The Seasons…

….they are a’changing. Mornings have a distinct autumn chill about them and the mists referred to by Keats in his poem on the subject have begun to lurk across the valley in front of us and off to the right, where the River Shannon meanders its way to Portumna, Loch Derg, Limerick and the Atlantic. Fruitfulness has also been a feature, as we have eaten quite well from the vegetables we managed to grow (with a little help from Mother Nature), which have been an enjoyable addition to our menu. Having said that, although we still have corn and potatoes to harvest, the veggie garden will soon have to be revitalized and prepared for winter crops and for the later sewing of spring crops. The two grapevines have also done well, as has the fig tree, which has suddenly produced fruit at this late stage in the year. We’ll see what happens and it’s all a learning curve as time marches on…

Swallow hatchlings in the eaves of the barn.

Our family of swallows returned this year and produced a brood in the barn. They have now flown off, back on their way down south to warmer climes. We have also been lucky with squadrons of Painted Lady butterflies [Áilleán in Irish] on our lavender bushes. They also migrate back to sub-Saharan climes – quite an achievement for something weighing less than one gram and, so I’ve read, with a brain the size of a pin head. Put like that, they could be said to do a lot better than some of their human counterparts…

It’s been a good year for butterfly visitors. The lavender hedges have been a big drawcard.

One of the bonuses to retirement is that you can go off and do something on the spur of the moment and at any time of the day. So, last Friday being a fine, warm day, we went off to visit the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare on western Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way (www.cliffsofmoher.ie). They’ve been there for the last 320,000,000 years (how do they work that out?), now form a UNESCO Global Geopark and have featured in many movies over the years, including Ryan’s Daughter. The sight is spectacular to breath-taking, as are the views, which include the Aran Islands, on the way to Galway Bay of song fame. There are very well constructed cliff-top paths and frequent warnings not to cross the wall to walk nearer the cliff itself. So why do people do just that? We saw a young tourist sitting with her legs over the edge of the cliff, whilst her companion took photos – fair enough the backdrop of part of the cliffs was spectacular, but still…

Surrounded by the enduring grandeur of Nature causes you to stop and think. People have been standing on those clifftops for millennia, staring out to sea or watching the sun as it floated majestically down to whatever they believed lay beyond the horizon. Thousands of years later we still marvel at the solemnity of the place and the power of Nature. We are like flowers on a bush – we grow, bloom and then fade, having played some part in the cycle of time and yet, save for cliff erosion, the stones are much the same as they were back in the day. Where do any of us fit into that eternal cycle of the flowers on the bush – and why?

One view of the Cliffs of Moher. They are on a vast scale and pictures don’t really do them justice…

This week sees the start of Portumna’s Shorelines Festival. We have tickets to see a new Irish film called “The Silver Branch”, as well as two concerts, one by a string quartet and the other by a folk trio. We will also be attending the launch of a new book in the Portumna Workhouse Museum about a very shady and cruel (even by 19th century standards) master of the Workhouse called Ogle. It’s been written by one of the driving forces behind our local Lorrha Historical Society, David Broderick, so it has a local flavour and should be an interesting read. When we visited the workhouse recently, every time we asked a question about Ogle and his equally unpleasant wife (who was in charge of the female inmates of the Workhouse), the extremely knowledgeable guide laughed and replied to the effect that we’d have to wait until David’s new book came out to find the answer!

 

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