African-American, Black woman, Blarney Stone, Book of Kells, County Cork, County Wicklow, Dingle Peninsula, Dublin, Galway, Glendolough, Grafton Street, Ireland, Jamaica, Killarney, Limerick, love letter, Macgillycuddy Reeks, Marin Headlands, San Francisco, Youghal
On this, the second St. Patrick’s Day since we parted, I can’t help but think about you and how much your lush beauty still makes my heart leap. I know you heard me tell Jamaica that I loved it, but I still love you, too.
Remember when we first met? I had just taken a ferry from Pembroke in Wales and stepped foot onto your shores at Rosslare Harbor. As I journeyed toward Waterford, you preened and showed me just how verdant you could be. I saw fat, fluffy sheep grazing against the neat, stone-partitioned hills that oscillated from viridescent to forest green.
You paraded me around your castles. Some were still magnificent to behold, like Ross Castle in Killarney and King John’s Castle in Limerick. Others were in beautiful ruin, like Blarney Castle near County Cork. You introduced me to the Blarney Stone and smiled as I joined millions of others in kissing it. That baby wipe I used on my lips immediately after kissing the Stone? You can’t still be angry about that, can you?
You proudly showed me the harrowing beauty of the Dingle Peninsula, which elicited memories of the Marin Headlands in San Francisco. I learned where the earth and sky meet as I viewed the Macgillycuddy Reeks, and watched the clouds roll and curl over its peaks like smoke.
We talked often, you and I. You knew that my grandmother’s grandfather was Irish, and that the trip was not merely a chance to explore your countryside. You, alone, understood that a wee piece of me was actually returning “home” to link with the intangible. Thank you for humoring me as I added an O’ to my surname to more closely feel our kinship.
I liked your sense of humor, you know. Only you could have arranged the Wayans Brothers’ movie Haunted House to play at the tiny cinema house in Killarney at the same time that I passed through, although you knew that I didn’t have time to stop and watch. It’s as if you wanted to prove, by showing me evidence of a Black movie playing in a small village, that there was room for all parts of me in you.
I also got a kick out of how you offered most dinner entrees on a bed of mashed potatoes, with a side of roasted potatoes. I like potatoes, but you really love potatoes. If you hadn’t served me this way time and again, I never would have believed that you preferred meals arranged in this fashion.
Your music was sublime. I can’t count how many times you wooed me. The fiddle and bodhran, the bagpipes and accordion! You mesmerized me with your melodies. I couldn’t decide if I like the reels or the jigs better. I played the spoons with glee as the band serenaded us at a cèilidh.
I am forever indebted to you for showing me how moving and inspiring traditional Irish music can be, and how it is more like American jazz than I ever knew. In Dublin, you taught me how your traditional music naturally transmutes into Bluegrass. Although I am not a country music fan, I now appreciate Bluegrass music.
Remember how I was rarely without my jacket, and used sun glasses simultaneously with my umbrella? Even though it was summer, your weather was so unpredictable. The wind was especially fierce the time I gazed west towards home from the banks of the Atlantic Ocean in Galway. I forgave you because much later, when I met the Town Crier of Youghal, you sent a gentle breeze and a slice of sunshine just to make me smile.
Your countryside’s splendor impressed me as I wound through the realm of the Sugarloaf Mountains in County Wicklow to visit Glendalough, or Gleann Dá Loch in the Gaelic, which means “Valley of the Two Lakes” (although, truthfully, I only saw one lake). The buildings and structures in the fourteen hundred year old monastic city were spectacular.
I must say that you wowed me with Dublin. You saved the best for last. I did not expect the energy, and friendliness there was unparalleled. I enjoyed the shopping on Grafton and Nassau Streets, but you know what made the trip? Visiting Trinity College and seeing the Book of Kells.
Almost shyly, you showed me your ancient side. It was magnificent. Trinity College, founded in the sixteenth century, was as dignified and steeped in weighty tradition as you promised. The Book of Kells — those ninth century, illustrated manuscripts of the Four Gospels — was exceptional.
Temple Bar was our date night. You were so much fun! We enjoyed the street musicians and people watching, together. You made certain that I didn’t leave the city before adding to my Hard Rock T-shirt collection. You wanted at least one of your cities to worm it’s way into my heart, and Dublin was the winner.
As we enjoyed our last hours together crossing the river Liffey and strolling down O’Connell Street, it was obvious that our intrigue would not last forever. Every great love affair must come to an end. You comforted me and wiped my tears while whispering a blessing in my ear; one that I repeat each St. Patrick’s Day:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Until we meet again, indeed.
Again I want to see and do the things we’ve done and seen, where the breeze is sweet as Shalimar and there’s forty shades of green.*
*Lyrics taken from Johnny’s Cash’s Forty Shades of Green.