Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Soft Blessings of Ireland

Right now I'm sitting at my father's desk in his apartment at Sun City Center, Florida. He lives in Freedom Plaza, a retirement center for those of a certain age. A glass of wine (a nice Shiraz) sits at my right hand. I think of the day that's just set and think of the people that I've met here and smile. Maybe it's the wine, but I don't think so.

When my father introduces me to his friends, he invariably says, "This is my son. He's the fellow who lives in Ireland." And just as invariably, Dad's friends stare back with a look of bewilderment as they attempt to process the information.

"You live in Ireland?" they ask, not quite comprehending. "Do you like living there?" And often, I'm quite not sure what to say.

As I've mentioned in other entries on this Blog, I'm a self-confessed schizophrenic when it comes to my attitude regarding living in Ireland. On the one hand, I miss my American homeland with all of my heart. I'm proud to be an American, and that feeling gets spun into a web of romantic images of vast plains, and purple mountaintops, and a diverse people that are some of the best in the world.

But I also think of what has happened to me during the past 27 years of living in Ireland; of the gentle journeys that I've taken; of the honest steadfast people there; of the small miracles that I've been blessed to experience...

A number of years ago, I attended a writer's centre in the Beara Peninsula way down in West Cork. That centre, located in Eyeries, attracts writers and other artists from far and wide. Many come because of its setting right on the Atlantic Ocean. Stunning sunsets, amazing moons, the soft warm breeze swept in by the Gulf Stream; all create a mystical landscape that nurtures the creative spirit with a will to live.

I should explain that when I'm working on a project, I tend to write a lot. Twelve to fourteen hour stints are commonplace for me because once I enter the world of a screenplay it's difficult for me to escape. However, there are times when the words simply won't come, no matter how long I stare at the blank laptop screen.

This was one of those times. I had been sitting in front of my laptop for hours on end, but my fried brain simply refused to cooperate. I glanced at my watch: it was 6AM and I had wasted an entire night. I knew that I was blocked and had no idea at all of what to do about it.

I grabbed my camera and walked out of the still-sleeping centre. In the east, the still unseen sun was painting brush strokes of salmon pink on low scudding clouds. I turned toward a beach in the near distance, intent on walking across the sands and to the small village of nearby Eyeries.

However, I soon discovered that a stream blocked my way. I eyed it warily. It fed right into the Atlantic. The tide was high, and its depth was unknown. But its waters were clear and it didn't look too deep. I figured that I could wade across.

I stripped naked. Bundling my clothes together and placing those with my camera atop my head, I took a breath and stepped into the stream ... and immediately found myself out of my depth. I tread water against a stiff current, yelling at the surprise of icy coldness that set my teeth chattering. I pulled myself out as soon as I could, let me tell you.

For a moment I stood at the side of that stream, catching my breath. Then I saw the sun: it glinted above the horizon. Its warmth struck my nakedness, touching my soul with its bright steady fingers.

And I started to laugh. I laughed and laughed, my head full of the image of a naked Yank standing in an Irish morning sun. But I also laughed with the sudden joy of living, of having the good fortune to be in Ireland; of the luck that had made me turn right at a cross-roads in Wales back in 1980 that had led me to this exact spot.

It was as if I had been baptized anew, and that Ireland had given me a gentle blessing with the loving waters that ran through its living veins.

I put my clothes on and walked back to the centre. My writer's block had cleared. I finished that screenplay three days later.

So to answer my Dad's friends' question: "Do I like living in Ireland?" The answer is yes. Quite a bit.

Usually, anyway.

For more stories on one American's journey in Ireland, why not buy A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland, written by Tom Richards.


  1. Great narration and photos.. Well, Thanks for Joining my group. " Top Commentators" in Blogcatalog

  2. Sounds grand.

    Americans and Europeans are so different in this way. Europeans are not shocked to find fellow citizens choosing to and enjoying living in a country other than their birth nation. Americans often can't grasp that anyone would WANT to live anyplace else. Largely I would think because of the size of our nation and the fact that we only border 2 neighbors... and more than one American thinks of Canada as "just another America."

    I think every place on earth offers rewards and challenges. If you can't be happy in and of yourself wherever you may be, it is unlikely that you can be happy anyplace on earth.

  3. So great to see another Comment u back blog..we are really having a collection of good bloggers. Ireland, a land with great tradition and heroes..Well excellent way of expressing your thoughts...Hope that you will visit my books blog.

  4. Hi Hazeleyes, and what a lovely comment. Agreed re: Canada being 'just another America'. Many times my fellow Americans (as Tricky Dick used to say) can be somewhat myopic when it comes to imagining living in another country. But each country, each culture, has a story of its own, and a tapestry of riches to explore.

    Just wish I could get them to understand that! Ah well. I live to fight another day.

    Where do you hail from?

    My best - Tom

  5. Tom:

    I live in NYC. Sometimes, depending on the neighborhood, you could almost convince yourself that you are indeed in a foreign country. But that is what makes it a frequently entertaining place to live, when it isn't a maddening place to live for many other reasons.

    Despite being of 100% Italian background (and I have visited there) I have always had a strong fascination with Ireland and hope I will some day get there. It sounds like such an enchanting place and what I have seen from flying over it has been extraordinarily beautiful.

    Wherever I have been in the world, whether in Europe or the Carribean or even a different part of the US, I am utterly charmed by some aspect and think "oh this would be a great place to live!" Yet I never seem to unhitch my wagon from NY and go live there... but one never knows what the future holds do they?

  6. Well, if that's the case...let me know if you ever get out this way and we'll figure out a way to get you my contact details. Wouldn't mind at all giving you some pointers about where you might wander. Ireland IS a beautiful place...the joys of West Cork. A 'soft' day on the River Boyne. The beauty of a sunrise or a full moon still astounds me. Yep, it's pretty all right.

    Mind, I must say that I enjoy NYC. Lived in Long Island many moons ago and worked in the City. Have been back since and must say that I miss the people, the city...and the Food!

    Til a someday, perhaps... (oh - if you think of anything you'd like to learn about or I might cover do let me know! Surely appreciate your posts... T :)

  7. It is beautiful down there - that's where half my family background is. I love that you laughed when the water was such a let-down from your daydream. That's what Ireland is about for me; you think you know what will happen but it's never quite the same. Sometimes negative and sometimes positive, I'm still finding the balance! Happy New Year to you:)

  8. And happy new year to you too, Niamh...thanks for the comment. And agreed: you never know WHAT might happen in Ireland!


  9. Wish you happy newyear, im on a second round on ths blog, its great going, congratz to ur workz, Mr Tom