01 June 2020
Moments of bliss and
sweet music at the
lake in Curraghchase
This is supposed to be a bank holiday weekend in the Republic of Ireland, although for many people the pandemic lockdown has made every day and every week feel like one, long bank holiday weekend, and they are longing to get back to work and to get back to normality.
The June bank holiday replaced the former ‘Whit Monday.’ So, it is interesting that Pentecost and the holiday weekend come together this year.
I have been semi-cocooning for ten weeks or so in the Rectory in Askeaton, continuing to work yet feeling vulnerable with my pulmonary sarcoidosis, while at the same time needing to be in the parish, letting parishioners know that I am here and that I am available.
I had wandered as far as Beagh Castle at Shannon Estuary, near Ballsyteen, last weekend, while remaining within the safe distance guidelines. This weekend, I was a little braver, and two of us went for a walk in the grounds of Curraghchase Forest Park, which is still within the safe distance guidelines and within the bounds of the parish.
Everyone seems to be finely tuned to birdsong these days, but it is still surprising, walking along the woodland paths, to hear them so clearly and so distinctly. What became obvious for the first time was how noisy as a species we humans are.
On the lake below the ruined house, a pair of swans with four signets seemed curious if not happy with the human attention they were receiving from visitors, the lake had a generous abundance of yellow water lilies, and seemed to be surrounded by a corona of wild yellow irises.
For the first time, I noticed an abundance of blue damselflies (Enallagma cyathigerum). Perhaps I had never paid attention to them before, perhaps I had never bothered to notice their beauty and their dance.
Yet damselflies are one of the more sensitive insects in an aquatic setting and they are an important link between the health of the aquatic ecosystem and its response to climate change.
Back at the De Vere Café, people were keeping their distances, as they waited two metres apart for the simple pleasure of coffee and ice cream, and as they sat at the benches in family clusters two metres apart.
It is so obvious not only that we all need to get out and feel at one with nature, but that we also need to be at one with one another: people were saying hello to complete strangers or people they would never say hello to in normal, pre-pandemic times. I am only human because I relate to other people, and because I need to be with other people.
But nature and humanity can never be separate or distinct from each other. And they were brought together under a spreading cedar tree on the lawn below the ruined mansion. A child was practising her violin in the shade beneath the branches of the tree. It was a moment of bliss.
As a small family group walked by, a small girl, no more than two or three years old, decided to sit down and listen to the older girl playing the violin. Her parents tried to cajole her to move on, but she sat there listening. Her parents moved on, and called her name, but she still sat there. Her parents disturbed the scene by shouting out promises of ice cream as they continued to move on. But still the child sat there, enchanted by the scene and sound in the afternoon sun.
Sometimes the noise we make as humans creates a beauty beyond words. Sometimes these days are different from all other times. Sometimes they become moments that are filled with a beauty that should linger in our memories longer than the days of damselflies.