I lived in Glanmire, Co. Cork, Ireland from 1985 to the summer of 1988. My grandparents owned the Vienna Woods Hotel
and my family operated it. We lived in a bungalow at the top of the hill, above the hotel and surrounded by woods. We kept the wood open and maintained the paths. Some of the growth was ancient and some ornamental from the time the hotel was a private home. It was an amazing place to grow up.
|I take terrible selfies. |
I concentrate too much on the mechanics.
My husband, two daughters, and I visited Ireland this past summer. My eldest daughter, then thirteen, was the same age I was when we left. I tried to share my experiences but the hotel and grounds had changed so much that I felt very little connection and the lack was heartbreaking. I had built this homecoming experience up so much that nothing could have matched the expectation. The saddest part was that the wood was completely inaccessible and even the main opening at the top of the hill was blocked by dumping. One owner at some point had used the wood as their own private waste
disposal for debris from expanding the hotel (it is now about 3 times the size of the original structure). For the record, the hotel was in great condition, the staff welcoming (surprisingly so considering I was probably really weird), and the restaurant experience great. We stayed in a vacation bungalow.
I need to go back and spend time not being a tourist and just let myself experience Ireland slowly, day to day. I know I will and soon, but in the meantime I hold on to memories of belonging that I never had again after moving back to the states.
One of my manuscripts in progress is set on the grounds of the Vienna Woods (although morphed for my creative use because a writer I am all powerful). The premise is that a woman returns to the Ireland seeking the connection she'd had to the land, an elemental power within the earth, something that pulsed through the forest itself. Due to disrespect and greed the forest is in peril and with it the spirit that feeds nature itself. This story is a paranormal romantic suspense with only the seeds of my own life experiences at its core. This is The Gift
meets Quiet Man
and is quirky and creepy and endearing all at once. I look forward to actually finishing it to my satisfaction (I have finished it twice now :(, but both went in the wrong direction).
Click below to read a selection from the manuscript when Gillian first steps into the wood after thirty years away.
Tendrils of blue electricity glowed and crackled, hovering over the misty earth. Reaching with fingers of light, it sought her out. Gillian watched, mesmerized, unsure if she should run away or give herself to the power one more time. Fear and excitement paralyzed her and all she could do was wait as the living lightning snaked closer, a pulsing stream of incandescence, kinking and curling as it crawled.
All she had to do was show herself, take two steps into the open, and it would touch her, filling her with its earthy energy and memories, knowledge of things she had no right to know. It was tantalizing and, she shivered, scary. Really, really scary
. Whenever it happened, she never knew if she would ever find herself again. Then that last time…
Gillian blinked against the still bright sunlight of the summer evening, the memory of the old dream fading as reality settled in. No longer a child hiding from some fantastical floating light, she knew better now. Experience of years, too many years, schooled her in the harsh realities of life. There was no magic in the forest and never had been; her dreams were based solely on the over-active imagination of a child.
The last time she’d stood here, holding her breath in anticipation at the lower mouth of the woods on the once-paved carriage path of long dead aristocrats, she’d been a teenager in tears about leaving Ireland. Now, a thirty-five year old widow with a daughter in college, she didn’t feel any different. The wood before her was just as dark and ominous, and lush and beckoning, as it had been all those years ago.
Her Wellingtons squelched as she shifted within the sodden indents of the manicured lawn. She tucked a stray wisp of white blond hair back under her bandanna and straightened her gloves, ready to work. With a resolute nod, she stomped forward through the wet morning into the shade of the trees. She had nothing to fear here. She was an adult, experienced in forestry and ready to respect the biodiversity that lay before her. The forest would be her friend once more, if not on a magical plane, then on a basic, fundamental one.
Gillian crouched low and picked at blistering bark at the exposed root of an old oak, exposing dark sap. Even the soil around the base of the trunk had a fetid stench, something completely foreign to her sensory memory of the wood. The scent she remembered was earthy and green, this had a touch of hot garbage. There was some sort of disease at play she hadn’t seen before; never in her research or hands-on work with the department of forestry in Flagstaff, Arizona. She took a few photographs of the decay, a sample of the staining sap, and made a note of the location for her report.
So much and so little had changed in the wood at Bailey Towers since she’d left. Expansion of the hotel itself meant the forest served as inexpensive waste disposal for the blasted limestone from the hillside. Still, with piles of rubble haphazardly dumped without regard to the growth in the wood, life flourished. If she hadn’t remembered so exactly the paths and rises, she might not have even noticed the dumping ground. Now covered in ivy, ferns, and rampant holly bushes, the rubble blended in. The forest had claimed it with the most basic of motives—life. Now something threatened that life.
Closing her eyes, she tried to remember that sense of connection from all the years past. Silence surrounded her, the intensity of it punctuated by the light thrumming of drizzle on the canopy above. She shook her head and continued her trek back toward temporary shelter from the increasing spring rain. Bluebells, vibrant drops of sky scattered throughout the thick green carpet of the forest, swayed and bobbed in the wake of her passing. This was how she remembered the wood, vibrant and glorious.