A change of scenery. Headspace. A reminder of the bigger picture. Friends. Family. These are the things that restored my energy in August. Work, childcare, studying, laundry, meals… the cyclic routine of our everyday lives, good and normal things, started feeling exhausting after the lockdown.
We were delighted to pack our bags and start August with a weekend away in County Kerry. The scenery was breath-taking. Beaches stretching far and wide and white, small cobbled coves where the line between land and sea becomes blurred. Green mountains, flowers, birdsong. It was refreshing to spend time in a place that offers so much solace for the soul. The change of scenery also gave me the opportunity to identify for new plants and wildflowers. August is a beautiful and colourful month and simply driving through the countryside was a wonderful experience. I was pleased that I could identify many of the plants in the hedgerows: montbretia, fuchsia, honeysuckle, purple-loosestrife, mayweed, hydrangea, ragworts. I had to look up others like sea rocket and sea campions. Some are still a mystery, like the creamy white umbellifer that raises its head above the other flowers like a small cloud on a hazy day.
There’s something about catching the salty ocean scent as a new day awakens that clears the mind. Our outings to the beach were a highlight for the whole family. Daniella surprised us with her tolerance for cold water and she played in the shallow waves whether the sky was blue or grey. It reminded me of the wonder of being so small in such a big world. The ocean is my place to think. It’s where I mull over things normally kept in the back of my mind. Something about the rhythmic breathing of the waves shift these thoughts from an incoherent jumble to a sharp image in the conscious mind. Perhaps it’s the vastness of the ocean. Or because the waves and the tides take their cues from higher powers with little regard for the problems of humans. A reminder of the ‘smallness’ of our daily problems is somehow very comforting. I had my hands full with my exploring toddler, but I often caught myself staring towards the horizon, a thought suspended in my mind.
Nothing brings you back to the present like the simple pleasure of exploring a rock pool. I was reminded of my childhood adventures as we waded through the chilly water. Seaweed, crabs, snails, anemones, fish and shrimps – a reassuring life cycle in miniature despite the strange and chaotic world. We built sandcastles, collected shells and rocks, and marveled at the thousands of moon jellyfish glittering on the beach like large glass pebbles. Moon jellyfish can be distinguished by the four purple circular shapes (or gonads) on their central disks. The motionless creatures were beautiful if a little eerie. Their vast numbers on Irish and UK beaches are unfortunately due to a more concerning trend. John Leech, CEO of Irish Water Safety, had the following to say about the jellyfish on our beaches (Irish Examiner):
“Each summer, we are seeing more and more jellyfish. Global warming and overfishing are the two main reasons for this. When the jellyfish are small, fish will feed on them. But if we don’t have those fish to eat those smaller jellyfish, because they have been fished, these jellyfish will continue to breed in very large numbers and that’s what we’re seeing.”
We needed the weekend away. The beaches, the ocean, the mountains thick with clouds. The change. But what we needed more than anything was family and community. I don’t think we realised how much until we felt its warm embrace. We stayed with friends, Pat and Bex, who had invited us to join them for the long weekend and their warm hospitality made us feel welcome and comfortable from the moment we arrived. Conversations were light, honest, interesting and uplifting. Pat’s brother and his family joined us for an evening and not once did we feel like a third wheel during this family reunion. We were part of the love and conversations as we enjoyed a wonderful meal together. We basked in the comforting family atmosphere that radiates around a table where a meal is shared with loved ones. I realised once again how isolating the past eighteen months had been. How lonely we had felt at times. We all need other people; we need friends and families and shared meals. The weekend in Kerry was good for the soul.
August ended in the same spirit when we saw my parents for the first time in nearly twenty months. This long-anticipated occasion was joyous and wonderful in the best way. We shared many meals, had long catch-up conversations, and simply enjoyed our togetherness. Summer is now at an end. Everywhere trees are hinting that autumn is on our doorstep… September will be a month of change, but more about that later 🙂
rhododendron, yellow azalea, sea campion, mayweed, sea rocket, hedge bindweed (subp. roseata), common centaury, purple loosestrife, wall rue, snowberry, ash, cornelian cherry, chilean giant rhubarb, montbretia, yew, heather, bell heather, pineappleweed, common ragwort, tutsan, honeysuckle, hollyhock
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