The River Moy

On the border of East Mayo and Roscommon a little river rises in the hills. It winds past old cottages, trickles under grassy Boreens and loops around fields full of livestock. Eventually it meets the mighty River Moy and joins the Atlantic Ocean at Killala. This tiny Mayo river runs on two sides of my house. A modern house, built on ancient land, lived in by newcomers who left an old country in search of new beginnings. We are cautiously learning, discovering the histories and traditions of the land and the generations who have lived around here. Our home was once part of the demesne of a country house. It was owned by a family long since gone and, by all accounts, apparently not much missed. We have been told that the driveway to the Big House ran nearby and that the river was once dammed to form a pool in the field beyond. Whether this was to farm fish or to wash flax is not clear. Neighbours recount to us how, as lads in hot summers long ago, they cooled down by jumping into the deep pond. Cattle still drink from the river and salmon still battle upstream each November to spawn. The heron still stands motionless in the current and eats his fill, discarding unwanted prey on the bank, to the delight of our cat. Primroses, flags, watermint and wood anemones grow nearby as they always have. Alders and willows proliferate beside the river bank.
Our river is old and established. We are old but will always be seen as “blow ins” around here. We accept this with good grace and are just grateful that we have got the opportunity to live in such an idyllic place. A chance to regain the freedoms that we were to lose in our old life and country.
The river is forever changing with the climate and the seasons. It has a personality that frequently and surprisingly seems to mirror my own mood. I am beginning to read its disposition, as you would a new friend. In hot dry spells in the height of summer, it is sluggish, almost comatose. Beside it, sipping white wine I too am reluctant to stir to any kind of action. In autumn it appears restless, irritated with the falling leaves and the winds beginning to buffet the water. With the temperature dropping and the light lessening, I too am mildly agitated at the prospect of the end of the year approaching.
In the depths of winter, in response to incessant excessive rain, snow and cold, my river becomes violent and angry, flooding the land. Muffled up, I stand on the bridge and gaze down. I recognise my dark day despair in its depths. But in spring my river at its most lively, sparkling with life and energy, greeting the new growing year with optimism. I listen to its noisy chatter as I sow seeds and dig deeply into the waking earth. A special time that makes me smile. I am gaining wisdom from my river and draw comfort from its reassuring presence. Today I am watching dragonflies hovering, swallows wheeling overhead and the last few calls of the cuckoo. Simple solace at this time of isolation. As with generations before I recognise that this river is a constant friend and a very favourite one indeed.