mad in pursuit ireland


Being On Course in Ireland

From my trip diary:

Tuesday, May 9, [Day 6] in Roundstone. Still waiting for those mystical ancient Celtic feeling to overtake me. Reading "McCarthy's Bar." In his humorous way, Pete McCarthy is suspicious of "heritage travelers" even though he is one himself. He wonders if he "fits in" as an Englishman with an Irish mother. Yet he see so many foreigners who have been easily absorbed and now consider themselves "Irish."

I do feel like I belong — hands pressed to the ancient stones — but the question is "so what." Since I've resisted it for so long, what does it mean to so easily sink into it? My cousins have been so easy to be with, the common bonds are there. Good that I brought my family tree draft. The "listeen" as Carmel calls it helps get the conversations going — an instance where preparation paid off.

But "planning," in terms of itinerary, has no place here. We're veering off our original plan in order to go south through Tipperary then on to Cork, dumping the idea of Dublin — isn't that unthinkable? Maureen called Carmel and suggested we spend a night in Tipperary at her home in Holy Cross. And so we follow. Let family point the way. A cousin in Kilkerrin mentioned Roundstone and here we are for two nights. We rearranged plans for Mayo to meet Sinead in Galway City. We dropped Dublin to meet Maureen. The waters unfold. The flow sweeps us along. We go where the heart takes us. Doing research is good, but I am trying to feel where the land, the heart takes us. We are enveloped, following natural contours instead of ripping our own highways through the emotional landscape.

Even driving — must be confident about where the center of the road is — not overreacting to oncoming traffic. Know where your wheels are. I keep reminding myself to take deep breaths, let Ireland become part of me and, when I exhale, to let go of all my preconceptions and expectations.

Being "off course" here doesn't mean deviating from a plan, but getting off balance, like trying to sail a boat while it's listing. We stay "on course" when we are comfortable on narrow roads and easy about changing plans. Maybe that's the difference between being/becoming Irish and being a foreigner.


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