‘It’d be a great little country if you could roof it’, is a phrase we have become accustomed to on our little island. Surrounded by stunning scenery, yet surrounded by weather that is unpredictable and moody like a teenager, the phrase is easy to comprehend. Yet, for me, this only adds to the charm, at times anyhow.
With freedom granted last Monday to travel outside the county we reside in, we hightailed it home to South Kerry like scalded cats. The drive down was filled with excitement and delight, not just because after years of being a passenger I was finally at the wheel. Finally getting to see my mother, looking back to full health after a brief and thankfully minor, sojourn in hospital, and one of my four brothers in 3d, as opposed to the grainy view on zoom seemed too good to be true.
Driving through the usual bottlenecks of Adare et al., with the usual concertina of traffic passing through, only seemed to heighten the anticipation, nothing would be dimmed this day. There is a point after Abbeyfeale where you are finally greeted with the glorious words ‘welcome to the Kingdom’ on either side. I always feel like celebrating like it’s a last minute winner there, dunno why, just always been that way.
Delight of Being Home
It didn’t take me long to get back in the rhythm of being home. Like I was never away. Myself and herself were determined to soak in as much as this scenic nook on the Wild Atlantic Way had to offer, making up for all that time stuck in a house. The area, as ever, didn’t disappoint, the weather on the other hand…. Driving around, high up into the hills to catch the rugged terrain in all its glory was a bit of a fool’s errand, as the clouds descended all around us.
Undeterred, we persevered. Simply driving around the peninsula was sufficient to restore, with the company of loved ones, how could it not? Walks along the headland, sights of the enigmatic Skelligs, did much to bring us above the everyday. Augmenting this with turning ourselves blue, in the name of a dip in the Atlantic, further brought us back to our real selves, helping us shed the clutter. One cannot go to Kerry without this rite, on every occasion.
Yet if we allowed the weather dictate our itinerary, we would have been beached at home on the couch. Just as well we didn’t arrive home with the expectation of getting a tan. It got me thinking of our expectations when holidaying at home. The easiest way to spot tourists from the continent on our west coast, was always to see those with the best rain-gear. Impermeable trousers and jackets were their uniform. Us Irish could be spotted in shorts and a tee shirt, tough out boy. We can be guilty of letting our experience of this country be dictated by the volatile weather. I’m not overly fond of getting soaked to the bone myself but one must overcome.
A Return to Nature
My wonderful experience at home helped further my realisation that it is only by being out in the elements, at one with the source, that we can truly shed our clutter and return to our true selves. It would be remiss of me to not bow to William Wordsworth’s superior ability to put this into words. As I have said on numerous posts on this blog, there is always a poet to do it for us.
Wordsworth’s entire body of work is wrought with adoration of nature, its connection to the other, and its connection to our imagination and true creativity. However, two pieces of his work come to mind. Firstly his major treatise; Preface to Lyrical Ballads, where he ruminates on his ideals for poetry, which fully ignited the Romantic movement.
Here he expounded his main ideas on what poetry should be and who it should be for. He longed to make poetry more accessible and bring it back to the masses. Accessible writing grounded in relatable themes, stemming from the world around us was his mantra, it seems to me. A true acknowledgement that poetry is indeed for us.
Wordsworth highlights this when he says; ‘Low and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language;’. A plainer and more emphatic language, wow, what a powerful paradox. For me this is a call on us to go back to the simpler things, and that poetry should be there to accompany us on this journey.
The other phenomenal piece of writing from Wordsworth that came waltzing into my brain as I toured South Kerry was, of course, a poem, namely; Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey. Wordsworth liked to walk throughout the day, soaking in the natural world and then transform these experiences into verse for our consumption, akin to a kind of match report, of a much higher form of course:)
On one of his jaunts around Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth did just that, and as with most poetry, his experience and retelling of this experience is something to nourish us today. He illustrates beautifully how restorative nature can be. In a world which is thankfully far more willing to acknowledge our vulnerabilities where mental health is concerned, his insights are something to savour.
In his own words
He highlights the sense of comfort his natural surroundings give him when he’s down. How this experience enhances his spirit and sets him on a path of contemplation and escapism as opposed to one of self loathing; ‘I have owed to them,/In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,/Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;/And passing into my purer mind,/With tranquil restoration-‘. Poetry is not only about what is being said, how it is being said is vital too. The sibilance of repeated ‘s’ sounds in these lines, to echo the tranquil lapping of water near the Abbey, further enhances the calm that is overriding his psyche.
He goes on to reflect on the change that has occurred in his life and this is accompanied by a growing acceptance that all things do indeed change. He reflects on the nature of all human sadness and upheaval, how acceptance is key, and nature may just be the balancing force: ‘For I have learned/To look on nature, not as in the hour/ Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes/ The still and sad music of humanity………/ A presence that disturbs me with the joy/ Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime/ Of something far more deeply interfused,’.
What an important message in this our day and time. Again, how it is being said is vital too; the fast pace of these lines and enjambment (run on lines), show how elated he has become, and how his rapturous thoughts are unfurling, leaving his downcast self aside.
Pertinence for Today
With this being the summer of the summer of the staycation, it is vital,I believe, for us to embrace what our country has to offer. It has what Wordsworth went to great lengths to articulate for us; true escapism. I found when at home last week that, regardless of the weather, all what Wordsworth has prescribed for us was right on my doorstep. How lucky I feel to have such a hub of renewal to go to. Yet we must all realise we all do.
All over the news I’m seeing demands for the right to holiday abroad, and sure there are indeed horses for courses. Many places in this world have the power to restore us. However, right now it is time to seek that nourishment at home. If we don’t avail of this wonderful opportunity that has inadvertently stumbled into view, amid the chaos of Covid, then I fear, not only will it be an opportunity missed but it could be to our detriment in far more serious ways. Covid has not gone away, it is regrouping. Whilst we can’t live under rocks, the option to holiday at home and indulge our true psyches is not one to turn our nose up at.
This shouldn’t be hinged on the weather. Whilst the rugged, unruly terrain of this country is handsome adorned in sunlight, it is when it is at its wildest that I believe its true personality reveals itself. The misty terrain becomes ethereal at is envelops you body and mind, reminding you in a timely fashion just how insignificant we truly are. There is nothing like seeing a wind-torn sea, alive with white horses dancing towards the rocks, where they crash in the most visceral of meetings.
In these fraught times, another reminder of our fragile existence is no bad thing, difference being the might of the natural world reminds us that, whilst we are small and insignificant, we are a part of this rich tapestry all the same.