“About as far as here to the big tree,” a standard reference point in my family when calculating distances. Not that the big tree is very far. Perhaps no more than 300 meters from the home I grew up in in West Clare in the 1960s. Our house was at the end of an avenue but unusually for West Clare it has this large prepossessing tree that arches over the entrance to our home. A sycamore tree. Perhaps not the grandest, the most prestigious of trees. But a tree nonetheless. And trees of any kind are scarce in West Clare, the entire peninsula almost bereft apart that is from the odd survivor bent from years of battering by westerly winds, cowed by nature’s relentless force. And perhaps subliminally that is why the big tree is such a landmark. It’s ability to stand tall irrespective of life’s buffeting, a call to resilience in the face of life’s vicissitudes. And wherever the nine of us who were reared on this farm in West Clare go, the big tree remains a reminder of home of distance travelled away from and back again to our home from where we all started out.
Peadar King is presenter / producer of the RTE televisions series What in the World? and author of What in the World? Political Travels in Africa, Asia and The Americas (The Liffey Press).