14.05.18 A ‘secret’ pool behind a stone wall. KillykeeghanNature Reserve, early evening, greying skies.

Behind the stone wall of an ancient cashel (stone ring fort) a hidden pool of wonder lay, waited to be discovered. The only necessary skill, is curiosity. It was a bubbling pond, reflecting the sky with squiggling shadows galore. Darting in and out of the light, a convulsing mass of movement. Tadpoles. The epic cycle of anticipation and fascination for every young naturalist.

The water bubbled with methane (caused by breakdown of organic matter) and my mind was drawn to the folklore of will-o’-the-wisps and banshees; dancing flashes of red light emanating from swamps, bog and marsh and if a banshee – accompanied by a heartbreaking, piercing cry. My dad remembers seeing them on his great uncles farm. Dancing in the dark. These days they are rare; drainage and farmland conversion have claimed many of these fens and swamplands. Whether it’s bioluminescence or the combustion of methane, it’s still wonderful to think of the phenomenon as banshees or will-o’-the-wisps. Folklore and storytelling are so wrapped up in connection to nature and the strange and beautiful effects it has on our minds, as well as our world.

I love staring into ponds, it’s good for the mind, to keep it at rest; my mind is pretty hectic most of the time. Watching daphnia, beetles, pond skaters and dragon fly nymphs, it’s medicine for the overactive brain.

The island of Ireland may not look back on the Norman invasion with fondness but I’m glad they brought their frogs to eat; otherwise that would be another sight this young naturalist would be denied…oh, for a snake!

I hope you can find time to stare into a pond sometime soon, it’s one of the best past-times there is.

Thanks for reading

Dara