Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

Day 12: Derry to Gleann Cholm Cille

Hands Across the Divide monument of Derry
Kegan and Dog, running on the beach
We return to Derry from the Letterkenny festival in the wee hours, talkative and still a little drunk. Outside a bank down the street from the hostel stand a group of policemen. They seem to be the only people outside. As we approach them, we note their folded arms, their stony faces and their guns. It's an immediately sobering sight in what's ostensibly part of the UK, where police officers don't normally carry firearms. We hurry to our hostel, our earlier cheer dispelled.

The next morning, we pay a visit to the Hands Across the Divide monument at the bank of the River Foyle. The sculpture depicts two men, a Catholic and a Protestant, reaching out to one another as they pass. It's meant to promote reconciliation but, as Becca points out, it's also a tribute to the bitterness of the schism between the adherents of the two faiths because their hands aren't touching, and they never will.

We take our time driving to Gleann Cholm Cille (Gleann, for short), stopping in Donegal Town to eat at the Blueberry Room again. The weather stays gorgeous, amazingly enough, even after we arrive in Gleann at around 4 PM. I want to go to the beach as soon as I see it from the hostel window. It's virtually empty, gorgeous and wild, with rough sand that permits identification of the shells from which it's been generated. The Atlantic stretches to the horizon. We meet a dog along the path to the beach and he stays with us for an hour, insisting on playing fetch with rocks, shells and driftwood. Becca and Kegan return to the hostel for a bit and I'm left alone. The sun is low in the sky and the only sound is the continuous roar of the waves. I can feel a thin layer of salt forming on my face. I'm lonely, but it doesn't make me sad.
Rock-chasin dog
I think how rare and precious this experience is, sitting on a deserted beach, just being. How difficult it is to choose between this, a monetarily fruitless existence, lonely and yet also fulfilling, and the vibrancy and bustle, stress and financial reward of city life. I want it both ways, like I suspect all modern humans do. We flock to the cities to work and struggle at silly endeavors, and come to remote places on holiday and tell ourselves that that's enough. It's the price of civilization: we have to do the former to have the ability to enjoy the latter.

I can't pretend my heart and mind aren't infinitely satisfied, sitting here on a beach in the same pair of shoes I've been wearing for two weeks and a rain- and dirt-streaked jacket. I don't care. It doesn't matter. I have more respect for and am more awed by the natural beauty in front of me than I am by anything I can ever create. That's how I feel right now. Of course, since I am human, fickle, and often wrong, it is entirely probable that I'll be thrilled to return to London. I'll be grateful to be in a vast and diverse community where I don't get stared at by every passerby or hailed as an exotic, fascinating object. I'll go back to my semi-secretive documentation of human expressions on the long-developed site of the city. I may even scoff at returning to this country, with its rubbish weather, its jigs and reels, its insularity and xenophobia.

Yet I don't think I can scorn its glorious windswept bleakness, the cold sharp wind, the omnipresent dampness and the enormous unpredictable sky. I could die here and not feel that my life had been wasted.

I've seen more of the world than a lot of people ever get to see. I've played on the beaches of the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Caribbean. By a lot of people's reckoning, I've been extraordinarily fortunate. I know my existence has been the product of a multitude of choices, both mine and others, but here, I can't help but feel blessed.
Sun sinking over Gleann beach
Tags: ireland, photo, travel
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