Scene from an Aran Window.

By Ann Murphy

This is a short story I wrote for a Writer’s cafe competition. I wrote a lot of fiction for a while but have not got the uninterrupted time to do it now. I wonder when I ever will…

She gazed out of the window, the stone, wall-lined, fields creating a checker-board on the island landscape. Huge sheets of flat limestone filled the fields closest to  the shore. Green fields of grass filled in the gaps.

Inis Meain

“However did they do that?” she asked herself aloud. “How could they have turned fields of stone into fields of rich fertile soil?”

She wondered about the people who had created this chessboard landscape.  A hardy people, she guessed. She put the mug of coffee she had been holding in her cupped hands down on the windowsill. She picked up her camera and opened the window wide. The sun was lighting up the landscape so beautifully she felt it deserved to be recorded. It felt so…spiritual… so comforting, this stoney green and grey landscape.

Dun Fearbhaigh.

She felt a longing for the island life which she could barely understand. When she was young she’d yearned to live the kind of life this island demanded. Growing her own vegetables, planting her own crops, telling stories around the fire on cold and windy winter evenings.

“Yeah, but its not all that romantic.” she muttered, pointing the camera at the waves crashing on the limestone shore, flicking the auto switch to focus it just right, then clicking the button to take the shot.

Waves on Inis Meain.

She looked at the tiny screen of her Nikon D40x to view the photo she had just taken.

“Hm, not bad.” she thought, and she put the camera down.

Another mouthful of coffee left a bitter taste in her mouth.

“God, I don’t know why I drink this stuff.” she said, grimacing, “It’s awful.”

She put the cup back on the sill. She closed the window and leaned against the the corner of the wall beside the window. Her mind drifted back to her teenage years and to her 4th year of secondary school. ‘Transition year’ they called it. It was a year during which you were supposed to learn about the ‘real world’ and what you wanted to ‘become’.

Birds at Sunset on Inis Meain.

When the year began she had fantasised about becoming a language teacher, teaching English and Spanish to foreign students. By the end of the year, however, that idea had died, buried beneath the new dream of self-sufficiency, when she realised what an awful place ‘the real world’  actually was. She had decided that she wanted to live in a commune and grow her food and have her own chickens, spin and weave her own clothes, make her own butter and cheese. Not for her the paying of taxes to unscrupulous governments who demanded more and gave less.She laughed to herself now,  if only they knew, she thought,what a disaster that year had been for many aspiring workers of the world. Completely backfired. I wonder how many people came out of it like I did? Wanting a simpler life?

Limestone Glacial Rocks.


Now she was here, staying on an island where that kind of life was a reality. And it was not an easy one. She laughed at her youthful naivety. How romantic it had all seemed. But to these island folk it was anything but romantic; it was back-breaking. They had to survive harsh Atlantic weather with very little money. Their children went bare-footed, no matter what the weather. Breaking up limestone rocks and dragging heavy baskets of seaweed up to a field, over and over again, just to make decent enough soil to grow potatoes in.  What was romantic about that? She took a last mouthful of her, now nearly cold coffee, and stood for a moment, watching the waves crashing into the rocks.Yes, I can see how these people want a ‘better’ life, the life I appear to have. I can see that now.

Diarmuid and Grainne’s Bed. Inis Meain.

Sighing she pulled the curtains closed and walked back into the kitchen to put her electric kettle back on the boil. Oh well, she thought, there are some benefits to the ‘real world’. At least I don’t have to wait for half a day for the kettle to boil, and she laughed to herself. Some ‘real world’ things are rather useful.  And she busied herself spooning sugar and coffee back into her empty mug!

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