Most mornings since quarantine Marty has woken before sunrise and driven the few kilometers from Killruddery down to the little Cove in Greystones where a gaggle of Irish folk huddle together waiting for the sun to rise. Sometimes it does, but more often it stays tucked in a bed of grey cloud. Sun or no, the group drops wool sweaters and towel-lined coats and filters into the sea, some in clusters and some alone. After the swim there’s a big pot of tea to share. They’ve been doing this each morning for the last five years.
We have been traveling full time as a family since mid-2018. And all over the world the most beautiful discoveries we’ve made have been these small pockets of community, gathered around a shared swim, a morning ritual, or a weekly gathering. We carry a piece of each of these with us, but we also have perennial envy for those who get to stay, who slowly build those traditions and connections that will feed them and inspire them for years, or for their whole lives if they choose.
When we visited Ireland last October we found a nest of charming families, unpretentious, funny and beautiful, revolving around an ancient and grand house called Killruddery (what a name!). When they invited us to return as artists in residence we jumped at the chance to spend more time here, to learn about Irish culture from the inside and to become part of this soulful community. And our favourite time of the week for doing just that is Saturday morning.
Since our arrival in July we’ve looked forward to this special day of the week, the Killruddery Farm Market day. We give the kids a bit of pocket money and they sprint off with their friends to buy doughnuts and yum-yums before they’re sold out. We won’t see them again till the doughnuts are long gone and their tummies start asking for more.
Killruddery on Saturdays is a swirl of sweet treats, fresh produce and hot coffee. Visitors move slowly, easing into chairs in the sunshine, pulling them back under the roofs when it starts to sprinkle, wandering between the cafe, the shop and the market stalls, coffee in hand. There’s a tidal rhythm. New produce in the shop, new vendors, flowers blooming this week that will be gone next week. But amongst all the motion there are some constants; like Francois, our neighbour here on the estate, with his straw hat, cup of coffee and his book, seated at a wooden table reading. And perched on his shoulder, Woody the rescued pigeon. Woody has been part of Francois’ family since he was a featherless chick. At this point he thinks he is human, or perhaps that we are all pigeons. In either case, Saturday seems to be his favourite day as well. He visits the children, lands on heads… He is a social creature, like us.
And we’re starting to recognize the faces, old folks and young, the families who are using this day to build their own community. We may be just passing through, here for a short time, but even after we’re gone Saturday mornings will draw us back to these memories and to the knowledge that, despite the wildness of the times, community is being built today, with laughter and love, and a lot of fresh doughnuts.