Another Summer is on the wane. Though wetter than usual this summer has been a very good one, for I have spent many happy days on each of the Aran Islands. They have become my special place to roam, to bird-watch, and to daydream. Each visit brings a new awareness of, and an appreciation for, these islands. Living in the city I find myself blocking out the metropolitan cacophony of automobile engines, horns, booming car stereos, sirens, and errant alarms. Conversely, on the Aran Islands I find my aural senses tuned in to every rustle or swish of grass, every wave breaking on the shore, and every chirp, twitter, and rush of wings.
It was on a trek to Inis Mór’s highest point one breezy summer morning that I became profoundly aware of the voice of the island. As I climbed I stopped to turn and look toward Connemara’s spectacular mountain ranges. Two robins vigorously twittered territorial claims and somewhere below a horse whinnied. Under a sky that turned increasingly moody I pressed onward and upward. The wind became stronger and cooler as I reached the crest of the hill to fully behold the lighthouse and the signal tower ruin. The buffeting winds ‘thwumped’ between the two structures and keened through the lighthouse catwalk. The lighthouse and signal tower were reason enough to have made this trek but a short walk away lay the impressive ring fort, Dún Eochla, protected by an outer wall of stone, and I was eager explore it. As I made my way toward the fort I spied, and stopped to inspect, a wedge tomb. What was its story, I wondered? The air currents moved and swirled through its stone slabs and the tomb seemed to whisper its ancient secrets.
I paused by that outer barrier around Dún Eochla and it was here, surrounded by a maze of intersecting stone walls, that I understood. The unrelenting wind pounded the stones and funneled through the air spaces between to produce a sound that was wild and powerful. All that I had heard — and all that I was hearing at that moment — was the voice of the island. The nearly 360º vista that spread below me from this windswept hilltop nearly took my breath away. I was wondrously alone. I wandered the hilltop, aware that every breath I took was air that had been scoured clean by its long journey across the Atlantic.
I am often asked which island I prefer. I say truthfully that I don’t have a favorite. I confess that I did have a favorite at first, but subsequent visits to each one made me realize that it’s impossible for me to choose one over the other. Each possesses a unique charm and magic. Each speaks with a unique voice.