Pictures of pictures of Ireland:
1) Irish coffee mug: "An Irishman is never drunk
as long as he can hold on to one blade of grass
and not fall off the face of the earth.";
2) road signs in Ireland;
3) the wild, western coast of Ireland; 4) Dublin town
Twelve years is a long time to be homesick. I've carried a memory with me that long of green, rolling hills dotted with the clouds of gently baa-ing sheep. All the cliques are true: Ireland the Emerald Isle, 40 shades of green. My first impression of Ireland was of a patchwork quilt, tattered remnants of green ball gowns stitched together with the jagged lines of trees and old rock walls laid by hand, no mortar, no cement.
The rain falls not in buckets or sheets but as sunlight, scarcely noticeable but always leaving a mark on skin and clothes. Instead of darkening, of fading, it leaves a sheen that glistens like mercury and urges you to the nearest pub to stand beside peat hearths. Tea, piping hot, scalding tongue and tooth, black as earth and strong as any stout. Scones (not biscuits) that crumble and leave you wishing it was proper to lick the table clean. And always the faces of a country still in touch with its past, its legends, its stories.
The Irish are born with stories. I think they're made of words. It isn't that they tell them; you aren't inundated with "once upon a time". It's a sort of breathing, the lilting of their voices as they laugh and order another round. Story, not conversation, permeates the air and I drank it until I was drunk and refused to come up from air.
Twelve years since I walked the walls of Derry, since I stood at Yeats' grave and 'cast a cold eye on life'. Twelve years since I saw roses the size of sauces and felt the clouds shed their early morning skins, sifted through streets older than the country in which I dwell. Streets with cobblestones and dirt that could, if coaxed, tell even more stories than those who walk them daily.
Once I went to Ireland, I tell folks, and found my soul. I left it there; it is there it belongs. Homesick I'll stay until we're united again. And I wonder, dear reader, which one of us will be left behind?
Happy Saint Patrick's Day,
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand...
~ W.B. Yeats, The Stolen Child