Sometimes you need to go away to understand the meaning of home. I am writing from Dingle one of the most beautiful parts of a country that, in many ways, feels like home. My great, great grandmother, Harriet Cleary, came from this land poets, peet, and pints of Guinness. The family story goes that she left Ireland along with her brother because her family wanted her to become a nun and him, a priest. Neither one wanted to pursue that way of life so the brother left for Australia where he founded a sheep business of some renown. Harriet went to Vermont which, being the Green Mountain State, no doubt reminded her of home. Vermont is where my mother was born and is where I’m from. Traveling to Ireland these last few days has been a revelation. The truth is, I’ve been to Ireland many times but have never seen it as richly verdant as now. The gently sloping hills, wide pastures, peaks and valleys, are all a celebration of the many hues of green that exist in the world. It is, in some ways, Vermont, only more so. You could bathe in the wonder of this green and be content in body and soul. My family and I are having breakfast at a remarkable B & B- Pax House- overlooking Dingle Bay. Margaret, hearty, joyous, authentic as this her hometown, serves up the delicious breakfast where soft-boiled eggs come dressed in their shell with tiny knitted sweaters clothing them. She laughs with the delight of one who knows who she is and busies herself ferrying porridge and coffee from the kitchen overseen by the founder of this warm lodging, John himself. Looking out from the welcoming windows by our table, she tells us that the hills across the bay are “looking near today.” We ask what she means and Margaret says that when she was a little girl her father would tell her that if the hills looked “near” it meant rain that day; if they looked distant, it meant sun. She told us it probably had something to do with the shadows of clouds above but we looked out and saw that the hills did indeed look close to us and, sure enough, later in the day, the rain fell confirming her father’s theory. Details such as these from the local culture are the things writers celebrate. Truthfully, these are the bits of rich heritage we can find wherever we live and when we connect to them and the people around us, we are the richer for it. And maybe it’s the view from the windows, pastures of sheep below, the calm waters stretching out into the Atlantic, but I feel Vermont is not that far away today, nor California where I live now. The connections between those who left Ireland for a better life during hard times have given way to some who have found their way back to these shores. I celebrate my family here, the ones who I love so dearly in the present, and the family of Clearys whom I never met but who, in part, are the reason I am alive today, sharing this remarkable place where hills feel nearand home a bit closer than ever.
As they say here, Slan, until next time.