Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A small island in winter








We picked the coldest day of this year for our overnight stay on Inis Meáin. To conquer the cold we spent most of the time walking and some of the time drinking hot whiskey. This was my fourth time on the island, and it has to be one of my favourite places for walking. If you struggle with practising mindfulness, walk on Inis Meáin. The view is spectacular no matter where you are, and the abundance of stone walls creates a trance-inducing pattern to traverse. You are reminded how very little you actually need in life. We certainly didn't miss wifi; we both read more than we had read in the previous two weeks.

I had brought Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life (I got it in the English translation, as I wanted to pass it on to others), and we both read it in one go and loved it and reread passages. With its themes of landscape and solitude, it was a fitting read for this place. Then I started and finished Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, and while it would be far-fetched to make a connection, it also seemed a perfect read for this island retreat. Perhaps it is something to do with the act of reading a novella in a small house on a small island, a strangely beautiful haunting atmosphere evoked in a slim volume, an entire universe revealed in one sitting. There was also this contrast: It describes an unusually warm day in March 1924, and I read it on almost the same date of this unusually cold March of 2018 and imagined feeling the buzzing warm air.

The renovated cottage we stayed in gave us a glimpse into what life would have been like for the islanders of the past and still is for some. We saw picture book scenes that no doubt were the beautiful façade of a labour-intensive existence - a lamb next to a cockerel in a field, cows with healthy thick coats, painted water pumps. The Harry Clarke windows in the church are worth repeat visits. The people we rented accommodation from were in love with the island and chose to come back after time on the mainland, and while it can be bleak and harsh, especially in the colder months, it has its own rewards.

I read and walked and slept (or attempted to sleep) through stabbing chest pains that have had me on edge for the last two weeks and returned, if not without symptoms, more at peace. And the sun came out on the second day; we opened the front door and got a chair and sat in the perfectly sheltered entrance.


2 comments:

  1. This sounds like the perfect retreat. I’m intrigued by the dangling legs photo... I hope you are well, Marina. Stabbing chest pain sounds concerning. Have you had an ECG?

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  2. Thank you, Holly. Yes, I had an ECG and it was fine, but the chest x-ray showed what looks like atypical pneumonia. I hope it will clear up. Thank you for your message.
    Ha, I wasn't brave enough to climb up to the mezzanine, but John had a cup of tea up there! x

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