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Galway city still has its magic. This is the town of artists and new ideas. The place where creative projects are tested and celebrated. We are a gathering city.
We like to meet and talk and drink and tell stories, then go home and write or paint or
make music late into the night. If we wake early, we might run through the empty
morning roads, or walk the prom to town and back, watching the sea, waiting for the
light to come, the swans to land, the cormorants and herons to perform their signal
duties. This is a county of writers and artists of all kinds.
Recently, artists meet in forests like Coole Park and Barna Woods, but in the icy cold of winter not much more than walking and sipping hot toddies for warmth occurs. Outdoor dining happens haphazardly and suddenly when the rains stop and the winds—for once—cease. This provides a small dose of comradery and friendship, the chat and chatter so necessary for writers, though it lacks the usual come here, wait’ll I tell ya of whispered gossip and the backslapping fast-talk of the pubs. Despite this, these outside happenings lead to a feasting on images like the fog rising from the wet leaves on the forest floor; or the diaphanous curtains of rain drifting north across the bay from County Clare.
In the time of Covid, the artists in Galway are writing, painting, drafting, plotting or
even just fermenting to distillation, ideas that in any other year than this, may not
have found the dark fertility of a womb to develop within. There are good things to
be found in the sometimes maddening quiet of separation.
This afternoon, I met with another poet in the woods of Coole Park. Dressed for all weathers, we take off past the ruins of Lady Gregory’s house, and pass the famous copper beech “Autograph Tree”. I hear the thwap of the hurler’s stick to puck in the muddied green, and turn to watch. W.B. Yeats might have bridled seeing their jackets flung over the stones carved with his words, or he might have laughed. Definitely he would have written about it.
We move along into the woods, talking as quickly as we walk: how is the writing coming, what are you reading, who’s the latest inspiration, the best lines? We strut until she stops suddenly, looking upward along the tall trees that look like spines of a fan opening into the wide white sky. My gaze drops to the trees sloping towards the river, a fuzz of blue-green pine branches distorts the sharp tree lines, the grey metal river a painting by Monet. It is enough.
Lattes and mince pies in the open courtyard of the park are enjoyed, as we exchange the heart-strengthening minutia of our lives. We part and make our way back to separate hearths, where each falls back onto our own resources, renewed. I warm the soup, light the candles, and begin again to write.
FELICIA 'FLISH' McCARTHY is a poet who lives in the West of Ireland. Her poems and essays are in print and online in Ireland, the UK, USA and Mexico. She is the Poetry Editor of North American Time at The Blue Nib. As a feminist, her country, like Virginia Woolf’s, is the whole world (Three Guineas). Her first collection, The Gypsy Shaman’s Daughter will be published by Salmon Poetry in Spring 2021. Twitter. Facebook.
MARGAUX PIERREL is originally from the Forest of Tronçais in France. In 2017 she relocated to Ireland to pursue a career in ecology and environmental education. Working for organisations for the protection of natural sites, including the Burren National Park (Co. Clare) and the Coole Park Nature Reserve, Pierrel has conducted ecological studies on species including the lesser horseshoe bat, and the hen harrier raptor. Instagram, Facebook.
(image credit: Woods of Steam, Coole Park, 2020 by Margaux Pierrel, by kind permission of the artist.)