It is five in the morning and my body thinks it is eleven in the afternoon. After establishing that no matter how physically exhausted I am there is absolutely no way I am falling back to sleep, I decided to write.
America welcomed me from the clouds after a seven hour flight over the Atlantic. When we left Ireland I was wearing a purple dress with black fleece leggings, a thick emerald crew neck sweatshirt, a pea green winter coat I had found and claimed and my grey and yellow rain boots: it was fifty-five degrees. By the time we touched back down in Philly it was mid eighties. I made it to Ohio with my leggings rolled up and my purple dress barely visible under the thick layers of green fabric tied around my waist: it was seventy-six degrees; the only thing I was thankful to have on my body at all were my two rain boots. Ohio quickly reminded me how humid midwest summers were. We landed just after a heavy rainstorm, the sky was dense with greyish-black clouds and the air thick enough to swim. I had taken for granted the lack of moisture admits the chilly Irish climate.
There have been subtle differences here that were never apparent to me before: our toilets use more water, our airports have more fast-food, our roads are so very incredibly wide. We got to listen to an Irish story teller named Eddie one night who told us, “In America, you ditches go down, but in Ireland, our ditches go up”. The only way I can begin to describe him is by saying that he wasn’t real, but he was. He was an older fellow who looked incredibly frail and breakable; he walked sightly hunched over and shook while he drank his tea. Then he began to talk: in stillness he seemed dead, but when talking he came alive. He was ammoniated, acting out scenes from his collection of tales, changing voices with the characters. At one point he was talking about a sickly man and began choking so realistically I believed that he was actually dying himself. Most memorable, and probably most important, was his facial hair. Eddie had long, scraggly, grey wire had that came down to his shoulders. It was stiff and moved with him as an extension of his body. His beard mimicked his hair in texture, so much so that it was impossible to tell where one stopped and the other started. It was a full beard minus two inches on the very center of his chin which were bare: a parallel line of nothingness that extended all of the way down. We sat in a circle around him and just listened to him talk for about two hours while his son (who was clean-shaven) waited for him outside in the car. At the very beginning of his time with us he talked about their conversation on the drive over, which was essentially five minutes of him saying, “Only an idiot would walk on that road!” in various ways. We all had walked the mile into town and the mile back on that road at least twice a day throughout the duration of our entire stay.
Interesting enough, that walk grew shorter each and every time. The first time we traversed the road it seemed unending. We were jet lagged, dropped off at our housing with no food, given reflective vest that on the back read in bold, black, block letters “be safe, be seen” and pointed in the direction of town. It got much better after that. We walked that way to go to the pier and the beach were we collected seashells and walked back from the pub several times in the stillness of the night. Only once on our walk home did we see the stars. The finally came out from behind the overcast sky last Saturday after an evening of dancing in a beer garden where the local youths hang out. Most nights on our walks home there were still traces of the sinking sun, the light that held all of that days adventures, finally setting after its long eighteen hour shift. The last walk to and from Ballyvaughn seemed like nothing at all. I went to town by myself, before the others, so that I could be alone with the road one last time. I had it memorized, knew all the blind-spots and instinctually crossed them so that no cars would hit me. I knew all the pastures and what time of day which animals would be out in them grazing. I said goodbye to my favorite lone tree, the one that the steers sometimes sat beneath making me think of Ferdinand the bull, my favorite childhood story. My last walk was peaceful, it was a beautiful, bright sunshiny day; the kind with mash-potato clouds lazily floating in the sky. We met at the pub for a final celebration dinner and all walked home in our single-file line giggle and reminiscing about our time there, much less fearful than our first walk. As soon as we set out towards home we seemed to have reached our destination. Today I woke up and realized I don’t have to make that walk, instead I will get behind the wheel of my car for the first time in two weeks and drive on the right hand side on the road two hours north till I am home and it is finally summer.
Some lovely tourist photos for your enjoyment:
My favorite lone tree: