Peace, Ballydavid (Ireland III)

Two friends sit on a wall, sipping their coffees in the silent, grey morning, watching the sea.

It’s early. Before the others stir, I’m walking the flower-draped hills of Ballydavid, or is it Feothanach, or maybe more precisely, it is the space in between these two named points, a place that remains unmarked.

Aside from the wild beauty of this place, it is the forgottenness of it I think I love the most.

I pass a tiny shell-strewn beach where gulls dance and shriek, then follow the road, not much more than a narrow track, as it climbs steeply up, past waterfalls hidden by exotic, garish blossoms — orange and purple — past farms, abandoned holiday homes, and the odd cluster of sheep. Songbirds sing and chirp from every bush.

I’m trying to find a path I’ve been assured will take me up to the peak, to a cliff-top that sweeps up to the sky only to drop off, plummeting to the sea hundreds of feet below.

I can imagine the view – nothing but waves stretching into forever; I remember everything from when I lived here one summer 19 years ago. The memories are crystal clear, but the path remains elusive.

Behind me, Mount Brandon is cloaked in heavy clouds, as always. I smile as I recall laughing with a friend all those years ago, betting each other we’d never get a picture of its crest. I still have the postcard she sent me later that year, triumphantly displaying a Brandon without cloud.

Stretching between the hill I’m climbing and Brandon are the emerald fields of a million songs and tourist brochures, rivers, more sheep, the distant dots of cottages and stone houses, the black winding road with its Irish language signposts. I keep turning to look – this is my heaven, my favourite place on earth. I still can’t believe I’m back here.

The landforms feel deeply familiar, soothing in a way that suggests a connection, a belonging I can’t quite explain by simply saying I lived here once, briefly. Ancestral perhaps, though my ancestors came from somewhere else.

Looking at the peaks of the Three Sisters further down the coast, the slumbering giant of the Blaskets, Sybil Head, Brandon, I feel finally calm, finally at home. As though in the intervening years since I was last here I was just stumbling from place to place, task to task, lost.

I stand for a while looking down the coast as it tumbles, rock-strewn and jagged, until it turns inward and jags out of sight. I smell the briny salt of the cold sea, the dampness of the low clouds, the earthiness and sweet grass of this land. I breathe it in, trying to hold on to it, knowing a time will come when this all feels like a dream.

I never do find the path, but I do find something I had lost, something I hope I can carry with me now forever. That missing piece of me.

I pass the two people on the wall again as I pick my way back toward breakfast. They are still sitting on there, looking out to sea, talking. I wonder what they are talking about, and I think of the friends I have here, in Ireland, friends I could sit on a wall with and talk to until our own coffees went cold. And I wonder, what if I’d never left? What would my life be like now if I’d stayed? Can I ever come back?

I will always live with this tension, the pull of this place, the pull of my other home.



I’m not sure where I will end up, whether I will ever move back to Ireland, if it would be the right choice, or if I will stay put for the million reasons I can drum up in a pinch. I dream of living in so many places, and I fear never living in any of them.

But I think no matter where I am, I will always feel torn, I will always wonder about this place, the place of my dreams, this quiet, tucked away corner at the Western tip of Ireland.

1. Thoughts of a night

The scent of Lilacs and fresh leaves reaches in through the window, bringing with it the coolness of star kissed midnight. I am alone in some ways, drifting already between reality and dream, between you and home and somewhere else. Life, possibilities, are just beyond my fingertips, just beyond the window frame, out where blossoms mingle with air, with sky and ozone and the otherness that is always beyond our four walls – any four walls. I lie here, silent, and contemplate timing, considering not if but when I will lift myself up, go into the night and embrace all that is out there.

Summer days

the trees look different
suddenly vibrant, painted garish
against brilliant blue
once the somber birds of winter
spoke harsh truths there
now songbirds sing joy
to our fellowship’s sluggish revival.


dazed by office air, stale and cold,
I pass into the sun
the warmth is cloying
but soothes body and mind aches,
sky-depth widening my gaze,
I turn from inward to look beyond.


a bell rings through the silent neighbourhood —
the knife sharpeners of all our childhoods;
cardinals fleck the trees with their colour
calling to each other: Ma-rie! Pe-ter!
A team of boys practices soccer in the park
with a thunk-thwack of the ball, ringing laughter.


I recognize this season,
its spilling in and out of open doors
its jubilant gardens
like children, looking for places to explore.

How summer changes everything

Sometimes I am so lonely I bike home through downtown’s clogged and clanging streets
instead of taking gentle greenland passages along silent flowered waterways
instead of slipping unseen between twisting deserted neighbourhood corners —
but today I rode greenward, into honeyed air perfumed by blossoms
(lilac, cherry, crabapple, and gardens bursting with colour)
the forgotten familiar sweetness of summer drawing me out with its shy sun
drawing all of us into spaces shunned by winter’s isolation.


Something I wrote a few weeks ago, just as the weather began to turn, finally, from cold and dark to flower-filled lightness. I also wanted to revisit the long-lined poem style I had tried out as part of April’s GloPoWriMo.

Symphony of Summer

sun slants low
draws a slow curve in the hazy clear-blue;
early summer
dandelion seeds and cherry blossoms
drift on breezes carrying cacophonies
symphonies of the new season –
ball-on-metal, voices raised, water splashing –
insect clouds sparkle and dance
shadowed against evening’s low light
everything is warm grass and blossom-scented;
this fresh, sun-kissed air melts
lingering memories of straying snowflakes
its warmth infusing even dreams