The German word “Heimat” speaks to the mind, body and spirit of home and homeland. It has a myriad of individual interpretations but the question “What is your Heimat” elicits a response from every German speaker and has prompted me to explore in a series of essays, memoir and fiction what Heimat/HomePlace means to me.
What drew me back from mainland Europe to Donegal? Is it because Donegal is the place of my foremothers and forefathers and the opportunity of a site for a house? Is it the 21st century shift of the Irish ideological tectonic plates? Is it the space to breathe deeper or to howl to the moon unfettered by the sparkle of city aspirations and celebrity success? Do the unequalled light and landscape feed my creativity? Is it the echoes of the past along the wild Atlantic?
A mix of all of these and more. Almost every hill has echoes of only lightly buried remains or heaps of stone which housed families of the last century. From my window I can see a hillock on the nearby beach where diggers of the 1990’s uncovered an ancient souterrain, used as a place of storage or retreat. On the advice of archaeologists, it was quickly buried again, so most beach visitors know not what they clamber over. It is one of many unmarked sites dating from the Iron Age and Bronze age in Donegal among some OPW designated attractions. Homes and forts of the buried consciousness of the past give me a long perspective on my Donegal Heimat.