(Note: Spacing kind of crazy – still working on formatting when inserting photos!)
The Irish seem to take seriously their obligation to keep their homeland looking like the little piece of Heaven that it’s reputed to be. Even though an awful lot of real estate seems to be in some state of devolution, returning to the earth, it still looks beautiful in the process.
My grandfather’s cottage in Co. Leitrim is not much more than a few crumbling walls and a fireplace, but it looks as if the arms and fingers of the earth were reaching out to embrace it and gather it in.
The fireplace is the only thing left standing inside, but it was the most thrilling thing to see. Before he left for the States in 1906, my stonemason grandpa carved across the front his name (James Loughlin), a heart, and two shamrocks to show how much he loved this place.
The granary, built by my great-uncle Michael, still stands next to the cottage, and Michael’s handiwork is memorialized by a hand-carved plaque set high up in the front wall.
The setting is sylvan and peaceful and I don’t know how my grandfather summoned up the courage to walk down the mountain for the last time. He was never to return.
My grandmother’s cottage in Co. Roscommon is still occupied by Dad’s cousin Mamie, who keeps it neat as a pin. The whitewashed walls look as if she takes a scrub brush to them every day.
Traipsing around the south of Ireland, we came upon evidence of local efforts to enhance the natural beauty of the area.
local constables strolling down the path, and asked him who took the time to do all the gardening. “I do,” was his proud reply. “Well,” she mused, “you must not have a lot of crime around here!”
The Beara peninsula is a starkly beautiful and exceedingly quiet arm of land reaching into Bantry Bay. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, up on Healy Pass, a tiny pub is advertised by an old gas pump almost buried in flowers.
In Castletownbere, on the same peninsula, an abandoned house seems to be in the process of being absorbed into the hill behind it, yet maintains its decorum with the remnants of a lace curtain in the window.
We could do worse around here than to follow their lead!