My cousin, who grew up in Vienna, tells me that beyond this cultural city, the landscape is quite fragmented, owned and named, with nothing wild or unclaimed remaining.
hat is a contrast to the abandoned village on Achill Island I visited a few years ago; A haunting, mile-long stretch of 80 to 100 stone huts awaits you at the end of a windswept path, with the only evidence of our time, an inconspicuous sign to help guide you there.
Once bustling with life, this settlement on the southern slopes of Slievemore Mountain can now be explored if you’re feeling upbeat, although there’s no tourist center to entertain you or establishments to encourage consumption. Just the wind that blows under the same sky as it has for countless generations.
That is, until the community was disastrously torn apart and hurled far and far beyond what was up to that point their entire world, here in this most western and remote region of Europe.
Yet the energy of all of this life in this ancient area is still felt and imprinted on the surrounding landscape. You feel how this desolate place was once full of people going about their lives. They themselves were guided by all the past that had passed before.
Each left its unique legacy to inform the people for whom this village, far from primitive, was as rich and complex as our so-called global one – all worlds play out and collide or connect within every human being, driven by dreams and systems as we have them in our world today.
You walk down these empty streets imagining all the moments in all the lifetimes here where people long gone must have paused, as we all certainly do – though probably never enough – to consider what their role here is really was. Perhaps they briefly doubted the teachings and beliefs they were taught and held. They must also have experienced those deep intuitions that the meaning of everything is beyond what we mere mortals can comprehend or ever know for sure.
Perhaps they sometimes shared our jaded sense of world-weariness, worn down by the repetitive acts that make up much of daily life, though the ancient practice of “boleying,” where they would trek their livestock to seasonal pasture, ruins things certainly kept interesting.
Perhaps they actually felt as if life lasted forever, like the moon waxing and waning over their solid stone homes.
You wonder what they would think if they saw their village now; the kettle that is missing from the empty hearth and no laundry is drying over it, or potatoes that are prepared for the next day.
Houses that were as familiar as the lines on their palms now vanished, empty of matter and meaning, though they once seemed as natural as our national institutions.
At least they could trace their ghostly path back to familiar places, for this village has not been tampered with or taken over, beyond nature taking back what was always hers. This would certainly resonate with people who lived in harmony with the land and are happy to see that the streets are now covered with shrubs and wildflowers and their former homes offer shelter to wild creatures.
You could still hike here, the wind blowing through the same views, and not be startled or sad when checkpoints propelled visitors to officially sanctioned sights and even told them what to think. There are no centers that turn this sacred shrine into a box to tick on a well-worn tourist trail.
This village, which has lost its flesh and blood not least to evictions, still belongs to the people of this island and is not at the mercy of the local cute whores who claim a monopoly to collect it.
Long may we uphold this ethos of allowing anyone to enter these portals into the past that we wisely preserve.
Just as we hope that in the future visitors will venture freely into what remains of our time and enter our homes as respectful guests, not so much to pay homage to them, but to learn how they are thereby in live a little better in their presence.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/lay-of-the-land-lost-achill-village-helps-us-to-find-our-way-in-modern-world-41925750.html Lay of the Land: Lost Achill Village helps us navigate the modern world