill too is special- perhaps because I’ve got to know it well over the past few years.
It’s time to pack up and return to the ‘real’ world. The mist has come down again and the top of Sliabh Mór has disappeared. Outside the soft drizzle is back.