In these excerpts from a longer article, Attracta Fahy reflects on the joys of simply looking.
…I like to look out at the sky …it soothes me… The view reaches right down to the trees on the horizon. I am lucky, because it’s not built up and there’s no threat of this for a while yet, I hope. I often see the sun rise from behind the trees. Although I sometimes take photos of it, I can never quite capture the exact moment, no matter how much I try, or how beautiful the picture is.
At night I lie in my bed looking through the velux at the stars. When I was a child, I used to lift the bottom of the sash window in my room when I was sent to bed and slip out onto the windowsill of our two-storey farmhouse. I don’t know how long I would sit there, but it felt timeless.
There is a comfort in looking outwards; it takes me away from here and my thoughts. The sky and the stars remind me that there is something greater out there. I feel peaceful in these moments; it isn’t a task– it is simply a choice. I appreciate choices like this when life is about so many limitations; I’m also aware that because of these same limitations, these moments are all the more appreciated.
In summer, I sometimes watch stars into the early hours. As summer slips into autumn and then winter pops into view, I wake to Orion’s belt. Every year, on a particular morning in autumn, I am surprised to wake to three stars flickering in through the window. I always seem to forget their absence after they move away sometime during the winter, and then one morning they arrive, like an old friend. The complexity of relativity to planetary cycles, and the direction my window faces, while not knowing its science, gives me a feeling of something constant and enduring.
….My garden is over a half acre. It has become hard for me to manage, but it would be harder for me to give it up. When this house was being built, I asked the builders not to touch the garden – it was a mess; bits of old walls, mounds of stone, and full of hawthorn and sycamore trees. There were a few ash trees also, along with plenty of briars. It had lots of wildflowers, like bluebells and primroses, and many others. I wanted everything left exactly as it was so that, slowly but surely, over the years, I could shape it into what I wanted, which I did.
I planned the sycamore and ash trees to grow in groups so they slide up into the sky, wrapped around each other for shelter. There were bundles of baby ones when I came here, so I weeded out most, leaving groups of three and four. Now, after twenty-four years, they have grown out and up intertwined in each other.
I gathered stones from everywhere – along the roads and from mounds here and there – to make borders around these trees. Under them I have wildflowers, like primroses – the lovely pale yellow ones that grow on the side of the road. I used stones everywhere in my garden for borders. Lough Corrib is just a few fields behind my house and it has an abundance. It is quiet around here and my house is small – my sister describes it as full of nooks and crannies. It is.
The garden was my own creation in the sense that I planted clippings that I either got or took from other gardens or that people gave me. Whenever I saw something I liked, I took a clipping and rooted it in a glass of water, then sowed it. Generally, I forgot about it after watering it for a few days. I often planted things beside one another because I would have forgotten there was something else there and, as things often die away before they thrive again, I wouldn’t realise I was overcrowding. This is easy to sort out – you just move them in spring or autumn.
… A woman said to me once when she visited: ‘What is without is within.’ I have never seen it within. For now, looking out is enough.