The sheep make me feel a new-found sense of prosperity. Not material wealth, though that is nice, but something else, something more profound: it is, I think, something of the earth and placing oneself in the earth. To me, the rural world is home now. Cities feel different to me these days. They are still places of great excitement and potential – and indeed I like certain things that I can get in the urban world, certain speciality foods or clothes – but my nights in the cities are coming to a close. Maybe I have simply changed and no longer want the crowds. I yearn for trees and mountains, for contemplative scenes.

I feel more at ease in the deserts outside LA than in that great city, though I am in that huge urban place for work at least once a year. I like the quiet of the sands outside that city. I like to be in the echo of the wild nature of that place – it gives me peace. Once, in Joshua Tree, I camped out for an extra night just to ensure I did not have to spend a day in downtown LA, so unused to urbanity had I become after months on the roads and in the parks of rural America.

Product of the city and the country

I never felt truly rooted in the cities in which I lived: the houses, the apartments were never mine – I was just passing through on my way to the next place, the next avenue or boulevard or adventure. I think I have taken the best things from the cities and brought them to my rural life. I am a product of the city and the country. I am a multitude of both. I celebrate both aspects within me.

I like this new relationship I have with land, with open space. I feel a connection to this rural world. It reminds me of what Narcisse Blood, a First Nations tribal woman and keeper of the thunder pipe bundle (that holy object of smoke pipes that is so precious to her people), said about her land: ‘For us, relationship is our life – the relationship to the land, the relationship to the bundles, the relationship to the animals that are in them, the relationship to the cosmos … Everything is about relationship.’

The local is universal

When I returned to Birchview our farm seven years ago, I came back not richer but perhaps wiser. The cities had taught me many things. I had lived lives in them both good and bad and had learned a lot about life in the process. But in so many ways what stability I have built has come from this land and writing about it. That stability was hard won. John McGahern, a writer who lived in the next county and a man my father used to meet at the livestock marts of Leitrim, said that the local was the universal. In a sense, I have formed my writing life in this small universe of fields. I have re-rooted in the country, in the terra sanctus, or blessed ground.

As a place, Birchview is plain but its history is long. There were wars and rebellions fought on and around it; it has known chieftains and kings and soldiers; even the sheep and cows are the subjects of myths and legends that flow through these very fields. I have but to look out across them to see the trail of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, the founding epic of this land. Here the great bulls roamed and the war of a Celtic queen, Maeve, against Cú Chulainn was fought. I live, I suppose, in a palette of stories and I have taken it as my job to write them or interpret them anew, such as I am fit. Here, the Celtic world that made us is not dead: it has merely changed its form – there are still heroes and villains in these lands.

Twelve Sheep: Life lessons from a lambing season by John Connell is out now, RRP €14.95.

The epics are written and rewritten anew each day. Where once a god did battle with elemental forces, now a man or woman tries to bend nature to their own will. The Dagda, the good god, was the father of agriculture and fertility and with his wand could kill or bring things to life. He may be gone but he can still speak to us of all the quiet mythos of this place. Maybe in some queer way the Dagda is in these sheep: with his magic he quietly guides me, even though his name has not been spoken in these fields for nearly 1,500 years. The legends, the myths, they surround me, they let me know that we can see the landscape truly for what it is: our birthright.

I will grow in the presence of home. I am ready to sing its song. It is a lesson I will never get tired of.

Twelve Sheep: Life lessons from a lambing season by John Connell is out now, RRP €14.95