The Aran Islands lie low on the Atlantic horizon off the Clare coast.
They are enormous slabs of rock
Jutting steeply out of the roiling ocean
Tilting like a table at a rakish angle.
Bleak and featureless
They appear at first glance,
With grey stone walls that wander
In rickety lines up and down the hillsides
Dividing the meager land into small family plots.
The prevailing colors on Aran
Are the grey of stone and the brown of earth—
What little there is of it.
Even the islanders accommodate to drab natural colors in their clothing
With densely knit grey and brown Aran sweaters.
If you see a bright color on the landscape,
Chances are it’s something synthetic or imported,
Or a garment bought in the big city
Like the down jackets of the tourists.
If these islands are bleak and featureless,
Then your eye has not seen well.
The enchantment of Aran
Is in the refined spareness of its terrain.
It is a landscape to put off visitors.
Like its own people, they are taciturn.
They will open themselves
When you prove your devotion
And then only grudgingly.
Dun Aoghasa, a cliff-top fortress
Is named for one of the ancient Irish Aenguses,
The pre-Christian sea god
Or the fearsome warrior
Who led early invasions of the mainland.
I mounted the top of the rise
And saw the thick fortress walls
And heard reports at intervals which I took to be sonic booms.
The sea edge came abruptly to meet me;
The drop was so sheer,
The fear of falling so intense
That I could not approach the edge
Except on hands and knees.
Beneath me the sea roiled,
Changing color from deepest copper-blue to white foam.
As I watched the water far below me,
I heard the boom:
It was the impact of monstrous waves crashing into rocks and cliffs below.