Sadly, we’re on a trip for another funeral. We’re staying near Cong in County Mayo, Ireland and going backwards and forwards to Headford for the funeral and arrangements.
The day after the funeral, everyone is gone very quickly via the airports in Knock and Dublin, with long car journeys and early starts. The large house we’ve rented seems so quiet. It’s a leaden afternoon, wth solid cloud and a strong wind, but it is not raining. We have heard about Insihmicatreer, an island in Lough Corrib not far from where we are staying, so we follow the single track roads for several miles until we cross a causeway onto the island, and then continue until the road runs just above a rocky shore and the vast lake opens in front of us.
We stop next to a tiny quay, where someone, sometime, has made a small harbour with rocks, probably gathered from the shore and lake bed. The rocks are full of character. They are limestone and so dissolved carbon dioxide (which is slightly acidic) in rain and lake water eats small pits into the rock surface, and lots of mosses, lichens and other simple plants and fungi grow on them. They definitely calm the waves which are actually quite menacing out on the lake, but there is nothing to break the wind, which is strong enough to rock the car and cold enough to hurt. Like many places in the West of Ireland, there are individual, mostly modern, houses scattered around the landscape but apart from two brave fishermen out in a boat and being rocked around quite dramatically, there is no sign or sound of anyone. We are here for an hour and the landscape stays empty.
I don’t know how I feel. I am concentrating on taking photographs and trying to stop my tripod from blowing over. I have to keep moving into the lee of the car to warm up a little. Underneath the surface, I am sad from the funeral, but it was for an old man who had advanced Alzheimer’s: we are mourning for his past more than what had become his present. He was the last of our immediate family living in Ireland and some of the sadness is wondering if and when we might return, after this last few years of regular and usually stressful trips, with care and support to be arranged and watching the slow and inevitable decline of people you love. I’m also grateful for a respite from the busy times of the last few days, and it is the first chance to be quiet.
Ireland’s landscapes often seem mystical with hidden depths and meanings. We’ve read that this island was an ancient celtic monastery, where courageous men went to wrestle with demons and find God in the details of the place and seasons. Islands always have stories. I am not in the mood to think about the fairy folk or the thousand other meandering stories that probably wait here for someone to tell them, but this is more than a simple place to be, and I am grateful for it.