Here. Not Here.

I don’t much feel like talking. I’m home, present and accounted for. Bags unpacked, laundry done, hiking shoes still sporting small clumps of Beara bog. Photos loaded on smugmug, receipts piled in a stack on my desk, a bottle of Connemara 12-year-old Peated Single Malt awaiting whiskey weather.


Yes, sure, and I’m here. But not here, so.


Where I am is there, in that land of soft rain and impossible greens, of peaches and cream sunrises and salmon-flesh sunsets, of wind and wind and wind.

The Cows of Beara

The Cows of Beara

Where I am is in the land of poetry and legends, of An Cailleach, Clan Ó Súilleabháin, St. Caitighearn; the land of sky and water where battles were fought on gorse-cloaked mountains and warriors marked their Ogham runes on tall pillars. I am where the ruined shadows of a British Coast Guard station destroyed by the IRA in 1920 pale against the shadows of history cast by circles of ancient altars—these slabs of stone sculpted by Bronze Age hands now scratching posts for the russet and inky-black flanks of Angus and Friesian.


Ardgroom Stone Circle 3000 B.C.

I am walking through Eyeries village where rows of houses line up like Crayons and lace curtains flutter in open windows; in MacCarthy’s Bar, Castletown-Bearhaven, enjoying the craic with new friends, laughter stealing my breath.

2015-07-10 21.09.23

Eyeries, Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork

I’m in a blue room, one wall lined in shelves bursting with novels. Tucked in bed, I watch the sun sink behind the Kerry peninsula; it is approaching 11:00 p.m. and I think I will lie awake as long as there is sunset, until suddenly it is morning again.


Sunset from my window

Where I am is high on a hillside peering into the green and blue infinity, sheep scattering in my wake, boots soaked through with bog, fingers wrapped around a trekking pole, pack cinched around my waist like a lover’s arms, and I am so happy I could explode from the very fullness of my heart.


The Beara Coast

I am inside a poem. Inside Eavan Boland’s Quarantine Inside W.S. Merwin’s Thanks Inside Seamus Heaney’s When All The Others Were Away At Mass Inside Sharon Olds’ The Race Inside W.B Yeats’s The Lake Isle of Innisfree I am inside the voice of poet Leanne O’Sullivan as she reads William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.


Mass Rock, Allihies Road

I am inside my own head, hearing my own poetry. I am the pen scribbling on the page. I am the tears that flow.

All the cool kids are wearing blue.

All the cool kids are wearing blue.

Something happened to me out there, on the Beara, in the chorus of wind and waves, of birdsong and poemsong. As a writer, as a woman, I am changed. But I’m not ready to talk about it. I’m not ready to come back.

Ag dul síar ar m’aistear
Le solas mo chroí
Fann agus tuirseach
Go deireadh mo shlí

Going west on my journey
By the light of my heart.
Weary and tired
To the end of my road

Excerpted from Mise Raifteirí an File by Antoine Ó Raifteirí


New friend, native Corkonian and poet, Michael Pattwell, writes a weekly column for Cork’s The Evening Echo. Enjoy his lovely poetry and reflections on our workshop at Anam Cara with Leanne O’Sullivan: Finding My Poetry in the Wild West

24 thoughts on “Here. Not Here.

  1. This is so lovely, Julie. I’ve just gotten around to reading it after returning from my own wanderings. This is beautiful and makes me want to go back. You are fortunate to have spent your time on the Beara Peninsula. Cork pales in comparison, but I made it to Sheapshead and Mizen Peninsulas, the Dingle Peninsula, and Doolin and Inisheer. Next time, I’d like to do stay a while in one of these beautiful places to soak up the peaceful magic, as you did.


    • Welcome home, Anne. I finally spent some time in Cork- one of the workshop participants lives just outside and he graciously hosted me and played tour guide. I loved the little city and could happily hang out there for a long spell. I’m so glad you were able to explore the back of beyond 🙂 For all the reasons, Ireland just captures me soul.


  2. I need another trip back home. Did I just write home? Yes, it’s still home. Gorgeous photos by the way. I need one like that colourful street photo for my book cover because there’s a lilac B&B in my novel, doesn’t play a huge part but it would be perfect.


  3. Brilliant post, Julie. I’ve just returned from a week on my own in the wilderness of Scotland and I don’t want to ‘come back’ either. Let’s see if we can hang on to these special experiences somehow.


    • I will have to pick your brain for Scotland ideas, Claudia; it’s high on the “must-visit” list. Yes. I know I must return, rejoin my quotidian life, return to the practicalities and demands, but the literal and figurative poetry of the experience will keep me there. I hope for you to remain in the wilderness, too.


  4. Hi Julie – or are you not quite back to being Julie, yet? Don’t rush back from the places where you are – the refreshment of your retreat is kind of misting off of your post and coating my own imagination! (grin)


  5. As you know, Julie, I was one of a fantastic group of 8. I was amazed how we bonded so well; 1 Spaniard, 5 Americans and just 2 Irish. It was the experience of a lifetime, not least because of your contributions. Your description above has me unsettled again and I WANT to be back there. As you know I had written very little poetry since my late wife became ill almost 3 years ago (and died over 2 years ago) but now I am thinking of nothing else, with several poems – not exactly completed – but under way.
    Thanks for putting up the link for my Echo piece but I could never have put the feeling into it that you have.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Travel transforms and changes me, too. Your photos are beautiful, I especially love the house lined street scene. I have felt that same kind of happiness. Sounds like an amazing trip, thanks for sharing it.


  7. I am transported, Julie. Beautiful travelogue, words and pictures. I hope you retain that Ireland-of-the-mind for a long, long time. I hope you indeed never come back.

    Liked by 1 person

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