L’uomo, strana creatura con ali e

Victor Hugo

In Italian, French and Spanish speaking countries, there is a popular Catholic tradition stating that in the days around the 11th November, when we celebrate St. Martin (of Tours), the climate suddenly becomes mild after the first frosts of Autumn. According to legend, this little summer that occurs between the rainfall is due to an act of generosity by the soldier Martin, who whilst on patrol as a Roman imperial guard, saw a homeless person suffering in a downpour and was so moved with compassion that he offered him half his cloak. Shortly after, the skies cleared and the weather suddenly became mild due to God's will.

In English-speaking countries a sudden heat wave that occurs at the beginning of November is referred to as an "Indian summer" and while it’s not connected to the tradition of St. Martin, there is the possibility that, as the legend goes, the altruism of men will impact on the sky’s behaviour, just as in the sky of Mayo and the people beneath who express their humanity every day. If you know a little bit about the inhabitants of Western Ireland, it’s easy to imagine how every time the sky changes over Mayo, and it changes frequently, someone in a corner of the county is sharing a handshake, a smile, a meal or just an idea with someone else, because sharing is the spirit of the people and community life. For every ray of sunshine that pierces the clouds, there is a gesture of enthusiasm that is honest, humble and generous.

Even the smallest village has its own community centre, a place for meeting, discussing and welcoming and a great place where ideas begin and transform into the many occasions for sharing that animate the life of the area. Even during the cold season, the inhabitants of County Mayo venture out to the local gatherings, maintaining a strong dialectical relationship with other people and nature. And there are many ways through which to integrate with others: the religious ceremonies linked to Saint Patrick, educational activities offered for example by the Ballycroy National Park, food festivals, organised bike rides along the Great Western Greenway, not to mention all the activities that can be enjoyed on the water, from salmon fishing competitions on the River Moy to sailing courses for kids in Clew Bay, and of course the numerous kite surfers from around the world who come to Achill Island to release their sails on the sea. To quote Albert Camus, "At the height of the sea there is only music", as is the case in Western Ireland, the custodian of shared beauty. Music is indeed a powerful magnet that attracts and connects the inhabitants of the County. Sitting at a table with a beer in hand and singing along with the musicians well into the night establishes a deep bond between people, confirming their roots and lifting their hearts.

Everyone has a relationship with the community according to their individual characteristics but it comes together and works like a mechanism because everyone believes in the same way. It’s highly likely that, whilst sitting listening to music at Matt Molloy's in Westport a foreigner will meet with at least a dozen introductions and the offer of at least a couple of beers. Just as popping in to the community center in the remote Tourmakedy will be celebrated with a cup of tea and some news on Banshee, while a visit to Céide Fields could turn into a journey into prehistoric times in the company of the archaeologist Seamus Caulfield. The feeling you get, coming in to Mayo, is that everyone thinks of himself as a piece of a larger composition, as an individual part of a final set greater than just the individual: a ‘transverse’ community capable of transcending the boundaries of space and time and of course always sharing with others.