Our whole lives in so many real ways are mirrored in the scenes we see through our windows.
I was recalling this bright spring morning when viewing my world through our new windowpanes in Killaloe in Co. Clare that what I was seeing was so different to the morning vista for more than 20 years in the first family home in Barna on the shores of Galway Bay.
Sometimes the bay was gray and angry and tossing ships and fishing trawlers and black hookers here and there across the spray fangs of its waves. Sometimes it was calm and silvery and the Aran Islands away to the right on the horizon looked as if they were outside your doorstep.
Often in winter when the gales howled it was so wild you could not see the bay at all. Once the storm of the previous November night had been so savage that dozens of herring were blown into the puddles on the Spiddal Road.
More than once big ships were killed and drowned in the depths of the Bay. That was always frightening. The elemental power that had broken their backs was beyond normal ken.
Later years saw us in Maisie's lovely old thatched cottage close to Shannon Airport, and here the windows under the gilded eaves near one gable overlooked Cleenagh Lough behind my friend Jimmy White's home over which the swallows of the next April were always first sighted.
There were a pair of serene swans in possession of the lough and, for many years of our tenure, there was a lone male swan who always looked lonesome by himself and was never far away from his kind. Some mornings you would see flights of duck come gliding in and, just outside the reedline, there was usually the concentric rings from the belly flop of one of the big trout for which Cleeagh has long been locally famed. A peaceful and soothing start to any day.
I still miss the sight of the lough a lot, maybe because I grew up on the banks of a lough myself.
An hour away now on the eastern flank of the same county, in historic Killaloe by the Shannon, the vista from our new windows is so different one would think one was inhabiting a different world, another culture entirely.
I cannot see the Shannon from here but, do ye know, what I see and relish every day in this New Ireland is so stimulating and exciting that it has charmed me entirely, and I just have to tell ye about it in a little detail because, instead of seeing swans and ships and scenery, I am daily relishing the images of our rising generation of schoolboys and schoolgirls. They are vividly impressive.
One of the county's neatest and most colorful housing estates called Millstream crowns the green hill across the Limerick road passing our frontage. There is a footpath up the hill which is used thrice daily by the secondary school pupils in the community college nearby.
Unlike our earlier generations, the schoolgirls and schoolboys mix easily with each other with obvious social ease and craic. The school uniform for the teenage girls features ankle-length pleated navy skirts which flatter them all and makes them appear much taller.
The splendid reality that we are no longer a monoculture is reflected in the gathering too. The photos of sporting teams in the local papers weekly also reflect this reality in both the exotic surnames and skins borne by many of the stars, even in the subtle arts of hurling. I love that development.
I see it daily even if the schoolchildren do not during their lunch breaks as they go homewards up the hill. There is a thriving rookery hereabouts and the hungry rooks and many seagulls from Lough Derg form a swirling cloud over the young heads in the hope of scraps and crumbs.
The birds are so bold they would almost steal snacks from the kids' hands and they certainly commonly land on the pathway almost underneath the youthful feet walking the first miles of the long walk of life. It is an invigorating sight to start anyone's day in a heritage town.
Finally, speaking of the new surnames of the rising generation, I have to say I am also delighted to see from the same local press that, at last, we here at home are beginning to baptize infants with many of the beautiful names which for so long we have not used as we adhered to the traditional Christian names like Patrick and Bridget and Mary Ellen and Kate and so forth.
For generations the U.S. element of the diaspora decorated their daughters especially with gorgeous authentic Christian names like Tara and Erin and Colleen and Saoirse and Fiona and Aisling and suchlike. It is a practice which, thankfully, is now catching on here at home too.
I met two Taras and an Erin, both homegrown, since the start of this year.