Blowin’ In: An American in Ireland
By Susan Mangan
I wish I had it back again
The urge to sip from every mountain stream
Where every season promises
A host of golden, open-ended dreams
And every morning’s joyful
With the prospect of the days and nights to come . . .
(Saw Doctors “Wisdom of Youth”)
The plane leaves a day early due to a change in circumstances. Steel-nose glistens in the last light of day, rising higher and higher through cumulus clouds. Images of Roman goddesses, hump-backed camels, and ordinary garden toads casually float by the vision of a young lady. Her eyes are the shade of a forgotten Irish stream; twin mood stones, they fill with tears of joy and sadness as readily as the rain falls in autumn.
The young lady rests comfortably in her window seat where she can peer out at the blank darkness that blots out the sky at 35,000 feet above the Atlantic; here she can dream and wonder, plan and hope. The hours pass in moments, as an abbreviated night lightens into a new dawn, and the plane descends through a riot of clouds. The movement jars the girl out of her reverie, while the plane soars over a patchwork of green pastures and myriad pools of blue water.
As the young lady lands, she is unaware that the airport she left in New Jersey closed. Torrential floods cast a pall over the plans of hundreds of travelers. Cars are left stranded amid apocalyptical highway scenes. The young lady was spared these events in an act of serendipity.
She feels the familiar thrum of expectation as the plane lands onto the runway in Dublin. Unhindered by fear or doubt, the young lady has chosen to live for the moment. Seemingly, the fates approve of her spontaneous spirit and grace coats her path.
Stepping out of the commuter train, she hears the cry of seagulls and breathes salt deep of the Irish Sea.
Her passport resembles the worn leather of a seasoned traveler’s trunk stamped with tales of journeys to Barcelona, Prague, Copenhagen, London, and Edinburgh. This young lady is as at home in the baths of Budapest as she is in a Covent Garden tearoom. Her spirit matches the energy of a swarm of strangers who move with intent, boredom, or longing, traversing the underground trains that snake beneath cities like New York and London. She has left pieces of her heart across the Alps and over the seas.
In profile, her chestnut hair sweeps away from her delicate bone structure. Comfortable with the spray of sea water on her face, the young lady was once a girl with long dark hair. She could swim with the fluidness of a seal, and her hair would hang selkie-like along the curve of her back. Now, her hair is cut to the shoulder and touched with golden highlights – a more sophisticated look for her post graduate studies. She is no longer a child playing in the sand with cousins on the Mulranny strand in the West of Ireland. All of 22 years, she has lived and loved more than others have at the age of 52.
Her gaze is soft as she listens to the Irish children call for their morning buns with sausage; a fine morning for a picnic she thinks to herself, perhaps I will take lunch onto the beach.
As she turns, we realize our traveler will not be alone. She raises a welcoming wave to a young man who regards her with fondness and shakes his head in wonder at the sight of this young lady. They lock hands and move away from the train station poised on the Irish Sea.
Together, the couple wanders the strand, each content in the moment. The biggest decision they have is where they should eat in the city. Do they long for mussels, a pint, and a pub or the secret elegance of a garden rooftop serving oysters and crisp, white wine? The young couple will only share a few stolen days together, but to their young hearts, this time appears infinite.
Family from the West invite the girl and her handsome companion to pass a day or two. To them, she is still a girl, and they welcome her like a lamb to the flock. After laughter, tea, and toast the couple embarks on a mountain climb.
Intermittent clouds and sun lend softness to the autumn sky. Beneath their feet, the ground is hard, but cushioned by sturdy wildflowers that paint the terrain in bright shades of yellow and muted violet. As they ascend the mountain, sea aster and samphire rise from rocky cliffs, breaking the monotony of grey stone and green moss.
Atop the summit, the young lady listens to her companion laugh with the cousins.
Alone in her thoughts, she recalls the stories her grandfather told of the cliffs above Keem Bay. How wonderous that I am standing at this ancient summit, the scene of my grandfather’s lore, while my past and future entwine?
Before the clouds cover the dimming rays of sun, the girl looks into the brown warmth of her companion’s eyes. It is time to leave this magical place.
Together they descend, melting into the side of the remote mountain. Their present has become the past. The mountain has absorbed the beauty of this moment in time. Like a strong and loving grandfather, the mountain has witnessed the girl’s heart.
A hidden lake lies at the base of the mountain. Here the young man takes the young lady’s hand once again, and they discuss their prospects for an evening meal.
*Susan holds a Master’s Degree in English from John Carroll University and a Master’s Degree in Education from Baldwin-Wallace University. She may be contacted at [email protected].