November 3, 2015
Today we embark on a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos. It makes me superstitiously wary to accomplish two bucket list destinations in one year. It begs the needless question of "Does that mean I am nigh on to kicking aforesaid bucket?" I hope not.
Another important thing left unfinished for me and this blog is a quick emotion-packed assessment of my trip to Ireland this year from the vantage point of about six months later. It was truly one of the most telling trips I have ever had. Up there with living in France for a year. Beyond walking across California, much much much more important than spending six days in Panama racking up birds for my bird Life List.
When we left for Ireland I was resistant to the notion of liking the place. I had figured that there was too much Irish-loving going on and that it was probably more hype than reality. I certainly don't give a fig for fairies and wee folk and selkies and my love for its music had become a background noise like the whoosh and still of your blood pulsing in your ear while lying against a too hard pillow as my husband has practiced full immersion celtic mandolin playing twenty four seven in our house for the last ten years.
There was another reason to not anticipate liking Ireland —having come from an Irish-derived family. I love my family, always have, but I took a few lessons in its twisty parts as a child, many of them cultural, and I perceived that what ever situation my ancestors had had to flee to get to the United States had probably been bad. This bad stuff therefore had shaped the two generations of Americans that followed the escape from their parents and grandparents' country of origin.
Simply put I suspected that the darker, more depressive, arrogant, heavy-drinking and lying parts of my run of the mill family might have all derived from some untold story —our own Angela's Ashes— or even worse a hidden Beauty Queen of Leenane. I just did not want to get too optimistic that the place was charming. Why, if it were charming, would anyone therefore leave?
Well certainly I learned there were very good reasons to leave. Starvation, lack of opportunity, relentless oppression of culture and future by the English, and too many rocks. I came to be able to see my absolute luck of being alive. I and my parents and my siblings, and my grandparents came through a substantial human bottleneck to then prosper in the United States. My family's obsession with material goods and propriety (e.g. snobbishness) are the negative image of what had been witnessed by ancestors prior to their departure.
I am lucky to be alive.
In addition to this joy I also realized a few other things of import. I had often felt too talkative, too obsessed with the wording and rhythm of sentences, too excitable — my whole life. When I got to Ireland I immediately recognized amongst all encountered the same wish to engage, to joke around with strangers, to talk like a pool ball on a break, and that this was a shared life force. I am no longer weird and overly engaged. I am Irish.
Thirdly I saw the whole incredible evidence of generations of forebears going back tens of thousands of years, from portal tombs marking the dead, to ring forts a half a mile a way from those tombs where descendants then eked out an agrarian life with a semblance of security close on to the nineteenth century towns and ports that figured so large in the families that produced my American forebears. I saw continuity and luck. I saw no need any longer to feel that my immediate family's story, and thus of course my story, need be the focus of endless investigation and re-investigation. I was part of a push to continue, a push to be happy and healthy and live.
That's what I plan to do.