Staring into long shadows
cast by the old Rowan tree,
I thought so long that my tea went cold.
Ruminating and pondering,
tilling the soil of my mind while
I plunged for that first seed.
I attached myself to new growth:
an aphid devouring a tender leaf
discovering that all the blooms had disappeared,
failing to notice how the light
begins to change.
(“Morning” by Susan Mangan)
At the end of August, our friend is traveling to Ireland. He and his family have never visited this beautiful country and they are trying to put together a meaningful itinerary. My advice is quite simple: Stand in a field and breathe the fresh air. Linger by the sea until salt spray gives rise to goosebumps on your skin. Welcome the smell of a turf fire that permeates your clothes, your hair.
Travel can either evoke stress or relaxation. Expect that flights will be delayed and that much anticipated visits to restaurants or popular tourist sites will be crowded or underwhelming. This is all part of the turbulence of diving into a new destination. Education evolves from experience, and I have found that simplicity is the best teacher.
That being said, one should choose a historic spot in which to enjoy a guided tour or indulge in a posh dinner by candlelight; however, the traveler should not overbook his brief holiday. Oftentimes, the most memorable experiences arise from serendipitous stumblings into charming cafés or pop-up street fairs. Ireland is a wonderful holiday destination because a warming hearth fire or breathtaking vista lies around the turn in virtually every lane.
In life we spend so much time seeking perfection that we fail to see the beauty that lies within seeming imperfection: that stone teeming with lichen, that fence in need of repair. In nature, wild roses cling to forgotten gates and birds leave behind traces of seed that bloom in unexpected places. It is here in the Irish meadow, quiet, except for the call of birds and bellow of farm animals that magic truly begins.
Over the course of two months this spring I traveled to Ireland twice, spending time in the east and then the west of Ireland. Each time I travel to Ireland, I am greeted by new surprises.
I have wandered down narrow roads in Dalkey blooming with early spring wisteria and peered into a secret meditation garden hidden from the street by towering pink bougainvillea. I have walked amid blankets of cowslip in untouched fields and heard the ubiquitous cry of the spring cuckoo bird.
My itinerary reads like an artist’s scrapbook. A series of images marks my journey and stamps indelible memory upon my every sense.
As fall approaches, I am already anticipating the smell of woodsmoke. When the wind is just right, and dampness touches the air. My children, now adults, will even comment, “It smells like Ireland.”
This memory emerges from Irish soil: a place where sheep wander and farmers toil. It is a place of family and fresh air, long summer nights and short winter days. It is a field in spring brimming with bluebells and lambs. It is a night in midsummer when bonfires blaze. It is a day of frost in December when not much matters except for a clove-scented hot whiskey and the laughter of family.
As I told my friend, in Ireland, that which is important is vast and that which is not is small. Be sure to notice how the light changes with the wind. Who needs a castle when one can enjoy the shadows on a hillside and the warmth of an Irish cottage trailing with ripe blackberries in early autumn?
Over the years, I have learned that that which is important is vast in Ireland and that which is not is small. Known for hospitality, the people of Ireland welcome visitors with open arms, a smile, and a joke. A cup of tea or a pint of Guinness will set the harried traveler at ease.
Shopkeepers and restaurant hosts will take the time to visit with their guests conversing about anything from the score of a local football match, the price of petrol, to the best place for an Irish fry. One of my favorite Irish expressions is “you are welcome.” In America, this expression follows an offering of thanks, while in Ireland, this expression means that “you are welcome, home.”
*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 su*******@ya***.com.