I’m at my cottage in Ireland at the moment, just chilling out after a rather challenging first half of 2018. I have to say that the country (the place and its people) is doing its job, and I’m feeling much less stressed that when I arrived.
I’ve been visiting West Cork since 1998—with my husband, my daughter, or by myself. I fell in love with it a long time ago, finally bought a house two years ago. But only recently have I realized that I’m a different person here.
We as writers create characters, sometimes based on people we know or have seen, sometimes made up from scratch. We should know how it’s done. But Ireland kind of sneaked up on me. I’m not exactly young, I’m educated, I’ve been working most of my life in professional jobs, I have a husband and a child. You’d think I’d know who I am by now, wouldn’t you?
But what I hadn’t realized was that in Ireland I could choose who I wanted to be when I’m here. People in this area don’t know me, although they leap to some conclusions when I tell them my name is Connolly. But usually that’s a good thing: they recognize me as one of their own on some level.
One of the things I like best about talking to people around rural Cork is that I can ask stupid questions. Nobody assumes I know everything; nobody even assumes I’m smart. I don’t have to impress anyone, and I do want to find out more about a different way of life here. It’s not that I’m playing dumb and trying to fool anyone. It’s more that I can admit I’m ignorant, and I’m sincerely asking for their help so I can listen and learn.
And I love this. There is something about dropping yourself into a totally new and unfamiliar situation that is invigorating. Learning is always exciting (and you don’t know everything already, do you?). It keeps your mind working. It’s great for writers, because you have to look at new things in a new way, and that feeds into your writing.
I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found a small place in a part of the world that I have loved for years, where I have deep roots, and made a nest from which I can explore and learn. Or just sit in front of the fire and enjoy. I heartily recommend it.