Coill Mhor—The Great Wood

Kylemore Abbey; Head of Killary Fjord

 August 19th, 2018

 They used to call this place the wild. They said that Kylemore Abbey was carved out from wild shrub—as if it were being rescued. Once rescued, they learned that Kylemore had been anglicized from Coill Mhor—the great wood. They decided to return the woods to the land and in the 1870s they began planting trees here: oak, elm, hazel, maple, even cedar.IMG_4711

Today, the great wood seems to look natural, sheltering the Abbey and crawling up the steep sides of the mountain. The woods cling to the steep slopes and water flows down through tunnels off the mountain. And yet, this place may have not looked like this for thousands of years. The heather, the bog, the incised stream through the sedge look just as right, just as natural. Both have been shaped by humans in their own way.

Which will be the landscape of the future Ireland?IMG_4719

After dinner we take an evening walk along the beach at the mouth of Killary Fjord. The tide is low and I wade out through kelp beds to a small island. The grass has not been grazed by sheep out here and I let myself fall into it—arms open, face open to the grey, heavy sky. I sink into the embrace; the ocean recedes to a distance as if it has been popped into a bottle. I am warm and buoyed up by the earth. The light sprinkle doesn’t bother me. I know I could fall asleep for hours here, only waking when I was wet enough to turn cold.

I rouse myself. Dad must be waiting for me in the growing dusk. I wade back across. When I arrive, the evening’s cloak has fallen and Dad is off in his own reverie, following shells along the empty beach.



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