The sound of English on Irish lips sounds almost like music, full of laughter and lilt and not always easily understood… in that I listen with an American accent.
The country is beautiful and brilliant (when it’s not dripping rain, which it largely didn’t when I was there) and verdant (because it often does drip rain). “Emerald Isle” is apt and my photos don’t do it justice, mostly because the camera doesn’t know what to do with so much green at one time.
The history is rich and deep… a place that lived on the edges of “civilization” and as such has retained its mystical superstitions… the fairies are said to be the best protectors of Irish archeology, as even today fairy forts and trees are left alone.
Yet when much of central Europe sank into the dark ages, Irish monks, from Clonmacnoise to Skellig Michael and everywhere in between kept faith, and kept the writings alive to be discovered and shared with future generations.
It’s a beautiful place, with windswept stretches that one could almost believe had never been seen before by another soul, despite the countless centuries of history hidden there… and bustling modern cities.
In the countryside, new houses are built beside the ivy-laden remains of crumbling famine houses, abandoned when the blight drove their inhabitants to graves or ships. It would be bad luck to knock them down, I suppose. Museums and gardens showcase the castles and manors in 17, 18, 19th century splendor, but also remember that the original owners could and sometimes did evict their poverty-stricken tenants by the hundreds without warning or cause, and think nothing of it.
Memories are long, and everyone recalls the bad times most of all. The more bitter religious/political divide in Northern Ireland feels ancient, but some aspects of it date back only a few decades. As the continued violence and tensions in Northern Ireland shows, what feels from afar like they should be long-forgotten animosities are as fresh as only a day ago.
Despite its immense beauty, it has had its share of hardships, and Ireland’s top export has long been its people… to America, Canada, Australia, and everywhere else. My people came a long time ago… I am a mix of likely famine-fleeing southern-Irish folk who came to Canada in the 1800’s and emigrated shortly to the US where they had families, worked and survived … and likely Scots-Irish who left what is today Northern Ireland and arrived roughly 100 years before to rural towns in the southern and mid-Atlantic states, and did much the same.
Because of its immense beauty, we go back again… in our imaginations, or in person. I’m very glad I did.