I like a slab of butter on a slice of soda bread, but I especially loved the toasted cheeses that sustained me on my late-90’s summer study trip to Ireland. It rained, a lot—enough that even the Irish commented—but I didn’t mind. I stayed with a lovely host family, but never warmed up to black pudding.
I remember a young girl, suitcase beside her, singing a parting song from the doorway of a pub. I remember sturdy hooker boats ripping through Galway Bay, the mystique of the Aran Islands, the towering Cliffs of Moher. In Glencolmcille, I stood at the ocean, thinking of my family across the water, but somehow, I felt at home in this place beyond the pale, where Gaelic had never been lost.
Pre-cell phone, driving (on the left side of the road) across the country; walking Grafton Street in bustling Dublin; visiting the colorful port town of Cobh. The stone forts, the castles, the stunning landscape, the history.
I later taught an Irish Literature elective to high schoolers and would start Day #1 by soliciting Irish stereotypes: inevitably, students would mention the drink, the luck, and the craic. Then we’d crack open Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization. A compelling thesis! Just to say, there’s more to the Irish than long stories and leprechauns.
But hey, it’s St. Patrick’s Day—dye a river green! You there in McCluskys, McGillins, and Murphs, raise a pint! And then maybe read on . . .