Highlights of Ireland Tour

George Bernard Shaw said, ‘We spend our lives circling around what we really want to say.’ That seems to be the story of my life. But the Celtic swirl has propelled me into new self-awareness, sometimes welcome, sometimes not. And also with thanks to a small kick in the behind from Phil’s pilgrim insights and pointed questions. That being said, I want to send a couple more blogs and feel like I’m circling the Hill of Tara, wondering how to wrap up a royal and epic journey. There is enough to fill a book, so I’ll merely mention a few more highlights.

• Coole Park – beautiful and serene, home of Lady Augusta Gregory, and inspiration to W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, and Sean O’Casey, to name a few.

• The Abbey Theatre – a fitting birthing place for a true national theatre, in the heart of Dublin, near the O’Connell Bridge, site of creativity and revolutionary unrest.

• The lovely town of Clifden – where we experienced jaw-dropping visual arts and music at the Clifden Arts Festival, while mingling with the local artists. Once again I am swept off my feet by the romantic Irish. ;)

• A brief visit to the picturesque town of Westport – where I wanted to roam the streets and look for my new friend Aisling. Our conversation about her life, hopes and dreams was too short and I wanted it to continue. I didn’t find her shop, so I’ll have to e-mail her from the States, and hope I see her again one day.

• Who would’ve thought there would be a coral beach with pristine aquamarine waters? But there we were in Derrygimla, with most of our group dipping their toes in the ocean. I never saw such lush beds of kelp in all my life, so I had to sit in them while contemplating the starvation of millions of Irish. I was surrounded by opihi (cockles, I think), mollusks, and piles of delicious-looking kombu, a veritable feast already seasoned with ocean minerals and ready to eat. Here was an abundance of food, out of reach, and perhaps unknown, to the starving victims of English oppression.

• Images of the coffin ships are now seared into my consciousness. Entire villages, cleared of inhabitants, people sold into slavery or starved to death – these images haunted me as I stared out at the Atlantic and dug my feet into the kelp and coral. The dichotomy of our tragic human history set against the breathtaking beauty of land, sea and sky is jarring.

The beauty of this part of Ireland, the joy de vivre of the people who are embracing the fall of the Celtic Tiger as an opportunity for rebirth, will continue to speak to my soul.

From here we move on to city life, as we head for Galway and Dublin, and some final farewells. Guinness evenings help us on our way…

~ Joan Ishibashi