If I could lament one thing about Ireland…they don’t really have licorice here! As Josh said about me, “I’m pretty worried about it.”
I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss my home…yet Ireland continues to delight and surprise. One more day dwindles behind us and the end of our trek speeds ever onward toward us. Soon, this surreal, once-in-a-lifetime treat will be but a fond memory. If you’re reading this, then it’s likely you’ve read my companions’ entries and already have a sense of our experience. I may not write anytime new but perhaps I’ll pose it in such a way as to make it worth your reading. Either way, it should be a different flavor than what you’ve read. I believe in the punchiness of brevity, so in hope that this will mean something to you, I’ll keep it short (and bittersweet). Lucky for you, it will probably turn out lengthy regardless.
As I was saying earlier, Ireland delights and surprises. This lush and verdant green country spills over with visual beauty and stunning architecture, the old bones of the land, still strong. The sense of permanence, of dense time packed long and wide like the ocean floor, is sunk deep into most of what you see. It’s all so untamed, the growth threatening to devour and encroaching everywhere. Here and there, the greenery of the earth violently intersects with the creation of man, creating a pleasing aesthetic of two worlds colliding. Everywhere you go, a pervading history presents itself from every pore of the land. It feels like a real tether that ties things (and the people) together. Never get any feelings like that in the States. The U.S. is a few centuries, a mere toddler! We were inside a carefully crafted and purposeful structure purportedly 5,000 years old, more than 15 times the span of our country. That’s the kind of deep history that this country draws from.
Also, it seems this structure was used for religious purposes. Ireland is also a country deeply religious. It was jarring and altogether alien to tour Belfast, as there is a literal 17 kilometer wall cutting through the heart of the city to mirror the metaphysical wall that separates the Protestants and the Catholics. The divide is full-fledged…there is no real mixing to speak of. The tension was palpable for me…a rather disconcerting feeling, sorrow almost permeating the air. Our driver, Pat, made a couple statements in regard to him being merely a taxi driver, but he was more than that. More than just a witty and humorous tour guide, he was a storyteller. In the Homeric oral tradition, he poured himself into the role. He is a safeguard of the tale, inviting us into the story of the hatred between Protestants and Catholics, keeping it alive and getting the word out to outsiders.
Speaking of people, the people here have been as delightful and surprising as the landscape. They’re the true gold at the end of the rainbow. I love their humor. They’ve all been sharp. They’ve been heroically friendly and welcoming. To put it simply, they’ve been accommodating to the utmost. Thank you for singing your lifesong to us and letting us feel the Irish heartbeat. When the memory of this trip grows dim, I shall still remember you fondly. So here’s to you, Pat, and to you David Martin, Sarah, Mary Rose and David, Carolyn, the people of the Nazarene church, and everyone else we had the honor of sharing time with. May God bless you. Keep Ireland beautiful (and by that I mean “stay alive” 😉 ).