Back from the West
We are formed by the landscape in which we dwell. Our Irish character is shaped by the rocks, stones, ancient walls, fields, planes, rivers, seas, lakes, valleys and mountains on whose bosom we are reared. Our literature, both in English and in Irish bears the marks of our landscape. We cannot study Irish literature, philosophy or theology without being cognizant of this fact. I remember years ago studying Máirtín Ó Díreain at college and writing an essay entitled “Mairtín Ó Díreain, An Fear Aniar” for one of our lecturers in the Irish Department in UCD. All of Ó Díreáin’s poetry is hewn out of the rocks and stones of Inis Mór on which he was born and reared. He never managed not to write about his beloved Árainn. He saw his antecedents as having extracted their rights from the land by sheer struggle with the elements – as “winning their rights from the strength of nature: ag baint ceart de neart na ndúl”. Then I remember all those fantastic stories written by Liam Ó Flaithearta in that well-crafted and beautifully written classic collection called “Dúil” which we studied long ago at school and college. Once, when Liam went back to his native island of Árainn he proclaimed these famous words: “A chloch mhór, aithním thú: o great rock, I recognize you!” His stories also were all totally inspired by the mystical beauty of landscape, seascape and mouintaincape of the west of Ireland. The same, of course, can be said of our writers in English like Paddy Kavanagh who never escaped from his “stony grey soil” of Monaghan or James Joyce whose writings are suffused in the geography of his native Dublin and in the sea that lashed its coast around the famous Martello Tower at Sandycove, the Forty Foot and, of course, the famous Sandymount Strand where many a Joycean encounter, if not epiphany, happened.
These thoughts are occasioned by a week I spent with my Transition Year students in the West of Ireland – an area which constantly overwhelms me with its mystical if harsh landscape. There is a deep spirituality at its heart’s core. Read either of the following mystical contemporary philosophers, both of whom follow in that great Celtic spiritual tradition – John O’Donohue and John Moriarty. Don’t seek understanding in their writings – rather seek to be enlightened ,entranced, enthralled and spellbound. However, back to the occasion that inspired these few words – namely a class visit to Delphi Adventure centre in Mayo. It is located in southwest Mayo, halfway between Louisburgh and Leenane. All around the centre are the mountains, beaches, sheltered inlets, rivers, lakes and majestic scenery of Connemara. Added to that is the uniqueness of the fact that the centre lies on the banks of the famous Killary Harbour, the one and only fjord in Ireland.
I have inserted a photo I took of the River that runs just outside the Adventure Centre. You can visit The Delphi Adventure site at this link: http://www.delphiadventureholidays.ie/index.htm . Apologies for my inability to insert a smaller classier link than this horrible written one.