Inis Meain. I love to run those two words around in my head. They speak of another world. An island. The Aran Islands. The past. Stone walls. Women in shawls. Pints of Guinness. Men with rugged faces. Rusting cars. Crooked houses. Impossibly small fields. Clusters of houses. Fields like perfect squares with odd rectangles thrown in just for good measure, just to throw you off.
Goats. Chickens. Horses. Bulls. Brown and Black cows. Sheep. Mounds of stones. Cow shit dried to burn on the fire. A blind man in the church whose job it is to open the door to those who enter. His guide dog by his side. Stain glass windows that no art gallery can possibly put on show. Hospitality to beat the band. A woman called Vilma from Guatemala, our hostess, who makes the best soup in the world.
Inis Meain is mist and a sudden clearing where the world can be seen from the highest point and then a mysterious cloak of mist again. It is a smooth pint of Guinness eaten with a delightful plate of chips doused in salt and nothing between me and the Statue of Liberty. Inis Meain is escape and return. Escape from computers and television and telephones and stores and all that we choose to look for to avoid ourselves. It is a return to what is precious and alas forgotten by most. It is long walk down roads laden with berries readying themselves for the picking and hundreds of wild flowers and nothing but the wind and the sea to listen to and to breathe in as a reminder of why we are here.
It is our taxi driver, Michael in his big white rusting van stopping along the road to pick up weary traveller and us all bundled in laughing together at the oddity we find ourselves immersed in. In this familiar yet strange place and its native Irish tongue that I find oddly discomforting because I do not know it anymore. It is the sing of the song. Inis Meain is the colour of the landscape. The grey. The delicate blue and purple of the flowers entwined into the grey stone can that turns black or white depending on the light or when the rain falls on it and the careful slat of rock, the art I speak of causes me to stop every few yards to wonder at its majesty. This is a gift to all who choose to come here. There is the raw scream of large gulls who dip and dive overhead and the rarest patch of blue sky. Limestone rock is known for its fissures and small maps are carved by nature and black tarred boats curved and sensuous bob out of my sight on waves too enormous to even contemplate.
Inis Meain is having to take the the ferry instead of the plane. It is the dictate of nature. The mist wins. It is going with the waves. The soft day. The grand day. The day to be alive day. It is opening oneself up. Raising the face to the sky day. Allowing the mist to fall onto the skin. A most basic spray that people pay a lot of money for in aerosol cans but this mist contains more than moisture. It invigorates and lifts and has me thanking the gods for all that I have been able to experience these past twenty four hours. This trip. This island. These people. My past. My people really. My history. The beauty of them all. Their beauty is stone gilded with white pebbles and a wind that is soft and full of voices, sing-song voices that tell me life is worth every minute and it is small blue flowers dotted along the hedgerows like signs leading the way.