Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mid-Summer in Beara

The sun shines down on this isolated part of Ireland. A huge contrast to the gales and winds of up to 160 KPH that we huddled against only months earlier. Summer sun is never guaranteed in Ireland. In my 32 years in this country, I can count the good Summers on one hand. Often it rains and blows with temperatures reaching only into the mid-50s, and we grouse and shake our fists at the heavens and wish we had the resources to fund a quick trip to the Med to bask under bluer skies.

But then there are other years. Like this one. We count our blessings because last year was glorious too and the odds of two Sunny Summers occurring back-to-back are as improbable as the United States winning the World Cup. It is during Summers like this that the residents of Beara stretch and smile and bask in the glow of health to be found here.

At Mid-Summer the Peninsula has come alive. Strawberries grow in the raised planters in my back yard, blushing red in the summer heat. Swallows perform impossible aerobatics through the exposed rafters of the tumbledown house just down the small borralion that leads from my home to the lumpy overgrown pastureland below. They compete with seagulls that soar effortlessly overhead on the gentle onshore breeze that caresses my cheek.

The fields and hills are full of wild flowers. Fuchias, as red as blood, hang like Christmas ornaments among hedgerows, growing within the wild thickets of blackberries. Soldiers stand tall, their swelling buds making ready to burst forth with spiky orange blossoms that will line wild lane ways as Autumn approaches. Wild roses spatter hidden corners of deep green fields with palates of purple, coral, and innocent pink.

Beyond in the Bay half-deckers motor out from Ballycrovan Harbour through glassy waters intent on white fish catches that will be found a few miles out into the Atlantic. The pulsing throb of their engines echo as far as the house, mixed with the gentle wash of the tide as waters play over the rocky shoreline.

Eyeries Island, only  a few yards from shore, acts as my tidal monitor. From my dining room, I can gauge the waters and know when the Moon has done its job and pushed the Atlantic to High Tide. It is much less expensive than a Tide Table and far more accurate. My eye will catch the silhouettes of walkers moving like living ghosts along the Beara Way and I get a kick out of knowing the joy that they are experiencing as they push along the coastline and through the Summer Sun.

It's Mid-Summer but the village is still quiet. A few freshly polished cars nose along main street obviously lost and I wonder if the tourists within might stop or might not and I always ponder where they are from and where they might be going and what they'll think of Eyeries when they get home and of the memories that they will have.

Occasionally, I'll get my act together and ignore the laptop for once; packing a few things together I'll head for the Strand. At low tide I'll walk along the rocky beach searching for perfectly formed scallop shells while keeping an eye peeled for the seals that sometimes come in after the mackerel. If high tide, I'll take a swim. At High Summer the waters are usually warm enough but if not I'll pull on a wet suit and face mask and snorkel through the clear lapping waters looking for pollack and mackerel and the small jellyfish that look like saucers, their opaque forms decorated with thin plum lines, pulsing gently through the sunlit sea. The ocean sluices through the rocks that jut like small islands and I'll get a hankering to swim farther out and into the rich life that the sea harbors.

Now and then a friend of mine will knock on the door. We climb into his truck and run down the narrow road to the Harbor and board his rib. He cranks up the ninety horsepower engine and speeds out the inlet into the Bay proper and across it to the snag just off the Peninsula and within spitting distance of Urhan village. We try our luck with hand lines, a simple rig of twine tied with ten or more hooks and a sinker at the end. We toss them in without bait, the glittering silver of the hooks enough for the job. Last time, we filled the boat with enough fish for a few weeks eating. If ever I ran short of cash I know that I won't starve. All I need is a small punt and a hand line and I'd be in business.

I'll sit on the back deck then and maybe have a beer and light the Barbecue, cooking up the mackerel from the trip or a small fillet perhaps and serving it with the lettuce that I grow from seed. And I'll sit there listening to classical music from the radio, the shed door open so I can hear it, and wait for the sun to go down. It's Mid-Summer and so far north the sun doesn't set until almost ten o'clock. And I'll have another beer and watch as the summer clouds are turned red and gold, Scarrif Island spotlit like an old wild thespian, and the Kerry Mountains at last back lit as the sun sinks behind them. I'll not wait until the stars come out because I'd have a very long wait at this time of year; twilight lasts until after midnight, and I've risen at three in the morning to see the foreshadowing of dawn flicker in the northern skies.

Summer in Beara fills my senses with a gentleness that I've not found anywhere else.

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  1. Tom, good to see you are well. Last entry I was able to see for the longest was the post about Maureen O'Hara back in April 2011. Sorry to see the state Ireland is in. Wonder how much more the government can get out of the people before there is mass emigration and revolt. The front cover of the online edition of the Independent yesterday seemed wildly worried about Garth Brooks maybe not performing in Croke Park. Makes you wonder what world the media lives in, doesn't it? Nikki

  2. So good hearing from you Nikki. Yeah, it can still be pretty miserable here. But things slowly turning around. Am thinking of penning a separate entry regarding the Garth Brooks fiasco. Typical of what's happening here. Looks like the country is going to lose €50 million in business. Ijits. And what an embarrassment. It's one of THE big stories right now over here. You'd think they'd stopped JC returning for a second visit...! :)

  3. I hope you do a separate entry, Tom. You know, I think GB's coming out of retirement is a bigger story in Ireland than it is here. It does seem that it is at least comparable to the Second Coming judging by the fuss. I wonder if maybe it has to do with the fact that he has not only an abiding affection for Ireland but also because the height of his popularity coincided with the Celtic Tiger and reminds people of better times.