Róisín Ingle on ... peace of mind
And how to get it back
Peace comes dropping quickly on Achill, on Keel strand where a little black dog makes friends in a gale so strong it makes you afraid to get out of the car.
This column comes to you from Mulranny, Co Mayo, where the awesome Atlantic ocean and lunar landscape have been bringing to mind my ongoing battle with clutter. I promise this is not yet another article about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (Japanese decluttering guru), although I may have to get to her briefly later on. This is about peace of mind. How when you lose it, through work stress or self-doubt or mind-clutter, it can be easier than you might think to get it back.
Driving around here, the peace comes dropping not slowly, but at a sure and steady pace. It is like driving around in a watercolour painting, moving into a masterpiece of mountains, of sea and of sky, the kind that should be hanging on a gallery wall somewhere but instead, it is real and you are in it.
Peace comes dropping quickly on Achill, on Keel strand where a little black dog makes friends in a gale so strong it makes you afraid to get out of the car. Dropping faster now, as the sand whips across the water and we make a break to Achill sound and Alice’s restaurant, where a little boy called Oisín befriends us out of the blue.
He likes John Lennon, he says, Power to the People, he says. He is four, I think, or five and there’s a birthday party tomorrow “and I am invited” says Oisín. He can talk Irish and we go through all the colours, even getting to corcra, which he remembers with sudden delight when we have stalled at ban dearg.
Oisín is the kind of boy who doles out spontaneous hugs and waves to you across tables when he goes back to his chicken dinner. He has brown eyes that would break your heart. I am dying to ask for his phone number, even though the Mayo-Dublin geographical barrier may impede regular playdates. But Oisín is the kind of guy you’d like on speed dial. For emergency good vibes.
Peace comes at a pace and the views around here change every five minutes, which is good if you’ve a low boredom threshold. Here comes the sun and did we bring the waterproofs and Mum it’s too hot and that wind’d go right through you and I need to take off my fleece and give me back my fleece and where did that fog come from?
This can all happen cycling along the Great Western Greenway from Mulranny to Newport, with a stop along the way at Yvonne’s Cottage to remember Yvonne and talk to her mother Barbara, who serves up steaming bowls of her own vegetable soup, the kind that can silence six-year-olds at the first spoonful. The turf fire is too smoky, Barbara thinks, but it’s not, it’s the smell of the west and us city-addled slickers can’t get enough.
After cycling 18km of the Greenway, the six-year-olds feel like superheroes and reward comes in mugs of hot chocolate in a place called Parade in Newport.
It’s the kind of place where you can get gorgeous hand knit jumpers with your Americano, and where Mrs Parade asks whether you would like extra marshmallows on the side. And we would, of course we would. We talk about where we’ve been and where we are going and I find myself talking about Oisín. He’s chatty and charming, and he’d break your heart, we tell them.
“I think I know who you are talking about,” says Mr Parade and he gets up to find a note, written by Oisín, when he was in the shop a few weeks ago. “Can we get ice-cream after this?” he had written to whoever had brought him to the shop, so I knew it was definitely him. We turn the note around and write messages to him on the back. “We were so happy to meet you,” we write. Mr and Mrs Parade say they’ll keep “your email” to show him the next time he’s in.
And now a mention of Marie Kondo, who believes that we should surround ourselves only with what sparks joy, and discard, with gratitude, the rest. It makes sense, but like a lot of sensible ideas is not always easy.
She came to my house a while back, you know. This woman who has sold more than six million of her decluttering books. She helped me and gave me some one-on-one decluttering counselling. At one point she had me saying thank you to some seven-year-old lozenges I found in a cupboard, before throwing them in the bin. (Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, is all I’ll say). You can hear the results in the documentary Erin McGuire and I made for The Women’s Podcast.
And I know Kondo would approve of the holiday I’ve just had. Where everything sparked joy and scudding clouds provided an edifying kind of clutter and I saw the light in a small boy’s eyes.