There are places whose beauty defy photography, which can be frustrating, as a photographer. Or you can relax into the immersive impossible beauty and occassionally shoot from the hip, embracing the novelty of an experience which cannot fully be captured or conveyed. And so instead you simply are present.
My cottage overlooks a view from a romance novel, an iron age stone fort in the foreground, a wonder of construction from the fourth century unnoticed to many in the valley as ruins lie across Ireland’s green folds. In the middle distance the tidal bay behind Derrynane Beach floods and drains like a massive sundial counting off the quarters of the day. The bay reflects the sun or more often the looming clouds rolling in off the Atlantic, magnifying the sense of menace and exposure to the elements.
And in the faint distance, beyond the peninsula of Lambs Head, the moniker for a quarter of the land in the county, lie Deenish and Scariff Island to the west and the Beara Peninsula more softly painted to the south.
The cottage, and the village proper, lie amid a dramatic amphitheater of the valley full of green fields full of bleating sheep and stone fences which make up of the coasts violent geological history, where the land itself seems to have a grain and texture from the ice age forces creasing bogs lowland up into soaring summits.
There is a saying in Mayo, if “you could eat beauty…we would be the richest county,” but I think the same is true for Kerry. Even as I marvel at the wild beauty of Kerry, I can see the hardship it inflicts even still.
Caherdaniel, and neighboring Sneem, the two towns of my great grandparents, still suffer loss of their younger generations who often don’t return after college to towns where jobs are few and far between. And farming the steep and rocky hills makes my native New England look easy. Sheep, cattle and the rare horse or donkey cover most of the green carpet but most belong to only a few farmers who borrow or lease all the land.
Sheep are my constant companion as I hill walk (read trespass) and explore the land. From my last visit, working on a farm in County Cork I know them well. I can better understand why my great grandparents didn’t meet until America although they lived in towns next to each other. The 16 kilometer trip between them over mountains and valleys, on foot or pony and trap would have been the trip of a decade if not a lifetime.
This coast is a place of great beauty and great challenges still, but the people are wonderful, their character as unique as the land. But those are stories for another time.