Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why I Love Ireland

Ah, the Irish Stars!
Alright. It's true. Living in Ireland can be a pain in the ass particularly if you're an American. Why? Well, it's different, that's why. The people talk funny (mind you, they tell me that I'm the one who talks funny). They drive on the other side of the road. They don't speak proper English (they call a sidewalk a path, for Godsake; and a hood a bonnet, whatever that is.) They don't even know how to eat properly (trying to get a blackberry pie over here is impossible. And the coffee - while much improved - can still be horrible).

So what is it about Ireland? It's not the government (those guys should all be sentenced to hard labour somewhere north of Siberia). It's not the weather (it rains all the time. I grew up in Seattle, so you'd think I'd be used to it. But it rains constantly). It's not even the Guinness (though is wonderful stuff, let me tell you. See, you have to know how to pour it just right...But that's another story).

So what is it about Ireland that is so bloody wonderful that it's kept me imprisoned here for over 27 years? I'll tell you what it is: it's the stars.

Starry, Starry Nights
If you're as lucky as I am, you live near the country. Which means that you can wander down a country road and in no time be out in the middle of no where. And by no where, I mean precisely that. You could be on the dark side of the Moon, let me tell you. But the wonderful thing about that is simple: there aren't any lights.

So you'll drive down this incredibly out of the way lane, and all of a sudden find yourself out in the middle of no where. You'll pull to the side of the road and turn out the car lights. And what happens next is magic: the entire universe seems to plunge into magical darkness.

So you'll get out of the car. You'll take a breath of air that is filled with the wonders of nature: of cow manure and fertiliser; of the smell of peat smoke coming from a nearby farmhouse; the sharp texture of a recent rain, and the pungent odour of blooming heather that filters its way to you over the nearby bogs.

You'll stand outside your car and smell all of that, and your olfactory senses will be on overtime because they're the only senses that seem to work, it's so dark. It's darker than your bedroom closet when you close the door. It's darker than the last day of winter when you know that it just has to become Spring. It's even darker than the blackest pint of Guinness.

At least you think it's dark.

Until You Look Up...

And behold the hand of God that has strewn a thousand billion stars across the sky. At first, you feel like an insect, so small are you compared to the majesty that seems just out of reach. But then, looking up, you feel that you're part of it all. That you are that majesty, or at least a true part of it.

And for a moment - despite the fact that you live thousands of miles from your homeland - you are one. One with what, I'm not quite sure. But you are, and you can count on that. And in that moment, you are not lonely, not even from yourself.

I've never felt that way anywhere. Not in Seattle or in Chicago or in New York or LA or all the other places that I've lived. I feel this way in Ireland, with the stars above my head, glittering in their cool magic.

Maybe that's one of the reasons I stay. The stars.

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