If you spend enough time on the Aran Islands, you begin to look at things in weird and different ways. As Michele and I got our bearings, getting past the complexities of the Irish language and the intricacies of the paths, a curious thing started happening.
We started looking at the stone walls. Really looking at them.
Not that it took much imagination to do so. On Inisheer, you can't move three feet in any direct without tripping over these walls. There are hundreds of them, and they really are like a maze: some only a few cubic meters in size, just enough for the family horse (I'm serious). Others barely a meter wide, providing a long, narrow lane between two properties.
But for those with eyes to see, the stone walls are an amalgam of creativity and nuance. There are subtle designs and forces at work: the stacking designs; the little places where stones could easily be removed for access and removal of farm animals; the smooth, rounded stones of the north shore, or the rough, squarish granite of the southern side.
And other touches were evident as well: places where, almost by accident, stones would jut out from the wall in random order. But in actuality, they were far from random... They were staircases, subtly placed so that the farmers could navigate the rocky fences with ease.
A photographer from years past, Jill Uris, once compiled a book of Irish pictures, entitling it "A Terrible Beauty." Seeing this small island, once completely strewn with useless stone, could indeed be considered "terrible." But they have transformed this rock-infested place into one of intricate beauty, creatively joined together by webs of lane, pasture, road and garden.
All joined, remarkably and flexibly, by solid rock.
Astounding, what the human family can create with whatever they're given. Even from a quarry, a garden can take shape.
This shall be my last post about the Aran Islands before heading across Galway Bay to our friends on the edge of Connemara. There, if the weather cooperates, we climb Croagh Patrick!
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