The past 2 years of lockdowns person prompted a grade of introspection successful galore radical whose lives were antecedently excessively frenetic for thoughts. This has been reflected successful the fig of memoirs begun nether socially distanced conditions that person been published successful caller months, including the latest enactment by bestselling author, Irish Independent columnist and Longford autochthonal John Connell.
t 265 pages, The Stream of Everything documents however successful May 2020, Connell and his writer person Peter Geoghegan embark connected a two-day canoe travel down the River Camlin, a tributary of the Shannon, which flows done Longford town. While, connected the look of it, this whitethorn not look the astir promising of hooks for the prospective scholar (and, by leafage 218, adjacent Peter wonders astatine however his person volition make a publication retired of the abbreviated trip), the enactment cannot beryllium adequately appreciated without a willingness to set to the peculiar gait that it sets.
The alteration of gait besides applies to the main protagonists themselves, some of whom are highly motivated and well-travelled, and yet virgins to the Camlin by canoe. “It’s thing I’ve ne'er done before,” remarks Peter, which prompts John to add: “This from a antheral who erstwhile travelled to Outer Mongolia to marque a documentary connected the past creation of wrestling.”
When Covid hit, John had a probe travel to Brazil planned, Peter a travel to eastbound Europe, and yet present they recovered themselves successful a overmuch much section setting, but with a travel inactive to make.
Discussions connected that travel scope widely, from the longevity of freshwater pearl mussels to Alan Turing’s Longford connection, and from Polynesian navigators to the Irishman who was commissioned successful 1790 to find Timbuktu.
But for the author, the travel is predominantly an inward one. The stream is “soul work”, helium explains. The concepts of permanence and alteration loom ample successful Connell’s thoughts.
He recalls his clip successful Australia, his moving distant from a failed concern task and a breached friendship, his consequent relocation to Canada and his battles with slump (which helium describes arsenic a “prison without a key”).
On his to Ireland, helium realises that “failure tin travel you crossed the globe and it wasn’t until I worked connected maine and not the businesses that prosperity came again”.
The slow, meandering travel down the Camlin provides the accidental for the sharing of ineffable stories, but Connell is besides contented for the stream to relation arsenic a keeper of secrets. Quietly passing a religion helium had erstwhile intended to get joined in, helium chooses not to uncover this, nor the sanction of the pistillate helium loved, to his travelling companion.
Other experiences helium willingly shares, including the poignant communicative of the beginnings of a relationship with a young Mayo man, Fr Patrick Burke, chopped abbreviated by the priest’s untimely death. They had recovered connections successful religion and successful farming: “He had seen the look of God successful a newborn carnal and successful the words of the dying,” thing that resonated with Connell, who explains successful 1 spot however his ain spirituality is profoundly rooted successful the earthy world, the “cathedral of life”.
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This fleeting acquisition of relationship for Connell sits easy alongside his reflections elsewhere connected the brevity of the beingness of the mayfly helium encounters connected the river: “If we were each of america to unrecorded lone 1 day, past amended it beryllium the time of this creature’s vivacity than a 100 1000 days of inaction.”
There is simply a Kavanagh-esque consciousness to Connell’s writing, astir notably successful his solemnisation of the delights of the mundane. During Covid, “a locomotion connected a quiescent roadworthy has go a happening of wonder” arsenic helium recognises that the “simplicities of the everyday… are the richest joy”.
When immoderate h2o lilies punctual a representation of viewing Monet’s Reflections of Clouds connected the Water-Lily Pond astatine the Museum of Modern Art successful New York, Connell reflects that “here successful the theatre of the real, successful the crooked pool, we spot the h2o lilies for nary admittance terms different than stopping”. One of the chapters, simply titled ‘Look’, succinctly captures this insight.
While helium refrains from quoting TS Eliot’s celebrated lines from Little Gidding (“We shall not cease from exploration / And the extremity of each our exploring / Will beryllium to get wherever we started / And cognize the spot for the archetypal time”), Connell nevertheless offers a akin insight: “Something has happened connected the river… perhaps, successful a decade-long hunt for meaning, I person recovered it present successful this aged unchanged place.”
Connell writes with large sensitivity connected some the outer and interior landscape. Readers consenting to go immersed successful this book’s slow, meditative bushed volition beryllium amply rewarded.
Salvador Ryan is prof of ecclesiastical past astatine St Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth
The Stream of Everything by John Connell
Non-fiction: The Stream of Everything by John Connell
Gill Books, 265 pages, hardcover €17.99; e-book £13.29