Another Summer In Mayo
I shared the beginning of a scattered July between Scotland and Ireland. Our house across the sea was on a farm in Ballintubber, and for the first day or two it felt like the middle of nowhere. It was all new to me- I was around four years old the last time I walked on that ground. Too young to remember much, or anything at all really. Hazy, half forgotten memories may be all I remember of those summers, but something very peculiar happens when you decide to walk down memory lane. You start to remember, and for the past week little things- things buried in the creases of my memory- came back to mind.
As the vibrato chop of the helicopter rushes over our night-drenched house, I remember. I remember the muddy trails and the magic of the Leprechaun. Little dangling trinkets in the sun. I remember how the sea filled the space between the horizon and me, and how I turned away. It’s hot and dry, and I am so very thirsty. I remember what it felt like to give priority to this flowing. This trickle which when I let it turns into a gushing river. I remembered that day, as I walked up the Reek, the little girl in me who doesn’t bother with the time of night, the prices of the menu, the state of her room. The little girl who fully believed them when they told her four year old self that there was an ice cream van at the top of Croagh Patrick. Something is changing in me. I am gathering the magic again. Slowly I am walking the trails, looking back through the shadows, the forests of trees, and I am seeing myself in it all again. I am participating in this journey again. There is more to life than meets the eye, I know it. I feel it. I remember it.
Each journey across the sea started with the same two songs; My Old Killarney Hat and Black Velvet Band. Soon after that I would be fast asleep, and would stay so until it was time to get on the ferry. Dad drove a multipla, an ugly but well loved car that sat all six of us, while gran and grandad drove in front. Mum says I would sleep on the ferry too, and would sleep so deeply that she never knew if it would be possible to wake me again. She laughs when she recounts this, because we both know that nothing's changed. Except being back here is a reminder that so much has changed. You see, the last time we drove across Ireland like this, my mum and dad and gran would end up in the multipla, as my brothers and I would crowd into my granda's tiny car to listen to whatever stories he could conjure up to last the drives that often lasted for hours. Mainly they revolved around a wolf, imaginatively named Wolfie, who had done it all. Every so often there would be other stories -whose content could stand proud next to the original Grim Brother's Fairy Tales. We loved them all.
We might have been back in the same country, but with my brother driving and my grandparents being driven, and my other brothers not being here, something felt considerably different. One of my boys returns today from his honeymoon and the other has been enjoying having the house to himself. Being summertime, we were so close to the sun my skin burnt for the first time in forever. The trees grew all the way into the sky and in the early morning our sheep would wander through the garden. They would all follow each other, and when we first arrived we'd baaaa and every so often they'd actually baa back and we'd all baa together, laughing loudly.
The days were long and hot. Being Ireland, rain was never far from falling but somehow we always seemed to just miss it. When I woke in the morning everyone else would already be awake and making plans for the day, playing cards or writing notes to each other with the fridge magnet letters. My brother would finally get a fire going and I’d sit in front of it, singing along to whatever record was playing. Some late afternoons we’d walk barefoot to visit our sheep and I’d lay on the grass reading the book that has already become a favourite, Atlas Shrugged. While I read my family played bowls and my mum beat us all at it. We'd drive to the nearest towns and visit all the touristy shops and I fell in love with Galway. I went on a guided tour with mum and learned about the real Jane Eyre, and local legends and tragic love stories.
Ireland was a kind of haze that lasted only a short while. Many things happened I choose to not remember. All drowned in that deep haze in my thoughts. Sometimes as a writer you want to keep moments alive eternally, whether good or bad because they are created some part of your persona but some moments are better forgotten. Yet it’s 20 degrees and sunny in Scotland and I miss Ireland already. I miss the quiet and the sheep in the backyard. I even miss being disconnected. It was freeing in some ways. I miss my big brother, the one who came from here but returned to his own home all to quickly. I miss the little white cottages and having plans for every day.
We had Ireland on our own terms. We’d come in and come out. Oh, the out and oh, the in. We loved returning to the cottage, even though my brother always missed the turn off. We loved leaving, too. We grew especially fond of the towns that had free WiFi, and driving along the N17 listening to the Saw Doctors. I'd fall asleep in the back seat and wake up to discover we'd stopped somewhere because the satnav had cut out and we were relying on old road maps, somewhat out of date.
We stayed the weekend while a storm blew through, scattering leaves and twigs and felling a few trees across the farm. We had coffee and pancakes and I took photographs of my family everywhere we went.
Ireland was beautiful. I am home now but soon to leave again. I won't tell you where I'm headed just yet, but I am led to believe it may be just as off the grid. This is all so new to me!