I came to the West of Ireland when I was in my twenties so I am not from this place.
I’ve been thinking about this recently, how Connemara has become my adopted home and how privileged I am to be able to live and work here. I’ve also been thinking about my grandfather who was a farmer in Leixlip, County Kildare where I grew up. He made his living from the land but in a different kind of Ireland, one of struggle and deprivation the like of which I have never known. His working days would have been long and hard, tending his few cattle and working the soil as best as he could. I’m sure that he often felt anxious about meeting the needs of his large family and it was a terrible shock for them all when he passed suddenly at just 46 years of age. I hope that while he was alive and in spite of the hardship, he was able to draw strength from the land and from his honest work in the clear fresh air with nature as his companion. The perspectives are so different – different generations, different eras on opposite sides of the country. For all of this, I like to imagine that perhaps we have shared an appreciation and a gratitude for the same things.
This brings me to Robin MacArthur, a writer and musician that I’ve had the pleasure of discovering recently. Robin is from the New England area of the northeastern United States and she lives and works in a place that was inhabited by her ancestors in Marlboro, Vermont. I am intrigued by the sense of belonging that this must bring. There is something very powerful about such a long thread of attachment through time and family and Robin’s consciousness of this is immediately apparent in her creative work. I discovered an essay by Robin called ‘Abandoned Landscapes‘ in which she explores and celebrates the use of landscape in fiction and makes a plea for it’s return. I immediately connected with the sentiment – this little excerpt summarises the piece well;
‘Big sky, memory, erasure, allegory, history, decay, and metaphor; all acknowledge that we as human beings are still connected and a part of the physical world around us. Landscape, in its myriad forms, takes us literally “outide” of the self. And this escape from the self is, for me, at the heart of what I yearn for in life and in fiction.’
taken from Abandoned Landscapes by Robin MacArthur
I went on to discover that Robin is also a blogger ( woodbird, them mornings ) and a talented musician and band member with her husband Tyler Gibbons ( Red Heart the Ticker ). Her sense of belonging and reverence towards the land and it’s gifts is woven delicately but firmly through her writing and her music which I encourage you to discover for yourself.
Here is Robin’s “Love letter to Vermont,” which aired on NPR’s State of the Re:Union. It is accompanied by photographs taken by Sara Brooke Curtis and the music is by Red Heart the Ticker. It is a love letter and a thank you letter and a prayer all at once and it is written and spoken from the heart.
Cover image taken from woodbird, them mornings