Mannin Beach

I made a trip to Ballyconneely last week, a short drive south of Clifden. I brought my camera and made a quick detour to Mannin as the weather was so good. I normally associate the end of November with a certain gloom – receding light, rain and bitter cold but here we are, into December and still there are clear bright days. There was real warmth in the sun on this morning and the sea was calm and inviting and empty, except for a few bird tracks in the damp sand. Here’s the approach from the field below – the mossy grass is still vivid and bright. It’s deliciously spongy underfoot, feels a bit like an expensive carpet.


Mannin beach - the approach





The Twelve Bens mountain range is clear in this one.


Mannin beach from the approaching field




Here’s the cover photo again. There was hardly a breath in the air – the water was completely still and a perfect mirror for the pastel sky. All this blue seems infused with pink.


Beach at Mannin




A last look down the beach.


Mannin beach

November Bog

Near Maam by Laureen Marchand


This is another painting in the Black Bog series that I’ve been working on. It’s similar to the last one featured here but it’s twice the size at 10 x 8 inches. This is how it began;


November bog painting first stage




Next, I added a line of brown ink and dragged the colour downwards with a broad brush to give the lower part of the painting an under colour. I also used some gold paint.


Second stage of November bog painting




Here’s the next stage below. I’ve used lots of colour – browns, reds, yellows and golds. I’ve manipulated the way the inks react with the paint to create interesting textures and I’ve worked with a variety of brushes to make different kinds of marks.


Third stage of November bog painting




Once this layer of paint had dried completely, I worked on the piece again (below). I deepened the blues of the hills in the background and I darkened some of the colours to give the painting more contrast.


Fourth stage of November bog painting




This is the finished piece below. Once again, I added more paint and ink when the last layer was completely dry. I altered the line of the bog slightly to make it less horizontal and I’ve given the bog more depth with these additional layers of colour.


Finished 'November Bog' painting by Deborah Watkins


November is a difficult month. It’s the shock of losing the hour and the suddenness of it – it always feels more like losing two when overnight it’s dark at 6.00pm instead of 8.00pm. A sixth of the day gone, just like that, slipped out of the day and vanished into the blackness. I think the body reels from it for a while, misses the light without knowing what is the matter or what it is missing. It seems like a starker thing here in Connemara where nature is magnified; bigger spaces, bigger winds, giant silhouettes of mountains and grey days of rain in blustery torrents or invisible misty sheets. It’s taken me a long time to learn an acceptance of this and I have spent too much time resenting the end of the year and fighting the gloom of the approaching Winter with a grumble and a moan.

This changed for me after a trip to Brigit’s Garden just outside Galway city where I began to see the Winter garden sculpture (below) for what it is. This image of the sleeping woman is such a beautiful one. She is so peaceful looking and such a quiet, gentle figure in the space that you want to tiptoe around her for fear her slumber might be disturbed. Unexpectedly, it was she who woke me up to the reality of Winter as a necessary time in the cycle of the seasons. Just as we humans must sleep at the end of the day, the earth needs to rest and recover, to shed it’s leaves and all it’s colour and to sleep, so that it can prepare for new growth ahead. The secret for me was to see this changing time as a human form.


Winter garden sculpture in Brigits garden

 Image taken from Stream



Robert Frost has personified the gloominess we might feel at this time of year in his poem ‘My November Guest’ (below).


My November Guest


My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,

Thinks these dark days of autumn rain

Are beautiful as days can be;

She loves the bare, the withered tree;

She walks the sodden pasture land.


Her pleasure will not let me stay.

She talks and I am fain to list;

She’s glad the birds are gone away,

She’s glad her simple worsted gray

Is silver now with clinging mist.


The desolate, deserted trees,

The faded earth, the heavy sky,

The beauties she so truly sees,

She thinks I have no eye for these,

And vexes me for reasons why.


Not yesterday I learned to know

The love of bare November days

Before the coming of the snow,

But it were vain to tell her so,

And they are better for her praise.


Robert Frost ( 1874 – 1963 )



The humanising of sorrow in this poem lessens it. It is no longer an overwhelming feeling but a human being, a woman who has simply stepped in, although she is uninvited. Frost acknowledges her presence and by doing so he accepts these feelings while he tells of the beauty of Winter, the ‘faded earth’ and the silver ‘clinging mist’. It’s a struggle because she ‘vexes him for reasons why’ but he is listening and seeing nature’s beauty for himself, he has learned to ‘know the love of bare November days.’

As I think perhaps I have too.



Cover image is ‘Harsh Life’ by Inez Streefkerk