Monday, 19 May 2014

Blow It Open. Seamus Heaney and the black lake of the Burren

The swans may be gone, but Seamus Heaney still has the power to catch the heart and blow it open. Writes Andy Hamilton.

Sometimes art and nature seem to melt together. It happened in 'Postscript', Seamus Heaney's love-letter to the Flaggy Shore and the North Clare Burren. And, in a strange reversal of symmetries, it seems to be happened again.
Months after the death of the Nobel laureate, the land so beloved by Heaney still appears to be in mourning. Since the turn of the year, things have not be right in Lough Marree, the freshwater lake on the Flaggy Shore.
The lake, located a dozen or so feet from the saline waters of Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, has slowly been turning black. This gradual darkening of the lake came to a dramatic climax earlier this month when the lakes large flocks of whooper and mute swans, the same birds immortalised by Heaney in Postscript, abandoned the lake.
This, understandably, took the locals by shock, especially the members of the excellent blog A Flaggy Shore Miscellany. The blackening of the lake and departure of Heaney's swam had more than a vibe of mourning about it - it seemed to encapsulate the feeling of so many who lived and loved to the rhythm of Heaney's pen.
It would seem, however, that nature has an explanation, even though the romantics amongst may us wish it hadn't. The storms force gales which battered the Clare coast in January and February, would seem to deposited a massive amount of seaweed into lake.
Trapped in the lake, this seaweed has been slowly breaking down in the fresh water for past three months, pickling the water and slowly turning in black.
There is some sentiment left in the story however, and according to John Murphy of Clare Birdwatching, the flocks of whooper and mute swans should return to the lake this Autumn, just in time for the year anniversary of Seamus Heaney's death.

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