Two men in a boat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

In a beautiful pea-green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

Wrapped up in a five-pound note

Up until last night at least anyway, two Galwaymen found themselves in a boat on their own in the vast nothingness that is middle ocean. With just gulls and sea creatures for company, casting an eye at the Milky Way and leaving themselves at the mercy of the vagaries of such wild waters, one would imagine that one would be hard pressed to find such a setting for quality thinking time. Out there in the middle of the waves, with every potential swell having the capacity to thrill you or kill you, you take solace from the squawking gulls, and you inhale the type of thrilling experience that you can recall to others for the remainder of your days.

Out there, you are reminded of the frailty of human life, but also of the possibilities of the human to co-exist with the forces of nature.

Both Enda O Coineen and Gavan Hennigan are explorers in the old sense, each possessing that sufficiency of madness and courage to take on mammoth challenges, but both doing so with the professional approach that such endeavours require. Both Enda and Gavan have done this to achieve personal milestones, but they have also done it to show that others can do it, that with the proper training and good fortune, anything is achievable.

Enda’s prematurely-ended trip has played its role in bringing the joy of sailing to the young, through the work of the Atlantic Youth Challenge; Gavan’s quest to row singlehandledly thrills us all and will raise much needed funds for groups like Jigsaw and Cancer Care West, each rowstroke giving hope to those who use both charities.

Fair play to them for doing this — Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Each of us has a personal ocean that we can trawl. In front of us all, there is a line to the horizon of possibilities, things that would push us to the limit, that will enhance our lives, that will make a difference to others.

This year embrace nature. You can never have enough of it, the more unfathomed and explorable the better, the more of a challenge the better. But let that challenge be tapered to your abilities and your ability to achieve those skills. Here in the west, we are surrounded by the most wondrous nature. In our parks, on our lakes and rivers, in the wild vastness of Connemara and the multitude of unofficial walkways.

To wander and to wonder is to be alive. But do not feel excluded.

To wander and explore, you may not even have to leave the house. You can explore yourself, see how far your creativity and imagination will take you. Try to turn this into something, a song, a poem, a story, a computer game, a kind word, a dish. Something that will make a difference to others. Make them laugh or cry or wonder.

The nature of exploring is ever changing, but the results are the same — they enlighten us all. Remember, creativity is intelligence having fun. Grab your share of it in 2017.

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