A year ago—seven weeks after I survived a mild heart attack in St. Louis—my husband and I found ourselves on a vastly different journey and terrain in Ireland.
As I write this sentence, I’m grateful and astonished that we didn’t cancel our plans. We traveled, as intended, to the land my mother’s family emigrated from. To the lush seascapes and heather-covered hills she never visited, but longed to. When Mom died in 2013, I resolved that Ireland was a place I had to see for myself. Proceeding with my plans became even more paramount after my own brush with fate. In the face of my own fragility, I desperately needed to follow through on my Irish adventure.
Brian, our capable and clever CIE Tours guide, was just the man for the job. He entertained us with countless stories and songs of Irish lore as we circled the Emerald Isle clockwise on a coach with forty new friends from Europe, Australia and North America.
Our nine-day excursion was magical: a sojourn to the sixth century and the solitude of monastic life at Glendalough; hypnotic views through a dreamy morning fog at Lough Leane near Killarney; a fascinating immersion into Viking history in Waterford; a glimpse of a natural wonder at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, where piles of hexagonal-shaped, volcano-induced rocks of basalt—supposed stepping stones for legendary giants to walk across the Atlantic Ocean to Scotland—beckoned us; a sheep herding demonstration on the west coast of Ireland near Sligo, where Jack, this trusty border collie prepared to pounce from the thick grass to display his powers of persuasion on his master’s working farm; and a double-decker bus ride and romp through Dublin. That’s where we paused at the Dublin Writer’s Museum and I realized there was at least one more story I simply had to write when I returned home. Something that made sense of our cross-country move from Illinois to Arizona that went awry.
Of course, our Irish adventure included several pints of Guinness and at least one particularly personal and poignant moment. It occurred on one of our last nights in Ireland. We were dining at the Glyde Inn, a family-owned tavern north of Dublin overlooking the Irish Sea.
After I polished off my plate of Irish stew, I spotted an unassuming, elderly woman with thick gray hair combed to the side. She was seated with a few other local townspeople across from us on the other side of the room. She clapped her hands as the fiddler played a jig.
That frail, yet spunky, Irish lady reminded me of my mother.
That’s when I felt the magic of Ireland.
That’s when I realized my Irish adventure was complete.