The Road To The West
Patrick O`Sullivan

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It was a lovely October day, the kind you read about in books or remember from long ago. The sky was a wild autumnal blue, brushed here and there with the fluff jest clouds as we headed west on the road to Dingle.

Among the great delights of the place are the miles and miles of fuchsia hedges, their silken res glowing with delight in the sun. In not a few parts, there are deep   ravines of it; gulley’s filled with the splendour of its fires so that it seems more and more beautiful still.

The road to Dingle forms part of Sli Fhianin at Atlantaigh, the Wild Atlantic Way, the wonderful views of the sea stretching far and away to the sky line, made all the more wonderful still for being seen from the elevated line of the road.

The mountain peaks, meanwhile rise higher and higher again, their gentle slopes still yellow with low growing gorse and purple with heather, the sheep at their grazing part of the magic too.

It is a place of unimaginable beauty the blue of the sea    rivalling that of the sky. There were times when it seemed as if sea and sky were as one, fused together in a single moment, no longer disparate, distinct but part of one long continuum of joy. Trawlers far off, like painted things against the skyline, so much part of the scene   that they seemed indigenous to it.

They had a feel of the elemental, as if they were of the waves, and the waves were of them: the lrish of the   road signs giving the place names a romance of their own Garral no d’lbr, the field of bushes, and feanarr naCarraige, the land of the rocks, to name but two.

Dingle itself is of course a tourist place. and a fishing place, and there were plenty of tourists still to be   seen even so late in the season: a miscellany of accents mingling with the soft Kerry accents of the south   and the west.

A fish shop had a sign in Irish over the door: Slainte an Bhradain Chugat the Health of the salmon to you. This was a familiar blessing in the old days, the salmon proverbially regarded as a creature of health and   vigour.

A seafood restaurant, meanwhile, had murals of fishes on its façade while on the pier the wonderful sculpture of the unforgettable Fungi. Another sculpture rising high and curling into the green spirals, like the prow of a boat riding the waves.

Headed further west for Trá an Phiona, the Wine        Strand, the great sweep of its curving shore opening out before us. Our two dogs, two black Labradors, could hardly wait to romp along the sand, sometimes running in and out of the tide with boisterous delight. The waves were magnificent: rising, rolling, arching, then curling with foamy crests till a thunderous boom.

The sound of that boom seemed to resonate from the very depths of the sea to the zenith of the sky itself, the   spume curling too on the rocky headlands far off.

Two young tourists left their bicycles and went for a walk on the strand. It wasn’t long till the surfers came, one with a green board, another with a blue, the thrill of catching the wave and riding the surf to the shore filling them up with delight. It was wonderful to watch them, their sense of exhilaration, invigoration too palpable at every turn: it was as if they were catching the moment and making the most of it in the Surge of the gleaming swell.

There were oyster catchers on the rocks, their piping calls among the most familiar of the rugged coastline. More intriguing still, the sanderlings; the latter running by the tideline as they fed in little groups. As their name suggests, they are found on sandy shores, their silvery plumage and jaunty movements setting them apart.

It was lovely to see them run, sometimes pecking as they went, or darting into the surge to snatch another titbit. An old bird book describes the sanderling as a very   active little bird, its legs moving so fast as to be indistinguishable to the human eye.

In another part an artist with an easel, the picture of the sea taking shape before him, the marvellous mix of blues and greens and surfy whites bringing the scene to life, a   cottage dabbled on a distant shore.

We went for a walk on the grassy track above the shore, the cows at their grazing at the edge of sea and sky. I wondered what they made of the sea, its sonorous boom  still heard on the shore below. They seemed to take it for granted, its rhythm, its pulse, its beat echoing far and near.

It was no great wonder then that we stood so long to listen: glad as we were of the ocean and the wonderful song of the sea, the light like so many stars glistening in   every part.

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