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Columns and Reflections

Nights for the Soul: Walking in Wicklow

from Totally Fushed, April 2004
‘Truly, it is in darkness that one finds the light…’
Meister Eckhart

I live in Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow. It’s a nice part of the world: sheltered from the mania of city living, but close enough to civilisation (or what passes for it these days – Bray) that you don’t feel too isolated. From the window in our sitting room you can see the Sugarloaf tower over the village. I guess as it becomes part of your daily scenery, you forget to appreciate the mountain’s beauty. But it still has the power to startle me on occasion. I might wake up to see low clouds caressing its peak, or in winter, snow often sparkles from its sides and you wish you could get some lower down! Mornings like these remind you that you’re lucky to have such a view. 

There are lovely walks around the area as well. And I’ve always been a keen walker. For years, because of an illness I have, I was prevented from doing sports, so walking became my way of keeping fit. I would go every day, usually just down to the shop and back (about a mile). Last summer, though, I was looking in the mirror and decided that my waistline wasn’t exactly what I’d like. Not being up on newfangled notions like the Atkins™ Diet (lose fat by…eating fat! Okay!), I opted for the traditional method of shedding flab: consuming less and exercising more. 

My longer stroll took me in a circular route around Kilmac: You come out of our laneway and turn right, go up the path to the Rocky Valley Drive, then uphill toward Carrygoona, down to Avoca Handweavers, then past the filling stations and back up to our house. The whole trip is about three miles long.

Now, I’m as prone to producing dubious reasons to get out of taking exercise as anyone else: I’m tired…it’s raining…it’s snowing…it’s too dark.

A problem arose with this last excuse, however, as by October ’03 I was working full time, and it was always dark when I returned home. But I felt it was important to keep up the ‘Weight Loss Regime’, so I was compelled to don my coat regardless and trudge out into the blackness…

…And wow! From the first time, I knew I had discovered a wonderful secret: There are few things more soul-cleansing than a night walk around Kilmacanogue. The sky’s brightened by a magical blue-hue, though stars still glow. At one point, you can observe all of Bray lit up like a sea of candles, and the black outline of Bray Head, silhouetted like a sleeping giant against the horizon. Lights from nearby houses guide you…Walk briskly and you’ll never be cold. Not many cars go past; you rarely meet people. There’s a peaceful solitude in everything. You can contemplate your existence, its possibilities and its failings, in the serenity darkness lends.

By the time I arrive home from my walk – about forty-five minutes after setting out – the weight of worry rests easier on my shoulders. I can face into life with renewed vigour…

It’s spring now, I’ve lost nearly a stone, have quit working and the evenings are bright. But I still almost always wait for the sun to give way to the moon before embarking on my daily trek (I suppose that would make it a nightly trek!). I can escape the domestic trivialities, feel anonymous and free, through the twin gifts of countryside and darkness.


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