Friday, May 22, 2020

Another Day in Lockdown

21st May 2021
22nd May 2020
Another day in lockdown.

The sun shines and the smell of roses creeps into the kitchen. Glancing through the window I see the rose bushes  bent  under the weight of yellow and red blooms and rhodedenrons  with their huge deep pink and purple flowers are beautifying the world.
This morning at 4.0 am the birds sang outside the window as a pink sky crept along the horizon. 
I lay in bed, the curtains open and watched the changing colour with a few wispy clouds dotted around like small flecks of candyfloss. 
Our  plan was  to be in Cornwall for the whole of May, traveling with the camper.
Not to be.
Reading my  words from my journal for this day last year takes me back to our trip to Ireland. I would recommend to everyone, to  keep a journal. I love mine. Pondering those few lines  have me immersed in a particular memory that I might otherwise have only vague recollections of.
It was a day similar to this one - sunny blue skies, hot the way I like it.
Traveling the twisting, narrow roads around the Beara Peninsula, along cliff edges and by the sea, we could just as easily have been driving along the Amalfi coast. Not that we've ever done that, but we've dreamt of it.  
Though now, in contrast, we reality felt like we were in a dream. The Wild Atlantic Way, rightly named,  is a stunning coastal road, full of the drama of nature.
"Stop," I couldn't help but gasp at the view. We pulled over, got out and stood on rocky crags and looked out. The sea way below us had a turquoise, shimmery sheen. We live by the sea and I've seen its many colours, but not this one. Birds of prey circled high above us, their wide wings luminescent in the sun. There were no cars on the road. We were in the middle of nowhere.
Beara, the Irish peninsula that time forgot!A few miles further down the road we turned off towards the Buddhist Centre. A couple we got talking to at a music evening at the Art Gallery in Castletownbere told us we must go, that it was one of the highlights of their holiday so far. When you're on the road, you get to exchange tips and interesting information including places that are worth a visit. I loved these encounters of helpful sharing. It happened all over Ireland, although it was more prominent in the South and West.
At the couple's insistence and with their instructions, we find the place. We'd never have found it by ourselves. The signs were obscure at best and we almost missed where we had to turn off the road. We continued at least a mile down an even narrower lane, or boreen as they're called in Ireland. It was like a long farmyard entrance with bushes and trees trying to pull it back into the natural world.
"There it is. Oh my, look at those buildings, all low and round and an off white colour." I could hardly keep from gasping. The circular shapes and the neutral colours, including some touches of terracotta, had a welcoming warmth which drew us in. Set against the deep blue sky, they reminded me of being in Spain.
We parked in a wooded area where there were a few other cars and followed the signs to the centre. The sound of small birds dancing around the branches and chirruping away made me feel really close to a world which we're not normally part of. Briefly, I caught the scent of lavender drift past.  
Four middle aged women walked in front of us, slowly, chatting quietly, like they were in church. Carrying bulging rucksacks and wearing long, muslin, cheesecloth skirts and wearing open toed sandals on their feet -   hippies?  I assumed they were staying for a retreat. Like them, we also felt we should make as little noise as possible. For those who know us, no, we didn't find it difficult.
Walking around the retreat centre, taking our time, taking it all in we had plenty of time to reflect and ponder. Strangely, everything seemed to take on a slow,  peaceful aura, a bit like these last few weeks in the lockdown. We heard the crickets in the bushes. They seemed to be answering the birdsong.  It was like having our own symphony all around us.
"Just breathe in," he put his arm around my shoulder as we surveyed the wide expanse of sea way below us. "Can you smell that?" It was a bit eerie that, although we couldn't hear the sea, the air was full of it's saltiness. It was a precious moment.
The cafe, small and built in that same curved way, was totally vegan. There was a little space outside surrounded by a low wall, which like the buildings, I think was made of stone, then plastered over in some way and painted white.  And from the wooden chairs there was a beautiful view through trees and crags to the water. We'd already got a meal ready for later in the camper, a vegetable curry left over from the day before, but we looked at the menu anyway. And, because of the peace, the quiet, the beauty, the weather and the place, we decided to have lunch.
Now, for some people, this is an ordinary event, something they do regularly, what everybody does. Not so for us. We rarely eat out or have takeaways. Even in this lockdown when people, bored with the everyday, have been ordered take outs, we have not.  Peter would do more, to be fair, but I'm always thinking of how much it's costs, how much more food we could buy for that money. I suppose I'm a bit mean. I blame it on having to be frugal for so many years bringing up our large family.
The food? I had never had a more delicious plate of vegetables and it included beetroot which is a favourite of mine. Our waiter, Tom, a calm lad of about twenty five with a ponytail and wearing “Jesus”sandals, told us it was his third season of volunteering. He first visited whilst on a tour of Ireland and he fell in love with the place. There are others he said, who do the same. They get a bed and food in recompense for their work and if it's not busy they get to take part in the retreats. He said he'll definitely be back next year. As we enjoyed our crunchy fresh vegetables we chatted  with the  two women next to us, who were feeding some chaffinches, ( I think) who had hopped onto their table.
After lunch, while exploring the grounds, we found the prayer room. It was off by itself, hidden among the trees.
"Just this bit is amazing," he pulled me towards him. We stood on little wooden bridge that we had to cross to get to the room. Looking over the wooded railing we took some moments to watch the water trickle down the stream, glistening stardrops in the sun.  My back soaked in the warmth of the sun. We spoke no words but everything was said.
The room, the size of a small chapel had images of many religions, the Buddha obviously taking prominent place and being the largest, about three feet. There were various stands with candles. A window, the length of one wall, framed the garden area outside, with flowers and a small pond. To think that someone thought of what might be seen, not only in the room, but from the room I found amazing. Then I saw the crucifix and a lovely picture of the Virgin Mary, given pride of place on the wall to the right. I hadn’t expected it. And I realised It was a space for all to come and commune with God. You had to take your shoes off at the door.   To me though, we'd already been walking on sacred ground.
It’s hard to put into words the effects the peace and beauty of that place had on me, but I hope you get a glimpse.
But, back to lockdown time. The sacred ground we step on now, the beach, the downs, the woods.


  1. Hi there, I love veggie food too and did not eat meat for eight years at one time.We live in Northern Ireland now as our son lives here and after coming over for two holidays we decided to come here. I have loved everywhere we have been, and we have always had rescue cats. We took two cats and a motorbike to Australia at one time. Our darling pussy cat that we have had for about eleven years has lived in five separate houses :-). She was a rescue cat and only had half a tail when we got her from cat's protection. They would not tell us her story as they said it was so cruel. She bit my husband for six weeks when we took her home, we think it was a man who had cut off half of her tail. She adores my husband now and sleeps half in her own bed in our bedroom and half on our bed on my husband's side.


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