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  • Writer's pictureColumbia Hillen


One must be extremely strong in mind and spirit to survive more than a year in Donegal. I don't even know why I say that, it just came to me as I am listening to Mary, Martin and Michael playing in Teac Jack. There is Michael’s humor combined with Mary’s gentle but powerful fiddle and Martin's quiet, melancholic pipes. And it's Donegal in its essence, it captures you, it makes you feel you are the happiest being on earth and in the same time, its strength makes you suffer.

It's the kind of suffering born from pure happiness, that "too much feeling". You suddenly yearn for the banality of a city life, where you know you are being diminished and your spirit has left you and, you long for being back in Donegal again.

Mary continues to speak through her fiddle and I can' believe I'm still in this fairy tale world. I can see and hear people from the "real world" around me, in the bar.

It's funny because they seem to be so immune to the music, as if only a few of us can see and hear the musicians. As if two parallel worlds are being displayed in front of me.

hidden places in Donegal, columbia hillen photography

And there are actually three parallel worlds, as musicians seem to be in that trance they go into, and we, the “privileged ones,” get to peep through the door. But it's too hard to get in.

One must be very strong to survive more than a year in Donegal. To cope with moments when people either go back to the real world, as their holiday is over, or others go into this trance, which is music, and it's as if they are totally gone, leaving behind a sound, a smile and closed eyes.

Minutes later, both doors close suddenly and I’m not fast and good enough to dash through any of them.

tree bark photo, columbia hillen photography

Will I have enough spirit to wait until they open again?

From the haunting memory of a revived tune, by an old man living in the mountains to "I shot the sheriff" played on guitar and pipes, to hop gigs and rhythms… Why do I feel that life has just said hello and looked me straight in the eyes?


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