01 October 2012


In 2009 I took time out from work. I had been self-employed since I was 19 and I had hit a wall. All the walls. If there was a wall to be hit, I hit it. You get the picture.

Sunrise over the Maamturk mountains, Connemara.

The next three years were, honestly, as fascinating as this photograph. They had it all: light, dark, hard and soft. Sharp edges, subtle nuances. Soaring peaks and jagged troughs. At times I was revelling in the glory of it all. There were also times when I was bent double, sweating, trying to catch my breath and feel my legs under me. Just like the day when I took this picture

What did I do? I walked. A lot. Every day. At first I did a circuit around a headland that juts out into the sea, around five miles every morning, usually starting before dawn. But the last leg took me across a golf course and one morning they had a word. It wouldn’t do. Private property.

I was mad as hell. I stewed for three days, raging, and then I remembered a piece of woodland that’s even closer to me than the sea. I began walking there, and still do. Nearly every day, anything from two to five miles. It’s public property, owned by Coillte (The Irish woodland trust) and so far it hasn’t been a problem to walk there. I hope it never is. These spaces are more important than economics or someone’s planning ambitions.

Gardening became another passion. The simple immutable cycle of growth and decay. It is very beautiful, gentle and powerful in its rhythm, and can’t be rushed, slowed or halted. Neither can it be controlled. There came a proud day when the only thing on my table that I hadn’t raised myself was some bacon. (That goal remains.)

I chopped firewood until my back gave out. I surprised myself with a taste for carpentry. I gathered scrap timber in the snow. I tinkered with engines, repaired anything that broke and learned the true effort of living. I railed, blindly, against the rank and selfish stupidity that devours us until I learned that it’s far nicer to spend time weeding a bed and planting something.

I dipped my toes in the world of work this year. And now I’m back.

Photo was taken, in good company, on the Maamturk mountains, Connemara.