Our family house is pretty close to Howth Head and when I still lived at home, I would spend my sullen days (there were many) wandering the Head, full of soul-searching and unrequited love.
And I suppose when you spend that kind of time in a place you have a connection with it that is greater than the rocks or the water or the combinations of blues and browns, purples and yellows. So that when I hold up a camera to capture it, the image later seems lovely, but missing all that. Instead, I fall back on words to try to tell you what this place means to me.
At school, the nuns taught us about the idea of a Poustinia. And because I'm not one to throw out a beautiful idea just because it comes strapped to a deity I've never really felt the presence of, I've always clung to this notion. So I sought out such a place wherever I lived. For me, it became any place I could go to where I felt solitary and calm and that strange peace could sweep in and I found it mostly in nature.
Howth Head is one of those places. I can return there and feel it every time. It makes me reach for religious language that I don't feel comfortable with. Because I think something gets lost when you give into that, when you deprive those feelings of their ordinary accessibility, thinking of them as something gifted to you from on high instead of as a distinctly human capacity.
And it's more wondrous for me to believe that these feelings about place are precisely human, universal. That they don't require a complex metaphysical underpinnings; that this is something we can talk about without leaving anybody out.