Far from the Bogs

It’s amazing how you can spend your whole life passing through a space, and still know so little
of it. Caught up in the clamour of everyday life, you often overlook the backstreets and the
laneways. The nooks and crannies off the beaten path from which we seldom stray. The
lockdown changed that for lots of people. When your whole world is limited down to a 2 km
radius, it stirs people to explore. You see them, wandering aimlessly up and down our road. No
business here at all, just led by curiosity and driven by boredom. They keep their distance
though, so I suppose they’re doing no harm.
Driven by similar motives, I started to search my zone for a waterbody. Since childhood, May
had always been a month for fishing, either Spring Salmon in Connemara or the Mayfly hatch
on Lough Corrib. But as with most of the country Galway was off limits, and fishing would have
to be found closer to home.
Fishing in the west of Ireland means bog, and lots of it. Irregular hillsides of bronze and
copper, flashes of green and red. As the light changes throughout the day, the colours seem to
melt and slide into one another. It’s that barren but beautiful landscape I associate with fishing.
It’s raw and timeless, unchanged for Millenia. Its history is etched upon it, scattered ruins,
abandoned during the famine, paths first worn when this pace was ruled by tribes. In the city,
office blocks and chimney pots are the backdrop. Concrete in the changing light flits from shade
to shade of grey, without any of the tricks it plays over the bog.
The air is different too, its taste and smell. The air of the Atlantic has a crispness to it, a
freshness that energises you with every breath. The air in the City seems older, heavier,
somehow void of energy. Maybe the added weight in the air is from all the sounds it carries. The
muffled radio coming from cars waiting, impatiently, for a light.
People are more curious in the City. A fly rod is a common sight in Letterfrack or Cong, less so
in Ballsbridge or Clonskeagh. Some people stop to watch you for a moment, but they get bored
if a fish isn’t caught immediately and move on. In the water, the obstacles are different too, but
that hardly matters. Shopping trolley or rush bed, the main thing is to keep your line well away
from it.
It’s down on the water when the similarities start to emerge. The way it trickles and flows, its
swirling eddies and its depths hiding mysteries from prying eyes. Its sound is the same too, the
chirps and splashes of the flow over the mechanistic whirring of the white water. It’s hard to
know at what point the mind switches, but suddenly you’ve changed pace. Your breathing slows
down and you start to carefully study the water, a hunter stalking its prey. Slowly but deliberately
I fish around the pool. Cast, retrieve, take a step. Cast, retrieve, step.
Time slows to a crawl and your focus is fixed on the water. The background falls away and the
world beyond the riverbank ceases to exist. The water and the fish know little of their geography
beyond the river, why should I trouble myself with it. Meditation is supposedly concentrating the
front of the mind in the hope that the rest will wander. It doesn’t matter where the water is, my
mind will always wander to the same place of contentment. Of peace.