Wind blusters in from the Atlantic to Donegal. Rain whispers in corners when not beating at windows. The sun’s appearance is a vestige, of a possible life. The woman in a shop yesterday remarked that “we had such a wonderful summer last year, the best I can remember. We can’t possibly have another!”
I evacuated Hobart’s late autumn, the ground near my house russet with maple leaves, darkening days pulling me towards imminent hibernation. And now: another dance altogether. The temperature is familiar, cool, but the light – and its closeted sunlight – feels like endless day. There’s a sense of contrariness about being alive here while remembering there.
The road to Horn Head almost does me in: my body resists the experience with a familiar tremor I can’t stem. The narrow road rises too quickly to brim across cliffs and steep grass verges rolling into the sea. I step out of the car to take photographs and the stiff wind knocks me off balance. I’m relieved to return to lower roads and a more flattened sympathetic nervous system but my tourist-self can chorus that I’ve seen the cliffs of Horn Head. Friends tell a story of a 50-point turn on an icy surface on that road while passengers shivered outside, too nervous to be in the car at the edge, above the drop. Irish mountain roads, especially when they loom as a surprise, are not for the weak-kneed.
Last week I returned to the Burren. The mauve uplands are sketched with lush green now, such a contrast to the saffron of autumn when I was here in 2018. The college is bursting with students from the US, on intensive art courses. I meet familiar staff and students from my residencies and feel gratitude for the times there and for the energy suffused into my creativity.
Before leaving the Burren for Donegal I visit The Dark Edge of Europe exhibition that I was invited to be a part of. This exhibition, with the KAVA artists, was coming to a close after four weeks in the courthouse gallery in Kinvara, a town at the northern end of the Burren. Artists met for twelve months to inquire into stories of sudden death from the Cliffs of Moher, the highest cliffs in Europe and a site often chosen for suicide. For research, artists took boat trips – around the base of the cliffs – and walks along the cliff tops. The exhibition coincided with Mental Health Month, Ireland, and donations were made to KinvaraAlive. (KinvaraAlive.com)
Each of the artists created work that responded to sense-of-place, and to the vibrant bird life that in spring seems to defy any sense of dispiritedness associated with the cliffs. My contribution was a sound installation, from recordings gleaned while in the Burren last year, added to and mixed in Hobart. I produced a CD that included other tracks from the Burren residencies. The two tracks composed for the installation, Shadow and Light, weave bird calls, improvised fragments, Irish tunes and a Bach excerpt that for me respond to a sense of lived despair, optimism, song and hope for connection. My good friend Emily Sheppard, violinist, added to the scope and quality of the recording with her serene playing of Seamus McManus’s Waltz and – in stark contrast of timbre – the Largo from Bach’s Solo Sonata in C Major.
Horn Head looking towards Dunfanaghy