Ireland Visit 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

I woke to a hard rain – this is my last full day in Connemara for tomorrow I catch an early bus to Galway and then go onto Ballyvaughan. I spent most of the day working to finish the painting. I finished it around 4:30 pm.

ToTheMountain_150PPII am happy with it. – My original frustrations were mostly with what I was striving to convey with watercolor. The bogs are dark and heavy and have hundreds and thousands of years of history in them. Also,  there is a lot of water in them – seeing they were created from the climate turning from moderate to very raining and the soil becoming waterlogged. When you think of it perhaps watercolor is exactly the medium I should be using. Although when one usually sees a watercolor painting it is quite light and airy – and I’m striving to convey something much different – something ancient.

I thought of starting a new watercolor painting – perhaps something that would take me less time.

Yesterday evening I found a little book tucked inside of a basket in the sitting room of Fushia. It was titled “The Naturalist’s View” and was a published lecture by Cilian Roden who is an ecologist living in County Galway. This is what Rodon describes a naturalist:

They have a conscious or unconscious need to be in contact with the world that exists outside the world of business, politics, fashion, relationships and family. Animals, plants and landscape give them an emotional sheet anchor, and they are happier and more contented people because of it. This contentment, this feeling of being in the right place when up on a mountain or far offshore watching whales, or indeed collecting copepods and other plankton on High Island is almost a contemplative activity. Afterwords, some write a scientific paper to register the experience, others add to their list of new species seen or make drawings or photos, but these are of secondary importance. The central purpose is to refresh one’s spirit, to come in contact with something that extends beyond the human. The naturalist is aware that people and society are not self-contained. This awareness can color their character and give them a very different sense of proportion.

Rodon goes on to say this about how the world works:

Peering backwards through time, through the layers of rock under our feet, we can read the planet’s history. The boulder beds high up in the Twelve Bens tell of an ancient ice age, the unusual shells at the tip of Rossroe, on the southern shore of Killary Harbor, show that once Connemara was part of America. The strange fossils of fish and fern-like trees in the quarry at Kiltorcan, County Kilkenny, the amphibian tracks crossing the rocks on Valentia Island, County Kerry, suggest that living organisms have changed mightily since much of Ireland was a dry desert near the center of a long vanished continent. And then at the end of this story, we ourselves appear, related obviously to all the other living forms that are found on the planet, with the same chemistry, the same genes (almost), the same needs for food, air and water, the same transience.But what does it all mean? I’m not sure I know, but I can’t help quoting the lady who remarked to American writer Annie Dillard. “Seems like we’re just put down here, don’t nobody know why.” *

Nonetheless, we live well on this planet: sunlight gives us all our food; mountains, forests and clouds work to give us clean drinkable water, soil absorbs and recycles our wastes; all the plants of the earth and seas produce the oxygen we breathe in and absorb the waste carbon dioxide we breathe out. From the description you might picture the natural world as a vast system of solar panels and air conditioners, pipes and waste treatment plants, with us stuck in the middle – a sort of global-scale industrial life-support system. But it is not like that at all: nature is achingly beautiful, although again we haven’t a clue why.”

*Dillard, Annie, Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek (London: Picador, 1976)

Tide Out, Ballynakill Harbor

Tide Out, Ballynakill Harbor

The rain stopped in the early afternoon but it wasn’t until about 5:00 that I  came to a point to take my last walk in Connemara. I walked the short distance to Ballynakill Harbor to see that the tide was out. Among the salty scent of sea air I could also smell the fragrance of burning turf. I looked around and saw smoke coming from the chimney of a nearby house.

I returned to Fushia to prepare my dinner and organize and pack up my things for tomorrow’s departure. As I looked out of the sitting room window I marveled at what it would be like to live your life in one of these houses right on the edge of this harbor with the beauty of Connemara all around you. It is true that in years past Connemara was a hard place to live but the 21st century tourist trade has given it a thriving economy. I came across John O’Donahue’s words about tourism in Ireland:

The rain is never far away here! I welcome it because one of my fears is the way the government relentlessly nurtures the tourist industry. Ireland is a small county and if the tourist numbers aren’t modified it could be overrun. Voyeuristic commercial tourism can do a lot of damage. The English scientist Rupert Sheldrake was asked what single change he would recommend for the new millennium that could make a difference to the world. His reply was that every tourist should become a pilgrim.”