When I was 18, I worked in a coffee shop in Cork and later in a little restaurant in Salthill, Galway. On the days that I was free from work, I cycled around the country. I loved to see and hear the ocean rocking and rolling against the cliffs. Galway, Mayo, Donegal. It was a magical experience to be there. Stories started coming up, stories of all kinds. Once I saw a mermaid. Months later, when I came home to my family in the Netherlands, I told my little sister about that mermaid. She must have been 5, back then (not the mermaid, but my sister). I showed her pictures of a rock by the shore, with on the background the sun setting in the ocean. There was no mermaid on the picture, but when I closed my eyes, I could see her, and I could hear the songs by which she tried to lure me into her world.
While most memories fade over time, my mermaid has become vivid and real. Still, I can see the shape of her body, half human and half fish, and her whispered words. I am thirty-six now, twice the age of the young man exploring the borders of his world, and I’m finally back in the country of the stories. Connemara is the site of my next novel. The country and landscapes play a certain role in the book, like in my previous works: nature mirrors the inner self. The main character is very different from me, so I have to get to know him by exploring his landscapes.
Last week, Ireland was in a state of emergency due to Storm Emma, the first blizzard in 35 years. However, to me it felt she never really came up. Surely, we had some snow and strong winds, but the blizzard arrived only in the late evening in Clifden, the town where I stayed, and the little bit of snow on the roads melted quickly the next day. Nothing compared to what I am used to in Lapland.
Emma, that’s how they called the storm that never came up. Emma, like my second sister. We rarely meet, due to a thousand miles and more. Emma, like one of my fellow students, a decade ago. She played cello and once she wore a dress that uncovered her shoulders and the ivory skin of her back. She was wonderful, but I never fell in love with her. There are many more of them, Emmas, and they must have something in common with the storm that never came up.