• Ali Isaac

air, water, earth and fire

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

I needed to get some air. Clear my head. Breathe. Feel the wind ruffle my hair. Listen to the sound of birds, let the slap of water on the shore soothe away my tension. I needed to feel small and inconsequential in that vastness of space and light, a part of it, but not the hub. To stand on the periphery and see it all, feel it, relax and enjoy it.

To watch the trees stoop and lower trailing, knotted branches into the water like aged fingers gnarled with arthritis. To listen to the protest of their rustling leaves as they are pulled into autumn and cast off. To follow their bright drifting path from sky to earth, lighting up the chill with their last flare of fiery russet glory. To watch the clouds gather, then melt apart. To watch the sunlight dance on wind-rumpled water. To travel the winding path. To rise and descend the sloping shoulders of the gently rounded, green-robed hills. To remember the warmth of summer which leaves us too soon. I just needed to be.

Tomorrow, everything changes. Another whirlwind year in which I will lose myself until summer comes around and I stand there dazed, wondering how all those days and weeks and months passed without my notice. My face will be in books, my thoughts planning essays, my body moving through the manufactured spaces of home, car, and uni, my hands turning from pen to chores, and back. I will adopt and discard roles like outfits: mother, student, wife, author, blogger. I am excited, nervous, alternately filled with anticipation and dread.

I will step outside of myself and become someone else, a hybrid with many facets. I quite like her, this new me. Although she still carries all her old guilts and flaws, and a few new ones besides. I am surprised no one else sees her. At Lough Sillan, I felt the water lap at my toes, felt the wind kiss my face, watched the fire of autumn claim the green hills, felt the throb of the earth beneath my feet, and I felt grounded. I was ready. I took a deep breath, and let my old self go.

Lough Sillan near Shercock, Co. Cavan, on a cloudy, sunny, windy afternoon full of movement and light.
Lough Sillan near Shercock, Co. Cavan, on a sunny, windy, cloudy afternoon full of movement and dancing light.

Lough Sillan is a lake in Co. Cavan, upon the shores of which nestles the little town of Shercock, Searcóg in Irish (learn how to say it here.). According to The National Folklore Collection, Dúchas, Shercock originated in the place where the lake is now. There used to be a bridge with a well beside it, which was covered with a trap door. One day, a girl went to collect water from the well, but she forgot to close the door behind her. The water rose up through the door so fast, that it had soon overtaken her, and she could barely run fast enough to escape it. The roaring water followed her all the way through the village. Fortunately, but perhaps not so much for her, a man working in a nearby field saw what was happening. He knew that if he didn’t stop the girl, the water would continue chasing her and flood the whole country. Taking up his scythe, he chopped the legs from under the girl with one swipe, and she fell to the ground.

Instantly the water lay still, but it was too late. The town of Shercock was lost beneath the depths. People out fishing on the lake still say that sometimes, when water levels are low, the roofs of the old houses of the original town of Shercock can still be seen beneath the glinting surface of the lake.