There's a lovely moment in Maurice O'Sullivan's classic Twenty Years A-Growing that I'm put in mind of this morning as I sit here once again in my little studio above Dingle Bay. The book is an account of growing up in the early part of the last century on the Blasket Island off the end of the Ireland's Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost place in Europe. Maurice and his friend Tomas steal a ride in a curragh (a traditional Irish rowing boat) across the Blasket Sound to attend the curragh races in Ventry. It is Tomas' first visit to the mainland. They land at Dunquin, and climb the hill to the pass that separates the end of the peninsula from the parish of Ventry and beyond. When the boys achieve the summit and look out to the east, Tomas is lost in astonishment." "Oh, Maurice," he exclaims, "isn't Ireland wide and spacious."
Of the various places I spend my time, this is the one that offers the most spacious views -- the lush green fields of Ventry falling away from my window, the silver dish of Ventry Harbor, Dingle Bay beyond, and across Dingle Bay the dark mountains of the Iveragh Peninsula, including Ireland's highest, Carrantuohill. Then the Atlantic, with the distant jut of the Skellig Rocks punctuating the far horizon.
And now we wait, as at the top of our own mountain pass, excursionists from our little planet Earth, for those first images from the refurbished Hubble Telescope, including, presumably, a new Ultra Ultra Deep Field Photograph, a look back to the very beginning of time as the first galaxies formed and stars began cooking up the elements of life. And we exclaim, like Tomas, astonished, mouth agape, "Isn't the universe wide and spacious!"