The Point

I walk out the cattle gate and turn down the grassy path left towards the ocean. It’s the end of the road in Kilshannig village and the road turns into a grassy track after our gate and then at the end of our field it slopes down into the rocky beach. Ahead of me Tralee Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean and the dull hum of the ocean that follows me in the house and yard becomes distinguishable rise and fall of waves. Small white chop dots the horizon and the hills of Ballyheigue frame the Bay today. As I take the first bend of the point, two brown islands disappear from view behind the rocky headland. A gust of wind whacks my face and tries to steal my breath but I’m ready for it as I pick up the pace and march on without looking up at the yellow bungalow to my right. I’ve been ready and waiting to walk all day. Dinner is over; the fire is lit and the kitchen is a mess but I have an hour of grey sunlight left until the bath and pyjama dance begin tonight.
A big breath through my nose reveals no smell of fish or seaweed today; too cold. My feet follow the narrow muddy track around the headland. Hurrying around “the Point” opens up a view of the mountains behind Tralee in the distance. Stone walls and fence posts pass on my right and small sandy and rocky coves pass below me on my left. Black and slate gray rocks sharply jut out of the sand and low tide line. The sea changes from grey to ice blue depending on the cove and depth as I walk but I’m not paying much attention. Gulls cry ahead of me but I don’t bother to look and see if they have a catch. As I round the headland I feel the vibration of Richie’s palominos in the final field along the Point before I hear their running. Two of the ponies are spooked and running along the fence –the relentless screeching wind eventually gets to the animals too.
Now there is no path in the grass here just sand dunes covered in grass following Scraggane beach along the Tralee Bay side of Kilshannig. The road up ahead meets the mountains off in the horizon. The sea noise quietens as the wind shifts behind me and I hear the palm trees outside Richie’s farm house as the fronds shake like maracas.
There’s an old white Ford hatchback with two men peeling off rain gear parked in the grass at the end of the dirt road to the beach ahead. They stand by the boot with buckets of periwinkles at their feet. As I head down onto the dirt road and start passing houses I pull my chin further into my scarf. I cross over the road and see the Atlantic side of the peninsula. Brandon Mountain dwarfs the two Griffin boats moored by the pier. The church ruins and rocky graveyard above the beach catch my eye as I pass them and head up the hill. They sit up on a hill over the rock shingles and are higher than the rest of the colourful cottages in the village.
There’s a buzzing at the side of road. A wire is hanging half way down the utility pole snapping in the wind, as I duck under it I notice a trail of snails climbing the pole and pause in front of the Hanley’s purple cottage with the foot sculpture in the garden. That foot usually makes me smile.
The frantic dog yap gets me going as I realise one of my neighbours ahead must be home if Tiny’s been left out. Susie’s profile with her hair pulled back is framed in her kitchen window as I head up the hill towards home. I can feel her weariness after the funeral. I can feel the weariness and grief in the emptiness of all their houses. I walk faster to outpace memories of that grief. It’s been eleven years but I can still feel it in the back of my throat and can still hear her wail as clearly as I hear the screech of metal as Pat’s gate shakes. I turn right into my yard and finally smell wood smoke.

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