A winter afternoon in the Glendalough Valley

Flanked between the mountains, lies a lake

Its shores are pebbled and the waters stay calm

Except when ducks glide past causing a ripple and dogs chase a pebble

Or when the humans find the waters warm enough to paddle and bathe

But when night falls and the forest skies are covered with stars, I wonder if creatures mythical and magical emerge from the deep

On the pebbled shore do they stretch out and sing?

Do they lay out a midnight feast of exotic berries and drinks?

Or do they rather make a bed of the rusty and golden autumnal leaves and drift into dreams?

I wonder if they wander to the ruins of the monastery

For they have known it from centuries ago when it was alive and bustling

But when the sun chases the moonlight away, do they go back to the waters?

Leaving the lake to trekkers and walkers, honeymooners and tourists, would-be poets and novelists

Leaving many a men and women wondering – if there’s some magic, some mystery – for this lake looks so other worldly.

I know it sounds cheesy to start a piece by some very amateurish lines of verse. But some places are so magical, so other worldly that words begin to form, without effort, arranging themselves in neat lines like conscientious schools girls during morning assembly.

The Glendalough (Valley of the Two Lakes) in County Wicklow is one of those kinds of places – inspiring prose and poetry, and firing your imagination. We had rented a car over the weekend and the plan was rather impromptu, and when we set out on Sunday, it was raining.

I am glad we didn’t abandon our plans to take in the lower lake as well as the upper lake, and the waterfall. I am happy we weren’t deterred by the Irish rain. Because all the sights we encountered were such a delight to our senses – from hearing the robin sing, the golden leaves rustling under our feet, the reflections in the lake, the sun coming out of an overcast sky, the trees in different shapes and moods and an almost purplish hue to the trees on the mountains.

And because this turned out to be a unexpectedly beautiful winter afternoon and one that was both tranquil and poetry-like at once, I am going to write this piece a little differently. There will be a photograph and a short paragraph or lines, and rather than describing the particulars of that spot or place, I will jot down the kind of thoughts it inspired in me.

In the ruins of the cathedral

I stand there in the company of the rain

In the ruins of the cathedral

And think of St Kevin

What must have this land looked like to his seeking eyes

Perhaps akin to heaven, with thick woods, birdsong and twin serene lakes. Perhaps like a dream that is spun out of amber threads.

A robin decides to show itself, very bold and unafraid

I see him among the graves and then at the car park

He doesn’t mind us staring, or our obsessive photo-taking

He puffs up, and decides to sing

That beautiful feathered orange, shaped like a heart over his chest

It quivers just a little

So close is the robin that I feel I almost touched its singing heart.

What beautiful tree this is

Look closely and you will find

Not one, but two strong arms

If you look attentively, you will see that it smiles

Sometimes it smiles because it cannot fathom why its arms make so many of us lean back and use it as a photo prop.

This tree has a new coat

And shiny green it is.

The first lake is here

But only on our way back does it show us its true colours

For the sun comes out and the shadows shift

The waters then reflect everything that they see

Like an ardent student of art, the lake takes out its brushes and begins to sketch and colour, reproducing for us faithfully a landscape to admire.

Is there a parallel world out there? In the depths of the waters?

For I cannot make sense if this real or unreal

It seems like magic, a painting and poetry.

The leaves are golden, and yellow, and rusty brown

As they lie down on the rain-soaked earth,

They bring to my mind a fairy tale

In which a little girl collects the fallen leaves

Only for them to be turned to gold.

Even when they are bare

The trees create poetry

They catch the winter sky and hold it like a canopy.

Is that an arch for a bride to pass by?

Made by the wood fairies?

Or perhaps when night falls, a procession passes by

Of all the creatures that inhabit the woods and are not visible to the naked eye.

The second lake appears

Like a magic charm

With its pebbled beach

And tranquil waters

Like a private pool for a princess

Then two ducks glide by

And they come to the shore

They want what I am having

And what the others are having too.

Some trees still hold on to their treasures

While the rest have shed their gold.

Can you hear the waterfall?

It has a song of its own

The song is heard loud and clear

Through the wooded land

Have you heard its song?

[Visiting Glendalough is a day trip from Dublin and entry to the area is free; however you pay for the parking. Just two tiny tips here – I have been told that the area is very busy during Bank Holidays so you may want to skip visiting it then. And yes, if you could carry something with you that you can feed the ducks with – that would be a delight.]

12 thoughts on “A winter afternoon in the Glendalough Valley

      1. Hi, that is deceptive. There are plenty of people walking through the woods, valleys and walking trails. In fact most of the national parks and walking trails are teeming with people – local as well as tourists in the summer months. It is often best to take your chances during autumn and winter. Lesser people then – except for those who dedicated walkers and trekkers and such. But suffice to say that most places are crowded during summer months and also on days during winter and autumn when there is less rain or isn’t very windy.

        Liked by 1 person

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