I never saw the Reeks

Driving home to Castleisland one day last year, on the road down from Abbeyfeale, I was distracted by a stunning sight. A spectacular mountain range stretched out in front of me like a postcard in one of those over-priced shops for the tourists.

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The Mcgillicuddy Reeks in all their glory were welcoming me home. I had driven this same route a hundred times. It never looked like this. This view was magnificent by any standard. Yet it wasn’t the scene that struck me so much as the overwhelming feeling of calm and an instant lift in spirits. I drove on, convinced that someone must have cut down some trees by the roadside. That was it. That’s why I could see more clearly today.

I spent the week looking at them. The wonder of the whole thing, and it on my doorstep. Is it possible that something could be right in front of your face your entire life, and you not see it? And if so, how is it determined which things are invisible to us and which turn into an infected wound, ever a drain on our attention? Is it an active process under our control, or do the circumstances of our lives lead the way?

I got to thinking about how people are programmed to keep moving, keep progressing, keep chasing the next sparkly thing. It’s human nature. We spend our lives focused on finding the right path, the happiest marriage, the biggest house, the most successful career. Keep moving, keep achieving. Just keep swimming. As a good friend of mine would say – head down, arse up like in the bog. We live in a constant state of overload. We get sucked into society’s expectations and we lose sight of what’s in front of our eyes. Life takes over and we forget to just be present. We lose the gift of awareness.

Of course, what we see depends on what we are looking for. Scanning a field, a farmer sees his cattle or his growth of grass. A botanist sees the array of flowers and plants. An artist sees colours, contrast, shade and light. We become habituated to our own realities. Life has a way of putting blinkers on us. A person who is present, or aware, of themselves and their place in time, looks at everything as though they are seeing it for the first time. Awareness is all about taking back the right to choose what you see, instead of what your past or present circumstances impose on you. Awareness, therefore, gives you the chance to change your perceptions, and wasn’t it Dickens who said change begets change? To become aware, we must stop footing turf. One of my most memorable childhood influencers, Ferris Bueller, once said “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”. He had a point.

It turns out that the breath-taking Reeks were in front of my eyes every day. While I was growing up in Kerry, they were simple background, invisible. I wasn’t aware of their beauty, their monstrous calming effect. I was busy, focused, planning. Now every time I make the journey home, I see them as if for the first time. I get the same serene sense of gratitude and pride, and above all, contentment. I feel John B’s “awesome responsibility” and I love it. I wonder, then, if everything we actually need to be happy is already in front of our eyes, no matter what our circumstances. I never saw the Reeks, but I see them now. And they have taught me a great lesson. When life gets tough, and things seem like they are spiralling out of control, stop and look up. Your mountain might be right in front of you.

2 thoughts on “I never saw the Reeks

  1. Lovely insightful piece Lisa. I, like you , only now fully appreciate the full beauty of Kerry and the Reeks , and of course the nearby Gap of Dunloe and Killarney lakes and mountains. The promise of the panorama you describe just before Castleisland makes my recent commutes to Tralee manageable. I agree, we need to stop , look and listen to whats around us every day. Be thankful, we live in Gods own Country.


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