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An Ceann Bliadhna

“…and the Irish Meteorological Office is warning people not to travel unless absolutely necessary today. There’s snow on the highground, and the roads are lethal icy this morning…” ..but too late. The fat tires of the sports car were already skidding down the narrow road and towards the cliffs of the Gap of Dunloe. Ten o’clock in the morning, but the sun hangs just above the horizon and won’t rise much higher before it disappears into the icy Atlantic again in a few hours. Summiting in Eire at this time of year is a race against weather and clock. Climbing over a farmer’s gate. An unmarked path through thick heather. The unfamiliar prick of gorse thorns against our legs, and the half-frozen peat bogs which threaten to suck the boots from our feet. Black faced sheep gaze with yellow eyes as we pass. Yuka demands their attention, but they turn and walk away. Above an icy crest, a thin cloud bank furls across the mountain; she sees her first brocken. The storms race in, dark streaks across the checkerboard fields of the glen below. We’re cast into greyness and the snow races horizontally past, but the storm passes as quickly as it came. Cobalt skies and peaks ragged with cloud again fill our eyes. The loughs shimmer like molten gold in the pale winter sun. We are alone in these mountains in the dying days of the decade. Failte ar ais, welcome back. The picture windows of the hotel bar look out across the blackness of the lough below. Sleet drips down the windows, beads of moisture drip down the half-finished pint of Guinness. Is ann an ceann bliadhna a dh’ innseas iasgair a thuiteamas. It is at the year’s end that the fisher can tell his luck. It’s been a good year.

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