Longford author and farmer John Connell has published a new book, ‘The Stream of Everything.’
He came to attention when he wrote ‘The Cow Book,’ a memoir of his return to the family farm after many years in Australia and Canada.
He then wrote ‘The Running Book’ about running around his home county. ‘The Stream of Everything’ completes what he has dubbed ‘an accidental trilogy’ on Longford.
Having found himself in May 2020, confined to his local area due to Covid-19 restrictions, the Ballinalee man’s attention turned to the Camlin river. He decided to canoe its course – a two-day trip requiring physical exertion and mental resilience – with his friend, Peter Geoghegan, a journalist and geographer.
The thinking behind the journey, John tells his friend, is that there were bad things he had been carrying around for a long time and when they got to the end of the river, he wanted to leave them there.
He needs to get closure on a failed marriage in Canada, a broken friendship in Australia, “a life implosion”.
As the world goes still around them, the river continues to teem with life – a symphony of buzzing mayfly and jumping trout. During the meander downstream, John reflects on his life: His travels, his past relationships and his battle with depression.
He also ponders Irish folklore, geopolitics and philosophy.
An incident in Sydney harbour in which he nearly drowned is recalled.
“I say to my maker in my quiet way that I will return to the Camlin if I survive. It will be a camino of thanks.”
The voyage also sparks childhood memories such as catching his first fish at the small rapids at Doherty’s bend. Old buildings, neighbours and townlands along the way are brought to mind.
The journey is interspersed with musings on nature; animals; history; spirituality; far-flung places; the future of rural Ireland and climate change.
Covid-19, the Soran author reflects, has given us an opportunity for thoughts and actions that otherwise would have lain dormant.
“It has brought the world to a standstill, but in the deafening silence there are new joys to be found.”
Beautifully written, ‘The Stream of Everything’ is both a reverie and a celebration of close observation; a winding bucolic account of the summer we discovered home.