It seemed important to me that on my last day here I write. My first day here, I looked up at the mountain behind our house and said that I was going to climb it. I felt drawn to it, like it was something that I had to do in order to be fully immersed into and accepted by the landscape: an initiation of sorts. This morning, our last day here, I woke up before everyone else and set out to conquer it. The Burrens’ earth is an ever-changing terrain made up of cracked limestone, nettles, thorns and moss filled crevices that swallow your ankles if you step the wrong way. It is a rugged land, sharp and rickety. The mountain is a strong, steady force composed of teetering rocks and unsteady terrain. I found myself amazed as I forged up the pathless limestone how something so permanent can be made up of something so fleeting. At first I was surrounded by cow patties, but the higher I climbed the fewer there were, replaced instead by traces of sheep. The cattle couldn’t make it that far up, but I was determined to beat them, to hike high above the valley and look down at were I had existed the past two weeks. From the top I could see the bay, the Atlantic ocean, dozens of other mountains dotted with the remains of tower houses and ring forts. I could see Galloway, which was an hours drive from Ballyvaughn, where I was currently perched. I looked down at the house where I knew the others were still curled up asleep in their beds; I felt accomplished.
The mountains here are different, there are no trees, only rocks and the view is wide open, the way I imagined Heaven to be as a child. I was an outsider of the world for a moment; I could see it, but it could not see me. Ireland transformed into a miniature. It became the Fisher-Price barnyard set I found when I was four years old at a garage sale; the one that my dad went to buy for two dollars but they told him it was an antique so he had to pay ten. That farm set still lives at their house, hidden behind the doors to one of our couches end tables. I thought of that while I was up there, how I vividly remember looking down on it as a child playing pretend. Now, twenty years old, I was in a completely different reality being presented with the same exact view. So much has happened between those two moments, from one pasture to the next. I am amazed at where I am, sitting in a computer lab just under the mountain, my mountain, at an Art College in Ireland. Four year old Kaitlyn couldn’t have dreamed that; I had no way of understanding what that meant or how I’d get there, but I did and here I am.
Tomorrow we fly home. Tomorrow I will leave behind a place too beautiful to actually exist. Only then I will be able to begin processing my experience. For now I will enjoy the view from the bottom of the mountain looking up, incredibly proud of myself for knowing what it feels like to be at the top looking down.