|Croagh Patrick, Murrisk, County Mayo|
I hope that all is well with each and every one of you. While I did appear to fall off the face of the earth for a while, at least in terms of the internet world, now that I have returned from Ireland, I am slowly climbing back on. Originally my plan was to stay completely connected while I was overseas; however, when I was in the west of Ireland, once again I found myself completely captivated by 'real world' Ireland, so my need to stay connected at the hip with my computer fell away, and I immersed myself in the life and the times that were right there before me.
Those of you who have been with me over the long haul know that I am completely in love with the land of my mother, my father, and my brother, not to mention our ancestors. Such a love can sometimes blind you to the realities of a place. You don the rose coloured glasses and only see the great and the good; however, on this particular journey I found myself fully engaged with what I actually had in front of me, and I am very happy to report that the facts of the matter have not in any way dimmed my love for Ireland.
Unfortunately once again, many Irish people are struggling. There is a hum of discontent readying itself to develop into a loud roar. Unemployment is the highest it has been since the 1950s and many young Irish are emigrating, just as generations of Irish have in the past. The migratory patterns have changed somewhat, with some choosing to move into northern and western Europe. As in the past, others are making their way to Australia, as well as Canada and the United States. In Dublin, I had the opportunity to speak with an Irish documentary film maker who said he is disappointed that emigration is often the first route out for many young Irish. He would prefer that they stay and try to make a go of life at home. He is dismayed that Ireland seems to have once again become 'a leave behind place', as he put it.
While some are leaving, some are returning to Ireland, and most will never leave. In Murrisk, County Mayo, I spoke to a pub owner who had recently returned to Ireland from a 'beautiful life' which he was enjoying in Saudi Arabia. He came back to take over the day to day operation of the pub from an elderly uncle who was ready to retire, and who has since passed away. The pub has been in their family for generations, and they felt it was important that it stay in the family. In Dublin, I escorted an 89 year old woman through a crowd of angry protesters on Kildare Street near the back entrance to Leinster House (the seat of the Irish Parliament). Their anger was directed at the government over cuts of educational assistants for special needs children. Despite all the problems that the Irish have faced in her lifetime, the old woman told me that she would never choose to live anywhere else. She would rather struggle at home than turn her back on the land of her birth. She seemed to sense my unease with the situation, and told me not to worry. She reminded me that the Irish have always been a strong people committed to solving their problems.
I am back, with cameras loaded with photographs and a laptop which is virtually heavier with research, both for my family history research and my history research. The taste of Ireland is still on my lips, its scent lingers in my nose, and the experience of it is etched deeply in my heart and on my mind. Over the next while I will share with you what that experience has meant to me.
In closing I want to mention a lesson that I learned on this trip. I have been blessed to travel to Ireland many times, and I think that such good fortune sometimes gives way to taking things for granted. In the past, while I was busy taking photographs and marking down information, at times, I forgot to stand in the moment and actually take in what I was a witness to. On this trip the lesson of being still was learned. As I stood in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, Ireland's holy mountain, I stopped for a moment, let my camera be still, and opened myself up to all that what before me, the sights, the sounds, the smells. In that moment I travelled back in time and stood with my ancestors, our backs to Clew Bay, the rain softly brushing across our faces, our eyes cast up to the mist settling in over the mountain top, our hands and our hearts embraced. I stood still and listened for the voices of the past in the winds sweeping over the land, and truly felt connected to them.
|Clew Bay at low tide, Murrisk, County Mayo|