Gemma Good caught this hare on camera in Killeshandra.

A peaceful life in the Killeshandra countryside

In her column, The Good Life, this week Gemma reflects on the meaning behind photographs and changing times...

Although I love taking pictures, I would always consider myself a person with a camera as opposed to a photographer. I adore looking back on pictures, each one has meaning, which may be completely unrelated to the content of the photo. More than remembering the place I took the picture in; I will remember how I felt.

Last Monday after work, I went walking with my black Labrador. Along the back roads of the Killeshandra countryside, they are so tranquil, you wouldn’t meet a sinner. My dog, trained for hunting in his day, is retired. He took a fear of going hunting, where he once would have bounded off down to the lake to put ducks up on September 1, he now shies away from the double barrel. Either fireworks or age are to blame, either way his only commitment now is a walk on most evenings. He walks by my side, off the lead on quiet roads, sometimes he would pick up on the odd trail and go sniffing, but he is mostly unbothered.

On this day, as I turned the corner, the most beautiful orange sunset greeted me. Those who know me know I love a good sunrise or sunset. On this day, the orange brought a different meaning. I thought of the up-and-coming July 12, which celebrates the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. This celebrates when the Protestant King William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II.

In the past, the day sparked sectarian violence and hatred among Catholic and Protestant communities. Today, the day is marked by lighting bonfires, holding marches where traditional music is played and attending church services. Although I have never been to a march, my family would have gone in the past and described it as a family day out, meeting relatives and friends and listening to music. I prefer this version of the day; in my mind it seems like St Patrick’s Day – celebrating culture in a peaceful way. Ireland certainly has something to celebrate in terms of how far they have come in brokering and sustaining peace.

In painting the picture of this family fun day, unfortunately I do know that it’s not all fun and games. As a protestant living in the south of Ireland, I usually dread the day.

I live among Catholic neighbours and friends and I am grateful that religion was never a factor. In secondary school, when making friends, religion also did not play a part. I am so thankful to these people who explained what happened during their First Holy Communion, or invited me to a blessing of the graves ceremony and to my friend who gave me St Mogue’s clay and a blessed candle when I got my new car, explaining that they are known to protect people from fires and keep you safe. Accepting differences, embracing them and learning from each other

I thought of what went on the weekend before July 12, what is being investigated as a hate crime, where Leo Varadkar’s picture, an Irish flag and a republican flag were placed on a boat, with the words “GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT... That ship has sailed.’ These kinds of acts are shameful and embarrassing, and I wondered what else the next few days would bring.

I hoped that my neighbours and friends knew that these acts do not represent me. I never enjoy watching videos of bonfires blazing on this night, I think to many it may seem like one community rubbing another community’s nose in it as opposed to a peaceful celebration. Speaking personally as a protestant living in the south, July 12 always brings a feeling of awkwardness. Perhaps if I was reared in a different area, I would think differently.

However, living in the Killeshandra countryside has shown me how people of different religions can live together in harmony and with respect for one another and for this I am truly grateful.

I don’t know where the hare came from, I was so distracted by my wandering mind. He moved and he stopped, and he sat, uninterested in the presence of myself and my dog. I snapped back to reality and pulled out my phone. I told the dog to stay and sit, which was met with a look of confusion. His role is different now. He listened. He watched the hare intently, but he didn’t go near it.

I took two pictures, one of the hare looking at me and one of him watching the sunset. Happy with both of them, I walked closer with Digger obediently by my side. The hare darted into the field. I knelt down and rubbed the dog’s head, praising him for listening and not chasing. His ears relaxed and his tail moved violently from side to side. He understands that times are different now; his role has changed, and he has adapted.

For me, the picture of the hare served as a reminder of adaptability, harmony and a peaceful life in the Killeshandra countryside.

* Gemma Good is from Killeshandra and a third year journalism student in University of Limerick