Solitude. That’s what I feel when I think of Tara, that solitary hill in the middle of flatlands, that lush green countryside that seemed unreal even while we stood on its surface. And while the multitudes of sheep moved past in herds, making low sounds deep in their throats, we stood there and soaked it all in. This statue stood there in the middle of it all, testament to man’s desire to place his stamp on nature, a symbol for all time that “I was here.”
And it added to the solitude, this sense that we were the only two human beings on earth, touched on one side by the concrete and on the other by the divine, content in Tara’s grace.
St. Peter’s greeted me twice, and I was blessed both times by the simplicity and the grandeur of such an intricate and intimate place. Such a hush came over the place between times of raucous laughter and rambling tour guides. It was in those times of quiet that I found the true beauty of such an Irish treasure, from the armor on the walls to the flags paying homage to its history. I sat in the tiny chairs and dwarfed each one, but I was entranced by the historical significance of it all. Swift’s tomb called out to me. The kneeling quilts beckoned me near. But nothing moved me quite as much as the sunlight through the stained glass, casting shadows on the floor, and on all of us blessed enough to be standing under the mantle of god.
“My body feels young but my mind is very old. So what do you say? You can’t give me the dreams that are mine anyway. Half the world away…” ~Oasis
I miss Ireland, the smell of rain in the air as I step off the plane, the kiss of sun just around the next bend, and the feisty people who might just push me as soon as hug me. The country calls my name, even after nearly seven years away from each other. When I think of home I think of Ireland.
It honestly doesn’t feel like it was nearly seven years ago. My feet clearly remember walking the streets of Dublin. My hands recall reaching out to touch the statue of an angel in Oxford. My backside remembers sitting on the same bench on which William Shakespeare courted Anne Hathaway near Stratford. Oh, this ache in my mind and in my soul for the lush greenery of the Irish countryside is very real and ever present.
I must return. If not now, then soon. If not soon, then at least later in life when I still have control of my faculties and can still appreciate it for the oasis that it is. If I never went anywhere else in my life I would be content in saying that I had Ireland for a time, and that Ireland had me. But it’s half the world away, and it seems farther with each passing moment since I was last there.
When I hear someone speak with an Irish accent I close my eyes and imagine I’m still there, walking the avenues, gazing up at the castles, or trying to decipher some gaelic lilting phrase from a native. I think perhaps I was meant to be born there, to a couple who always read before bed and wanted a son more than anything else in the world. Just thinking about it keeps me centered, especially at times when I feel most scattered. Every time it rains I smell the Irish earth rising up to meet me once again.
The anticipation builds with the hope that we will be together again soon.
The first time I saw Ireland was through the tiny window of a giant airplane as we descended upon Dublin on a May day in 2003. It was our honeymoon, and we were aglow in the newness of the condition, then bombarded with the shock of the culture change that was about to hit us upon landing. I gripped my new bride’s hand in equal parts fear and anticipation, fear of the unknown and anticipation of the journey regardless. After all, it was Ireland.
I’ve always identified with all things Irish, since I was a wee lad. Honestly, my mother got awfully tired of me speaking in a poor excuse for an Irish accent (I’ve since gotten better at it) and wanting everything to be painted green. In fact, I had picked out the brightest green I could find and gotten my dad to paint my room that color. I was that committed to it, and I couldn’t have told you why it was Ireland and not somewhere else.
So, it was no wonder when I heard U2 for the first time on the radio and fell in love. Like with anything else I get interested in, I went overboard from the start. I quickly began doing research on the band, which was harder to do back then because the internet wasn’t as prevalent, so I went to the library. It was complicated work, but I was assured at the end of the inquiry that I knew all there was to know about the band, and by extension, about Ireland itself.
And I knew I had to get there someday. Somehow.
When I met my future wife, it was one of the first things we talked about, my obsession with all things Irish. I even joked about having been Irish in a previous life, and about the significance of my Irish last name. I knew she was humoring me, and I was grateful for it. At least she didn’t tell me to shut up. I also knew she was just as obsessed with all things British, so we would go back and forth on which culture was better. I still say it’s Irish, and perhaps our trip helped her to see things my way.
We touched down on Dublin soil after a seemingly endless plane ride, but I was finally there. In Ireland. I breathed in the air as we stepped off the plane, even though it was just recirculated airport air. It somehow felt different as I inhaled it, as if I were taking in the very essence of the Irish way of life. I would have knelt and kissed the floor had my wife not been with me. I didn’t want to embarrass her. That would come later. Continue reading “Irish Pride”
So, I finally gave up on finding a memory card for my camera by the time we got to London. The first chance I got I went to a little convenience store and bought two disposable cameras because that was about all I felt I could spend of the euros I had left. By that time in the trip we had two days left and I figured I would just take as many pictures as the cameras would afford me and hope they came out alright. It’s funny to think back on it now, but those photos I took were probably the most authentic of the whole trip, which in some small way makes London the most authentic place we traveled to and through. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t see and analyze them, deleting the ones I didn’t like. Once I took them they were there to stay, for better or for worse, and I never saw them until I got back to the States and had them developed. It turned out to be a good choice.
We went on a bus tour of the city early that next morning and I took pictures through the bus windows, photos of Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. In fact, I recall us driving over London Bridge, and I was thinking, “This is London Bridge?” The bridge itself was pretty ordinary, and it made me question why anyone would write a children’s song about it. Then our tour guide explained to us why London Bridge was so ordinary, how it was a far iteration from the original bridge that was as wide as a city street, the one that did indeed burn down a long, long time ago. He told us that the bridge that’s there now is just functional because it costs too much to keep replacing the bridge, and the latest one was shipped to a town in Iowa, or some other midwestern place (I wasn’t really listening, so fascinated was I by Tower Bridge, that I could see on the left as we drove across).
Then we were dropped off the bus outside of Buckingham Palace right around the time for the changing of the guard, which is one of those things you can’t really describe unless you see it. Continue reading “You Call This a Shower?: Part 13”