The Playbank – aka the Dog Mountain
In 2001 I found myself settling in an unexpected area of the world. It only goes to show that when some intuition tells to stop or turn left that you should always obey that instinct. We thought we were heading for one place but along the way were beguiled by another, quite different, but ultimately the absolute correct location for us.
Ten years ago in the wake of 9/11 I found myself emigrating from England to Ireland. This was my second country move, since I was born in the United States. My partner, Tony Cuckson, and I had lived in cities all our adult lives; but we were small town bred and we both had a hankering for space, a garden that was not 8” x 10” concrete, some quiet to be able to contemplate and have the spiritual growth that is characteristic of the middle years onwards. There had been a family bereavement in 2000 that had prompted us to question, “ What are we waiting for?”
Tony had gone ahead the week before with a van load of our belongings and the two dogs. It was autumn equinox at 4:55 that morning in 2001; I was just waking up to get myself and our feline household goddess Sophie ready for boarding the 6am train out of Leeds, West Yorkshire.
The first leg of our journey was on the spectacular and justifiably acclaimed Leeds-Settle-Carlisle railway line. By our first change of trains in Carlisle Sophie’s mournful meowing had simmered down to the occasional sob. However, all the Scots travelling to Glasgow made such a fuss over her that she began to think this emigration lark was okay. We changed again in Glasgow for the train to the Stranraer ferry. We smoothly sailed into Belfast Harbour where Tony’s twin brother Jeff picked us up.
A brief comfort stop at Jeff’s home in Holywood and we only had another two hours to go to arrive at our new home (which we then thought was just temporary) in Dowra, Co. Cavan. Tony had organised a rental house that was beside the River Shannon. As we travelled along the R207 for the last ten kilometres I was blown away by the beauty of Cuilcagh Mountain and the Playbank. Dusk was just settling. I was utterly enchanted by their indigo profiles. Fourteen hours from setting off Sophie and I arrived and had a happy reunion with Tony and our dogs Murphy and Pippin.
The region, previously sight unseen, bewitched me and I am still under the sway of its spell. I have heartfelt gratitude for which ever angel, faerie, goddess or deva lead us to find this home. Having spent the previous forty-five years as a nomad (first house move was at three-months old), the Land decided that it wanted to keep me. I’m grateful that the Land decided to like me, tough love me and cherish my spirit over this past decade.
I live in a place of ever shifting light and shadow, a place where diverse species thrive and delight the eye, ear and nose. This is a place of borders – being less than three miles as the crow flies with Northern Ireland and County Fermanagh. Half the village is in Leitrim and the rest in Cavan. Therefore we are also straddle the ancient kingdoms of Ulster and Connaught. It is a land of liminal places – holy wells and sweat houses, megaliths and powerful myth.
This is a very mystical part of Ireland and this area marks the boundary between the ancient kingdoms of Ulster and Connaught. There are rumours that there are the remnants in the village of the old earthwork fortification called the Black Pig’s Dyke. We are also in a little known kingdom of Briefne that is associated with the O’Rourke and Maguire clans.
We live four miles from the Shannon Pot, the very source of the River Shannon and also the home of the Salmon of Wisdom. It feels as if we have most assuredly arrived at the source. Living here and being nurtured in this landscape has lead me to become a tour guide to share with visitors to this mystic part of Ireland. Because, let me tell you, there are fairies in ‘them thar hills!’
Locals often refer to the family acreage a The Homeplace. For someone’s whose family skittered around various American states over several generations, this is is an alien concept. Although to my knowledge there are no atavistic blood tying me to this part of Planet Earth, the Earth itself has embraced me as if to say, ” This is your Home. This is your Place. You are Welcome.”
The Road to Our Homeplace