by Helen Mc Cormack

The purity of writing for oneself is a hard Rock. I have to find a way out of the stony riverbed, out of the valley with that big Rock blocking a way out, a glimpse of sky beyond.

I lie in a mossy dell, the adult trees held back, linking each others' branches, so I could see a round sky. All is quiet with the usual wood sounds of a blackbird scattering dry leaves somewhere, of a worm escaping its fate, of a coronet of higher leaves dancing in a breeze. Of a distant tractor chugging a plough. Of a complaining squawk of crow invading another's branch. And that air-filled hum on insects, that quietest sound of summer.

Millbrook – I am 10 or 11 years old.

I am barefoot, clothesless except for panties; it is Eilis who is wearing a slip and Soralla who invades my vision. But we are not on the Valentia beach; we are in a stream under a sloping field with the sheep beyond. It is Millbrook sunny summer. Mam and Dad have gone shopping in the red Hillman to Nenagh and the five of us are in that small stream. Eilis the leader, working and instructing us to build a dam so we could have a swimming pool instead of water to our ankles. The only time I remember the five of us working peacefully on a plan, grabbing and pulling resisting clods of clay and grassroots just and only just laying them down against the flowing stream. Even John is engrossed and cooperating, stilling his usual schemes of brilliant destruction.

We move stones from underfoot and realize it's a 2-in-1: now nicer underfoot and also weighing down the dam bank. However, the water is wily and pokes little exits and gushes excitedly on its way. We have to speed up – it's hungry work. I offer to walk back in the day's sweat and see what I can find for us to eat in the cottage.

Up the hill, through the field gate and then down the slope. We are lost in the country behind wild hedges, total freedom from roads or eyes. The shepherds' cottage where we stay is basic and the food search for is less than basic, all I find in the breadbin are the end-crusts of the sliced pans. If only they'd hurry home from Nenagh! We are starving. I collect the crusts, butter them and in old bread wrappers head back to the stream. I preface my 'picnic' with "there was nothing to eat in the kitchen" and when I hand out the buttered crusts there is relief all round, no complaints and we all agree they are delicious.

Back to the dam, we've learned the power of the running stream and settle for letting it get away in a small opening while we settle for a small pool rising nearer our knees though never higher. Our grand project a little stumped, we lie on the grass with our hunger a little sated and agree that we should dress and Mammy and Daddy must be home with the shopping. We certainly agreed they should be.