Shannon Fields

It is Sunday and our family are going on a picnic. Preparations begin on Saturday when tarts or buns are baked. My older sisters help my mother make sandwiches with a variety of fillings. Our house is on the Dublin Road in Limerick City and we cross it to reach the by-road that
leads to the Canal Bank. At the old hump-backed bridge we cross over the long disused
canal, once used to ferry Guinness from Dublin to Limerick. When we reach the railway
bridge we tum left and use a circuitous route partly by a country road, partly by a network of narrow boreens edged with blackberry bushes.
The smell of new mown hay scents the air as we pass along the route, eventually reaching the style which leads to the riverbank. Soon we see the longed-for brown waters of the river
Shannon. I know from school that our native river is named after the Celtic Goddess Sionna, the meaning of whose name is A Possessor of Wisdom. As I stroll, I listen to her wise waters playing as she sings her river-song.
I watch the patches of river weed floating gracefully as they sway to the water’s rhythm as we walk towards our bathing spot. All along the bank bright yellow buttercups beam up at us as if promising day-long sunshine for our picnic. At last we reach the swimming spot where some early arrivals have spread out their rugs and swimming gear. Our parents pick out our spot and we put on our swimsuits. When all are ready, we join the other families in the water, shivering until we get used to the coolness. I hold the hand of my younger sister and we paddle for a while until my father comes with the toy buckets and she fills one with water and decants it over and over into a second bigger one, entranced with the process.
I can’t swim yet and the eldest has tried to teach me over the summer, but I am still afraid and haven’t managed to take off on my own yet. She supports me in the water, and I swim while she holds me up. After ten minutes she goes off with her friends and I try to swim on my
own. I persist until at last I succeed in taking six strokes before I sink. Eventually my
confidence grows until at last I can swim. I feel immensely proud of myself.
Tired but content, I return to help my mother lay out the picnic and mind the youngest while my father deals with the Primus and the making of a large pot of tea that is savoured like no other tea, filled with the magic of the outdoors. When everyone arrives the tea is poured,
sandwiches doled out and buns or tarts divided. After our feast I make daisy-chains for my little sister and myself. We are now free to return to the water, doze in the sun or go for
walks in groups while my mother rests. Towards late afternoon, we know we will get our
Sunday treat of ice-creams from the Kiosk in Corbally. Before we leave, we will finish any
leftover sandwiches and drink lemonade or orange to quench our thirst.
Around seven, we gather our belongings and wend our way home, content with our lot.
Along the riverbank the daisies and buttercups nod themselves to sleep. When we arrive
home exhaustion will ensure that we too will willingly go to bed and enter that blessed state.