In Days Gone By

Growing up I was incredibly lucky with the location of our house. We lived right beside the
River Shannon and Lough Derg. From a noticeably young age my brothers and my dad would take me out with them in the boat, or even just go for a swim in the lake.
We were members of the local fishing club for as long as I can remember. We’d always take
part in the fishing competitions and open days and support it as best we could. It was very
strange, being the only girl there, which now would bother me but back then I didn’t mind. I
was out doing something I loved with people I loved. What more could my younger self
possibly want?
We knew all the best fishing spots, or so I thought. Sometimes we wouldn’t be as lucky as
we had hoped to be. But it was always a nice chance to go out in the boat and see the
cormorants or the mayfly perched daintily on the surface of the water, that was of course
when the water looked like a freshly polished sheet of glass. I could spend hours upon end
just looking down and watching all the minnows swim around under the water, unaware to
our presence on top.
Of course, there would be days when the water would be a raging, angry, resentful king,
with his white horse for waves heading toward the side of our boat, ready to attack until we would defeat them with a single glide over them, only to start our battle again when the
next wave would come to beat the boat. Those were the best days. Granted there is beauty
in the quiet days when a single dip of your oar could ruin this calm face of water. But in my
childhood, I lived to see another battle between our boat and the waves.
As I got older, we would go out longer, be bolder, explore more of the lake. In fourth class,
when Canada decided to call my brother to investigate its beauty, we took a trip down the
river, it was his way of saying goodbye to our lake, to thank her for all the precious time she
had given us. We cherished the beautiful memories she had formed for us under the waters
surface and let bubble their way into our minds eye forever more.
Once this brother left, boating slowed down for us and we discovered kayaking. One had to
acknowledge it was much more work to go kayaking than it was to go out in the boat, but it
was worth it. In the kayak, going up the river, it would make me feel far more vulnerable but
the wildlife I saw was more than worth the feeling. At thirteen years of age I saw my first
kingfisher, and I know for a fact that the image of him flying by is one that will stay with me
forever. I had never expected to be so lucky to see one when I was so young. I have relatives
who are much older than me, reaching their 70’s I’m sure, and they yet have to witness one
of nature’s greatest wonders.
Last year, I did my first “big swim” as part of Water Safety week. I swam out to where, as a
young girl I would have fished. Mind you, I didn’t take the time to reflect upon the days I
had spent there because of the number of weeds trying to tangle me in their slimy hold.
I’m fifteen now, and I’m finding my way back to the water more and more as each day
passes. With every breath the lake takes, I feel myself take a step closer. When lockdown
came along, I decided that it was time to try my luck back on the lake. Most days now I find
myself yearning to be back out in the lake and see the river once more. Once my brother
left, there were tender, somewhat sad memories because from a young age he shared his
knowledge with me. He taught me to listen to the bird calls, to know where the lake got
shallow, to know how to go and see the white-tailed sea eagles without disturbing them on
their nest as they warmed their young, working hard as first time parents. I learned of
invasive species and how to deal with them and do my bit in stopping the spread of them.
Lough Derg, to me will forever be my home. I’ve created memories big and small there. I’ve
felt safe and at ease on the calm surface and I’ve felt trills and triumphs as the boat rose
against a wave in an epic battle. I have felt the sun warm upon my face on a summer’s day
in the boat and felt Jack Frost nipping at my toes on a frosty evening.
There is a magic on our lakes and rivers. There is something special in each droplet of water,
something that one can’t pinpoint until they see it for themselves. Being caught on the lake
as the skies open above you and the downpour of rain begins is like being part of a spell. I
recall the first time I was caught in a situation like that. It was a grey and dull day, one that
you would never expect to be magical but I was proved so wrong. The steady drops of rain
filling the water found their way into my heart and helped me see that there is so much
more than just a wet, cold, bitter drop of rain. It was like watching a curtain fall over the
lake, a protective barrier between you and the rest of the world. One in which I would want
to conceal myself in forever.
In days gone by the lake was my sanctuary, a place to hide, a place to be the little tom-boy I
was without the sharp comments of other kids biting at my confidence. And I pray, that in
days to come, children will find the same love of nature and peace that I found in our Irish