I always have difficulties with “reflections.” Thoughts and images that seem so bright and flexible in my mind stiffen when I write them down. On the page, heartfelt feelings become artificial.
So instead, I’m going to write about the Connemarathon. The Connemarathon is a race that takes place every year in, yes, Connemara, a wild and rugged landscape less than an hour from my front door in the city Galway. In April, I ran the half-marathon alongside my husband. Thousands of people from around the world crowded the winding roads to run the half, full or ultra marathon (39.3 miles) over the course of the morning. The weather that day was perfect for running: surprisingly dry and mild, but with a refreshing bout of drizzle in the middle. I am a slow runner (I was lapped by marathoners and ultra-marathoners), but I’d trained, and felt confident I would finish. After the race, we sat on the grass and ate soup and sandwiches with the other finishers, and watched the Kenyan winner give an interview to the Irish press. Then we went home on the bus, sweaty but self-satisfied, and I hobbled around Galway with a smug grin for the rest of the week.
The Connemarathon, in its own way, exemplifies what my year in Ireland was all about. The intense beauty of the course confirmed an insight I’ve suspected from my time in the west of Ireland: that my eyes will never tire of bog, heather, and lambs. But the race meant so much more to me than that. I’m a non-athlete (and the family klutz) and wanted to run an intense race to test my boundaries and comfort zone. My year in Ireland started from that same motivation. I had a terrific path in New York – working as a lawyer in New York – but I wanted to try something new and uncertain. (That uncertainty continues – I still have no idea where I’ll be living when my course finishes in August.) Like the half-marathon, in my year as a Mitchell, I found that challenging myself and shaking up preconceptions of my limits, is actually pretty fun. Not fun in the VH1 meaning of the word, but in the deep satisfaction every person gets from having achieved something she thinks is worthwhile.
I suppose this process of reflecting has its own pleasures as well. “A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness,” George Santanaya once said. “[H]appiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.”