Monday, September 02, 2013


Miracles are explainable; it is the explanations that are miraculous. Tim Robinson
I'm reading Tim Robinson's Connemara: The Last Pool of Darkness, the final book of his trilogy on Connemara, that wild and ragged corner of western Ireland. You will have met Robinson here before. His books and maps are things of wonder for anyone who, with Robinson, is fascinated by the webs that time, "the old spider," has spun across a landscape.

Robinson is a Yorkshireman who studied maths at Cambridge, then worked in Europe as a visual artist. He came to the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in 1972 (the same year I first came to the Dingle Peninsula) and insinuated himself into the language and land as thoroughly as time itself. I discovered him through his wonderful map of the Aran Islands, a thing of visual beauty and inexhaustible cultural and geographic interest, based on walking and talking step-by-step from shore to shore. The map was followed by the two-volume Stones of Aran, which to my mind is one of the epics of 20th-century nature writing.

Award-winning maps of the Burren and Connemara followed, and more books. In 1984, Robinson moved to Roundstone in Connemara, and there he still resides, having walked or biked, it seems, over every square foot of that wild territory, and read every document or book pertaining to its history, human and geologic. I hope he's slowing down; keeping up with his work by book and map is almost a full-time job for the rest of us.

I have never met Robinson, but I have the honor of rubbing shoulders with him in the Norton Book of Nature Writing, which is organized by author's birth date; he is only months older than me. My bike now hangs up in the shed; Tim, no doubt, is still free-wheeling down Connemara hillsides.