Some friends kindly left us look after their cottage on an island off west Cork during the past month. Each Friday, we packed the kids into the car straight after school and rushed westward to catch the ferry. As soon as we stepped ashore on the island, we entered into another world, where time goes by more softly. The island is fragrant with ferns and wildflowers, and the hedges abound with butterflies. Each turn in the quiet boreen reveals a new vista of sea and shore. Amid such beauty and tranquillity, the cares of the mainland are soon forgotten.
The children adore the island. They spent hours gazing into rockpools, fishing, swimming and exploring. Life is simplified without a car, and we took many long walks to the beaches on the far shore, building up our fitness again after the long winter lockdown. In the wake of a winter that was far more grim than most, the sun shone brighter as a cold and damp spring yielded reluctantly to the warmth of summer.
Family were holidaying nearby and so we were able to catch up with aunts, uncles and cousins into the bargain. The kids were delighted to have other children to play with in the kayak, on the beach and around the garden. They were back in the water again, swimming further than last year, and with greater confidence. The older kids’ skills on boats hadn’t deserted them over winter either. I had brought my old sailing boat down west for the duration and we had some lovely trips out. For the first time, I gave my eldest the responsibility of managing the tender on his own. With great pride, he became skipper of the dinghy, ably bringing people to and from the shore. I’ve always noticed that holidays are often a time of accelerated growth for the kids, where they try new things and develop new skills. I suppose it’s because there’s plenty of idle time together to tinker with things. One evening, we even patched together a makeshift lobster pot from bits which had drifted ashore.
One of the girls took up photography, and managed to take some beautiful shots around the island. Another became absorbed in learning all about sea creatures. We saw a whale offshore one day and plenty of dolphins too.
One day, I had to make a dash from the island back to my GP to get the Covid vaccination. It was a great relief to have it done. Yet that relief was tinged with the sadness of knowing that if my mother had been given that simple small injection last January, she would still be alive today. In quiet moments during the holidays, I had time to think about her. The kids too, at times, came to me and spoke about her, with tears in their eyes. Yet even amid our lingering grief, our time spent on the island was healing. It reminded us that life goes on, the sun still shines and that even on the saddest days, there are always better days ahead.