A SENSE OF PLACE
My walking routine is so much more than an exercise regime ordered by my doctor. It is one of many things. It is an hankering after times past – times we spent in Gozo where it felt so good to walk everywhere and everyday, taking in the delightful scents and stunning sights of a Mediterranean land- or townscape. So my current walks here are a looking back in a sense, and a remembering of very positive energy which in itself is energising my today.
But it is more than that; it is a grounding of myself in this Irish West Cork landscape. For years I had felt restless here, discontented even, I wanted to travel and I did not feel as if I even belonged here, this landscape, this town and people – however beautiful and friendly, had totally lost its appeal for me and I often felt a stranger. And this despite there being a thriving Art Centre here and my contentedness about all my travels to India.
So when we returned from Gozo in spring 2018 I decided to do something about this, I could not continue the way I was. I started to look at this place with fresh eyes. Discovering new aspects of this town and area, nature and vernacular architecture, people, and I studied the map carefully to know all the hills, the rivers and the surrounding area, keeping in mind the four cardinal directions to orientate me precisely. And I walk, I walk everywhere and my body is feeling so grateful, I feel fitter for it in my every movement. My mind smiles and I’m constantly making plans to explore even more places in the vicinity, little walks and big walks. I have plans to visit and explore surrounding villages too, just as I did in Gozo.
And all this is giving me a sense of belonging and of feeling good in this space on earth, many is the time when I have felt very isolated here in West Cork, cut off from the rest of Europe and the world. I did not like this feeling and then I would hanker to go back, to return to Belgium, even after all these years. But I know that I am here to stay, and so I need to ground myself as much as I can, and I think that I now have found the way to do this – finally – after many years I am beginning to find a sense of place, a sense of belonging.
Yesterday’s walk was not long, it was in open space on the ring road around the town. It opens up views of the town and the hills behind it and shows the river Ilen upstream going off to its source, and downstream flowing into the town. These are good views. And while a constant flow of traffic does not make this walk particularly peaceful, it is nevertheless a walk I love. Many spring blossoms grace the shrubs and many wild flowers grow along the edge of the roadside. Fine stone walls have been built along some of this road, in local rock, shale, in slate-blue colour, with the odd bit of striking white quartz here and there, beautiful.
As I look towards the town centre, my eyes casting over a wide area of marshy ground, I notice works are still ongoing, the building of flood protecting walls. Skibbereen was built on marshland which makes the town prone to flooding. The town centre lies in a long valley, open to the West and North, and protected from the Atlantic Ocean by hills to the South and South-east.
I do believe that in every place on this wonderful earth of ours there are many interesting and exciting things to discover. Finding out about the place we live does give us a sense of belonging.
I would love to hear about your experiences and feelings about your sense of place or your sense of belonging. I would find it to be most interesting.
SPRING IN THE AIR
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
“I love the smell of rain and growing things.”
― Serina Hernandez
“And the birds sang their songs of love. And the flowers serenaded with their sublime fragrances. And the whole world fell in love in spring!”
― Avijeet Das
“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”
“The world is exploding in emerald, sage, and lusty chartreuse – neon green with so much yellow in it. It is an explosive green that, if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day, would grow in every dimension.”
“Spring is not a season; it is a mysterious illusionist who sets off fireworks in the depths of our soul!”
Mehmet Murat ildan
“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”
THE BEAUTY OF ESSEX – HENHAM VILLAGE
The village of Henham lies in rural England, in Essex. We visited there a few weeks ago to see Ian’s delightful grandchild, daughter, and son-in-law. For me it was also another first visit of the village and area and I loved it. Like I have seen in many English villages they are picturesque and peaceful, with many original houses intact or restored, and this village has a great deal of that to show. Above are; left: The old Village school building, right: a sign for the Cock restaurant, and underneath: the village church. This village church has six bells, I heard them (love the sound of church bells). There is a lovely write up with photos and a sample of the bells ringing on this website: http://www.henhamhistory.org/StMarysBells.html
Listed buildings, some with thatched roofs, timber framed cottages some with casement windows, some of the cottages I recognised from the Henham website, these are Friar’s Cottage (above right), Cedar Cottage (above).
It was also early spring, and we made a long walk along the fields and roads, there was plenty new growth to be discovered. The Blackthorn was in full bloom, the wild Chestnut tree just about to start opening its flowers, but I was sorry to hear that some of them were due to be copped down because of a disease. The Hazel already had its catkins, and the weeping willow already its leaves.
Some of the wild spring flowers which were a joy to behold and plentiful.
Henham as a village dates back to pre Roman times, there is mention of it in the Anglo-Saxon period, saying that at that time the village was described as the little clearing on top of the hill. Apparently Henham is one of the highest lying villages in Essex. For more about the history of the place and the parish please visit their website at: http://henhamhistory.org
Certainly England has a lot to offer in well preserved historical buildings, it’s delightful to discover this. It was of course a delight to be taken for this long walk around part of the village and surrounding fields by Susie and Jared, and a very energetic little Phoebe. Thanks again for showing us such a nice welcome, lovely to share time with you.
FIRST DAY OF SPRING
This morning we awoke to another beautiful day, it was warm and sunny, with a fresh breeze. After a long breakfast with Ian my legs could not wait to get going again, a nice walk around the areas of Victoria which I did not get to see yet was in order. I had actually not planned anything in particular, but had to do some shopping on the way home, so I decided to go direction Xaghra, this walk would take you up a steep hill, but it looks interesting. However when I reached the bridge just before the hill I noticed some water fowl, some ducks among which I thought were a few Muscovy ducks, red head, interesting looking. So I decided to follow the ducks, under the bridge they went away from the reservoir and into a river or is it a watery storm drain, I am not sure. The one side is very smooth and is dug out in the limestone, with what seems blue clay toward the bottom, the other side is a path, and that is the path I decided to follow, along with the water fowl. A class of school children were walking ahead of me but otherwise it was a very quiet place with lots of fresh greenery along the path’s borders. I found, a little yellow flower, which at the moment is flowering all over Gozo, it is the creeping wood sorrel. On the water side there were castor oil plants with their beautiful red leaves and dark red seeds. Some borage gave splashed of bright blue, and the prickly pear cacti, tall and impressive made good fencing. The path was smooth to walk on, and flat which I took note of because it would be an ideal walk for Ian too. Toward the end of the path there are two very large eucalyptus trees, the ground at this moment is covered with the halve circle leaves, and some seed capsules that came down with the last high winds were lying around too. I smelled them to see if I should take some home as they are good against colds (not for internal consumption though). And then all of a sudden I was on the main road to Xaghra and turned again toward the centre of town. Here along the road I found goosegrass growing, it is a plant that I have used before, stewed in soups. It is great to see so much greenery around the place, when we first arrived in autumn everything was brown and dried out.
Signs of spring are everywhere, it promises to be a beautiful summer!