My partner and I had spent all our adult lives living in cities. Tony went to college in Belfast, Northern Ireland, then Manchester in England. I went to university in Washington, DC and we met in London, England. We bought our first property in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
In 2000 we made the decision to move to Ireland. Part of our reasoning was to be more proximal to at least one of our families. But we were also eager to downshift and felt we had had our fill of city living. We can cope with quiet.
It took us around fifteen months to untangle ourselves from the life we made for nearly twenty years in West Yorkshire. It meant winding down and selling a business. It meant taking courses in consideration of career shifts. But mostly, it meant turning deaf ears to our friends (and family) who thought we were barking mad to leave our secure mid-life groove for the completely chancy move to a new country.
While it was a steep learning curve, our own experiences proved the maxim that angels really doÂ look after fools. Within three months of moving to Ireland we had found a mortgage free house to buy and I had full-time employment as well as my first freelance writing gig.
Developing a relationship with the countryside has become a long and rewarding love affair. We have been fortunate to live near Irelandâ€™s Organic Centre and trained in organic gardening. Our rather soggy, boggy acre has been transformed over this decade. It has been partially drained, planted with oak, willow, alder and apples. We have a productive polytunnel and with each year new vegetable plots and flower beds get opened up.
In an area without light pollution you learn new skills. You learn to read the sky. I am more in tune with the weather than ever before and I surprise myself with how a town mouse certainly can acquire some country mouse wisdom.
If we hadnâ€™t moved to Dowra there are many things I would have missed.
I probably never would have seen an aurora borealis. Certainly I would have made fewer wishes on rainbows. Itâ€™s doubtful I would ever have seen a will-o-the-wisp on a dark moorland road. Nor would I be able to visit so many lakes since I have a range of choices that are twenty miles or less from my doorstep â€“ Lough Allen, Lough MacNean, Lough Melvin and both Lower and Upper Lough Erne.
I wouldnâ€™t have the mythic presence of living a short hop from the Shannon Pot, where the longest river in the British Isles rises from underground caverns before making its 242 mile journey to the Atlantic Ocean.
Living here in a country landscape it doesnâ€™t take long before even the stones speak. Since we have plenty of megalithic tombs and cairns you expect them to have plenty to say.
In the city it is unlikely that I would have seen a flock of whooper swans honking in the New Year in a joyous flypast. That happened on New Year’s morning. I opened the front door to take the dogs for their morning walk and we were greeting by that raucous shout.
At this point of the year the earth and the light is poised in balance. Living here in the country has become my own way of remaining at ease and in harmony with the wider world. Living on virtual conversational terms with nature has been a way of going completely sane.
Not so bad for a pair that most thought mad as hares to down shift to the country. But in Celtic mythic terms hares are associated with the equinoxes. So hares arenâ€™t mad at all; they have an existential recipe for harmony.