I called up to a friend of mine, called Niall some time ago and I could only say that Niall really is a man of Aran — he is a first class fisherman, a champion oarsman, a builder of walls or indeed anything, he is a tremendous father and husband and I know he’d agree with me when I say that one of his best ever decisions was in marrying the lovely Genie, who could only be described as ; as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.
Over the last 15 or 16 years since I’ve been separated, for one reason or another, I haven’t been able to make a “go” of any relationship.
I have received, (mostly from my friend’s wives and partners) — kindly words, support and even
understanding. Partly due to the fact that I am not a bullish fellow, am probably a romantic and am happy to admit that I am in love with the notion of being in love —
Anyway, I have had many the supportive conversation whereby it’s been pointed out that I just haven’t met the “one” yet and one of these days, she’ll step off the boat and ill know when I know.
So, I sat up in Niall and Genie’s house overlooking kileaney bay, was spreading real butter on the currently bread made by Genie’s fair hand and I was reasonably expecting her to tell me warm and kind things like —
What’s meant for you, won’t pass you by or some such thing.
Well she smiled, looked at me straight in to my two eyes and said
” did you ever think that you might just be a selfish bastard ”
Well, I burst out laughing and in fairness, as her declaration is possibly for others to judge but once again I found myself feeling blessed to be living in a small community with real friends who will call it as they see it.
I left their house , no wiser but alot happier after the candor and a good belly laugh.
These things only ever seem to happen to me on my beloved Island.
I remember years ago reading a story written by the Great Island Author, Liam O Flaherty in which he described the feelings of a newly wedded young man who was going to dig his potatoe ridges for the first time as a married man.
He described a really beautiful and urgent picture of this young man in the field desperately wanting to show his young bride that she had chosen a man who would always provide for her and whatever family came along , he knew in ways that this was a rite of passage in his village and he desperately wanted to show his neighbours that he was strong enough and resourceful enough to fulfil his sacred duty in looking after his care.
O Flaherty wonderfully captured the conflicting yet motivational feelings of burning ambition along side terror and self doubt.
Very understandable and certainly a human range of emotions that I can most definitely identify with.
In our previous society, the opportunity for a man to work through the fears and doubts and to challenge himself physically and thus provide for his care was a powerful asset in that it was a very tender yet strong act of love and it meant that the very qualities that took the man through that barrier were used for what nature intended them for, and that because they were not repressed or misguided , the man, and his family could reap the honest rewards.
It’s harder , today for men to find and fulfil that primal challenge but I believe it’s still highly important, as I have observed and experienced, that such men generally are not driven by ego, self promotion or aggression.
Sometimes when a man allows himself to become or to feel immasculated, he can very often be badly behaved and not just let himself and his family down but his gender too.
I was incredibly blessed in that as a child, along with my father, my role models were men who faced life and death at sea and were consequently very much at peace with themselves.
I was attracted by this and to be honest, I just tried to copy it.
I owe these brave Island Men a big thank you, for showing me the way.
At the very heart of this unique and beautiful island is community and the essence of community, is family.
If Aran was a man ……
This morning as I finally decided that Xmas was over and that a form of routine was reluctantly the way that I could get in touch with the islands natural rhythm and introduce a bit of balance back to hopefully pre – xmas levels.
I’ve noticed over the years that I excitedly look forward to breaking free of routine and always, without fail, by early January I run back to the familiarity + safety of my routine.
Before I set off up the hill, I noticed that I engaged in my usual mind game with myself, whether it’s winter sea swimming or exercising.
Everyday when I am going for a swim, I come up with the most plausible and valid reasons why it makes no sense whatsoever to get into the sea….. Knowing full well that I am going to …….
I’ve never backed out yet.
Also, I have never once gotten out of the sea or completed my exercise and said “I wish I hadn’t have done that”.
I took off up the hills, fueled by the effects of overindulgence and with my mind full of ideas, goals, and possibilities for the year ahead.
In addition to that, there is a natural re-calibration that comes from living on this island – it’s a potent and effective mixture of living with nature, the elements and a warm, vibrant, close community. It’s impossible not to be impacted.
As I hit the first hill, in sequence; my legs tightened, my lungs opened, I breathed deeply, and boom!!….. my mind and heart opened.
Paradoxically our hearts are delicate yet robust and serendipitously this island is gently rugged intimately remote, wild yet very very beautiful.
I find it right at this moment the thought of looking ahead at my life to be futile as I am so conscious and naturally immersed in my gratitude + awareness for living on this stunning rock in the Atlantic ocean.
I was initially inspired to write this heading when i saw that there was to be a singles weekend in the Island’s Hotel, and it got me thinking.
I thought, imagined and, indeed, even reminisced about how the romance and magic of this Island can wrap a couple up in a loving embrace, while they go on to share and experience the very best that Mother Nature has to offer. (more…)
I was struck very forcibly while watching the epic hurling match on Sunday at how, we Irish are different to the rest of the world.
Firstly, for the last few busy weeks of this summer season the rhythm of my island life consisted of; work, eat, sleep – on a loop!!!
I found myself unable to access the real rhythm of this stunning island, even knowing it’s powerful impact on my life, views and feelings – it seemed a world away.
I wrote this heading last Wednesday and had a general idea about what I was trying to express based on my experiences traveling to many places all over the world and the memory of them will stay with me forever. My own experience of this beautiful island is that; it catches my heart and fills my soul in a deeply personal way. I have met people all over the world and in the most unusual places and circumstances. Their lives have been so positively influenced and their sense of place in the world forever enhanced by the island.
One of the really incredible aspects to living back on my beloved island is how on a daily basis, I find myself getting pleasantly surprised.
When you come to this wonderful island, one of the challenges that is worth facing and overcoming is; to give yourself permission to feel your feelings, tune into your senses – to dispense your mainland head, which is all shorthand for leaving aside your business thoughts, relationship worries, materialism and so much more so you can just, live, breath and feel – the right things will happen.
While I was sitting having my breakfast today I heard on the radio that there were to be a number of ceremonies, masses etc for the Irish people who participated in all the wars around the world. Closer to home there is to be a mass at 12 noon on the pier in Kilronan for the fisherman of this Island.
I decided to embrace the rhythm of the island and sleep with the curtains open. The sunrise either crept in stealthily or else I was just nicely tired from the fresh air . But either way it was bright as I set off to cycle east in the early morning sunlight. Galway Bay was twinkling and shimmering as I cycled silently through the morning.
There is something more than symbolic in leaving the mainland and traveling across to ocean to an offshore island,