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My Sunday walk through fields in Flaskaghmore is invigorating, the tonic that nature is.  Treading lightly, buoyed up on the grass sod, I float weightless to an optimistic disposition.  The present and past are a continuum here for me.  At the top of the first hill I stand with my back to the North and look over the landscape for miles around.  There are new houses and old, fewer tillage crops now, fields are repurposed.  Loughs I can see, and the Polleagh-Curragh Turlough is in the South, South East from where I stand.  The site is a Special Area of Conservation.  It’s ecological value is ranked 11th in Ireland for biodiversity and it is of international importance also.


The gleantan where we picked hazelnuts is visible to the East, South East.


I rest on a dry stone wall built by my ancestor’s hands, standing in their memory like headstones.  Lichens, myriad species and colours live long, some for hundreds of years, on the stones, courtesy of clean air and plenty of rain.  They release oxygen into the air.  Unusual colours and shapes they produce by photosynthesis are ideal for craft projects.


Continuing my walk on the boreen across gorth bawn brings me along the set-aside wildflower margin buzzing with honeybees and bumblebees.  I spot butterflies, dragonflies and spiders too.  The undergrowth quivers with the movement of small mammals, hedgehogs, frogs and insects.  Ruminating cattle in the pasture saw me and didn’t bother to get up, they were content to ignore me, giving me a free pass on my way.


I pick a few frauchans good for eye health, while crossing over a ditch to climb up the next hillside.  Nature-at-work was re-growing furze that was cleared previously for growing grass.  On the hilltop I land in a boggy field where walking experience has taught me to put my foot  down flat to avoid breaking the sod and slipping into a swallow hole.  Drainage channels carry surface water down to soaks and swallow holes.


Sheep were grazing at the dry end of the field where, over time, grass has replaced heather.  Bellwethers bleat at my intrusion putting the entire flock on alert.


Near the tripoint in Clogher, Cloonfad where Galway, Mayo and Roscommon meet, bog cotton, heather and trahneens grow wild.  I filled my lungs with the fragrant fresh air and reached for the sky in sun salutation pose.  A few ground nesting birds took flight.  Curlews and snipe soared and dove overhead.  Pelibins won’t be back until winter.  Their migration is an unintended consequence of their habitat reclaimed for domestic animals.


Memories crowd into my head; with my brothers I searched for young lambs among the reeds and clumps of heather.  We had to make sure none were lost.  Here on the slopes of Slieve Dart my father along with Fr. Patrick went with their rifles on occasional Sunday afternoons to hunt for game birds such as partridge, grouse and snipe.  That was in the 1940’s.  Recreational hunting is not an easy topic in rural Ireland in 2019.


Walking through these fields was a short-cut to Clogher to visit our school friends Fahys and Kilraines before these families immigrated to America.


On crowded walks in foreign lands with friends, my proxy family, loneliness, longing for home could rise within.  Walking these fields I never feel alone, my family tree is impressed on the landscape.

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