It dawned on me as I was on my knees weeding around the new red hazelnut trees. A beautiful colour of wine and reminds me of my prep school uniform, that my last few followers are not from my neck of the woods, that’s so cool cause I would like to tell you about where I live. A picture paints a thousand words and when it comes to the view, there is no way I could even dream of starting to describe the reflections on the sea and the amazing patterns of the big sky, a poet could and maybe even a musician but I’m not about to burst into verse at this point.
For those of you who haven’t made it to Ireland it is as green as people claim, we do green really well! The rain helps but words like lush, moist and misty make for a magnificent palette of green, not surprising that this is the colour most associated with Ireland. The island of Ireland is not so big to those who live in those other massive countries like my US and Australian visitors. We are literally surrounded by water, for me on three sides and from my most south westerly corner I can get to Dublin in 5hrs and the very northern tip in about 10. If you drove up the now very popular Wild Atlantic Way it would take a lot longer. The roads up the spectacular West Coast will demand endurance for their rewards.
For those who have made it to Ireland you have probably found your way to Killarney and the Ring of Kerry or if you didn’t have the time you might have opted for the Cliffs of Moher, if you were able to do either I hope you saw them on a fine day as they really can be worth a visit.
I live in West Cork on the Mizen Head, the last outpost of Europe where the Fasnet Lighthouse, known as “Ireland’s Teardrop,” or in Irish Carraig Aonair, meaning “lonely rock,” sends out its beacon of light warning shipping of the dangers that lie just off the coast and a permanent reminder of those who left the shores of their native land seeking survival, hope and a future. There are still so many displaced souls out there these days, stories of the homeless within our own cities and the heart wrenching tales of those adrift on the Mediterranean searching for a new home away from fear and famine. The teardrop off our coast, guiding with its light is a powerful image that is as relevant today as it was back in the 19th Century. We have other reminders of our history, not so dramatic but there are many famine grave yards and small ruined houses that leave their grey stones like bare bones in contrast to the soft green grass and the mass of wild flowers.
The red Fuscia (magellanica ‘Riccartonii’) and orange Montbretia (Crocosmia) are iconic of our country lanes and it surprises many of the locals that neither of these are natives, they are “blow ins,” our Fuscia hails from the slopes of South America and Montbretia from the grass lands of South Africa. My kids love taking the Fuscia flowers and sucking the small amount of sweet nectar they have to offer.
There is a rich mix of culture in West Cork reflected in the flora, fauna and society. Obviously St. Patrick got rid of all the snakes, did you know St. Patrick was Welsh? But we do have one native reptile the viviparous lizard (a lizard that gives birth to live young) as for amphibians we have the natterjack toad and common frog. The rabbit was introduced by the Romans to Britain for food and later to Ireland by the Normans but I have a particular fondness for the Irish Mountain Hare, its Latin name is Lepus timidus hibernicus, which roughly translated mean a nervous Irish rabbit. We see them quite often and in March you can see them boxing, up on their hind legs.
There is a very strong culture round here predominately farming, fishing, building and tourism but few have just one job and most can turn their hand to whatever is required, a sense of self sufficiency and entrepreneurship, as well as the “I know a man who can.” This is where many Irish, especially from Cork City come on holiday and it can be hard enough to find a hotel or bed and breakfast just on the “off chance.” The land is dotted with holiday homes where families come and stay during the summer, some for generations. The beaches are plentiful and there are many hidden, secret gems. Barleycove Beach is a flagship beach recognised with a European Blue Flag flying over the surrounding dunes and the tidal lake is a haven for birds and birdwatchers alike with many rare occasional visitors attracting flocks of Twitchers.
The Mizen Vision Centre has become one of the most popular visitor centres in Ireland with its dramatic views and signature bridge across to the lighthouse, this has brought many new visitors into the area but few of these coach loads stay to explore the natural beauty. It is a challenge to balance the influx of visitors and maintain that luxurious tranquillity that I cherish so much. I live on the northside of the Mizen away from the beach and soft southerners sunning themselves or surfing in the sea! I over look Dunmanus and Bantry Bays, Sheeps Head and the Beara Peninsular and where the distant mountains of the Kingdom of Kerry meet the Atlantic Ocean and where the sun sets causing the sky to turn gold and the sea to glisten, it so often takes my breath away and I never ever tire of the glory of nature.
So that’s my home, my adopted home, the land of my children’s birth, of scholars and saints, of ancient struggles and future promises. The garden I share with you is my secret oasis of green, surrounded by open fields of green, part of an Emerald Isle, shining green in an ocean of blue and on this grey, misty, soft day it calls me once again to pick up my shovel and head outside. Slán abhaile.