The first day of 2015 has come wet and windy. I’m looking out at the Bluestacks, their colours, shades of straw, duns and browns, muted in today’s mist; their heads stuck in dusty-looking cloud.
Whatever the weather, this view is beautiful. On sunny blue days the mountains bridge the void between sky and earth. The low sun on crisp, shiny, winter days throws all the undulations on the mountainside into relief, bright swathes of sunlight are trimmed with rasher-shaped patches of shadow while broad expanses of dead bracken gleam burnished bronze. Other parts of the mountains planted with larch, spruce and fir, have each tree sharply defined, steeples standing in serried ranks, bottle green, grey-brown rusting red. Lower down the slopes, a few angular fields, still clear, are traces of meagre living long gone.
This side of the valley is different. Ragged fields dotted with houses, mountainy sheep and rocky outcrops. If there was a logo for this side, it would be the hawthorn.
The hawthorn, more than any tree, evokes the character of this place. Rugged, resilient, sculpted through hardship; if the grey lichen-covered outcrops could grow into trees, they would be hawthorns. They are scattered up and down the humpy fields, ash-grey or black against the leaden sky. Sometimes their shapes are human-like, cries for help with starved limbs extended or stubborn resistance in the face of razor-edged winds.
But yesterday, the clouds were running, and spokes of smoky yellow sunlight radiated down on Donegal like God’s smile. In the distance Ben Bulben looked mythical in a warm, straw-coloured glow. The clouds were blue-tinted charcoal, some torn, others barrel-shaped; they had their own wars to contend with. Down here the hawthorns, standing bold on the curve of the hill, were transfixed like myself gazing westward, towards those lands of ancient legend.
The world is beautiful. Happy new year.