An Idyllic Irish Year

This spring’s schedule has been a whirlwind for me, and I still have over a month remaining in Ireland, but this last Mitchell blog post has suddenly thrust me into a mode of reminiscence. Not to worry – I hail from country music’s capital and have now lived in Ireland for nearly a year, so I’m quite familiar with the art of nostalgia.

Part of me wanted to write about a singular experience I’ve had that yielded special lessons and insights. There have been a few of those, to be sure: our sit-down with Senator Mitchell at the Shelbourne, an extended talk with an elderly sheep farmer in Co. Kerry over tea and apple tart, and a recent Dublin play at the Abbey about the Troubles, among others. But this year is a great, big bucket of anecdotes – some trivial, some meaningful – that all play a role in shaping my Irish experience.

I’ll miss the sheep. And the emerald, Eden-esque countryside. And the long train rides watching both of these co-exist. I’ll miss the Beef and Guinness pie; the Digestives; the poached eggs at Queen of Tarts; Bewley’s coffee; O’Donnell’s chips (“crisps”); the cool breezes; and the piping sound of the fiddle at a local pub, with countless voices humming in accord.

Co. Kerry sheep farm

I shall bring the endless Irish tropes and phrases back to America with me – and try to re-enact the classic humor therein. I will use the example of the people here, lacking of pretension and always self-effacing, to keep me level-headed.

Perhaps the Irish inclination to prioritize a pint or a good, friendly conversation over the completion of the next ‘task’ is the underlying basis for their legendary procrastination. Whatever the reason, I’ll miss procrastinating with impunity. Indeed it was Oscar Wilde who said: “I never put off till tomorrow what I can do the day after.”

How could I not forget the people? I’ve found meaningful fellowship at my church congregation, with fellow students in my program, with colleagues at work, and with the lads on the UCD *American* football team (it cringes me to have to clarify it … by the way they’re off to the first 4-0 start in school history). I’ve found community with the other Mitchells. One of the truly great benefits of this year, besides the traveling and all else, is the friendships that are forged among our group of twelve. I cannot wait to see where my friends go from here and all the change they will make through their lives and careers.

After a recent road trip down to Dingle, my grandmother sent me the transcripts of a couple of short stories that her mother – my great-grandmother – wrote upon journeying to the same area some decades ago. True to her Irish ancestry, “Maymommy,” as we fondly called her, could work wonders with a pen. While imagining her potential Irish cottage home, she writes: “I am not familiar with the seasons in Ireland … the wind would always be at my back, wouldn’t it? The soft Irish rains would keep my valley verdant and provide sustenance for my sheep, my livelihood and company, since that seems to be the going preoccupation. Really, it appears to be an idyllic life.”

Slea Head, Dingle

Indeed, it has been an idyllic year. The scenery and way of life has imparted serenity. The company and community has been rich. I’ve read more, I’ve reflected more, and I’ve learned. Assumptions have been challenged, and in some cases upended. Meaningful new relationships have been forged. I know I’ll take these experiences back with me: experiences that will hopefully set the stage for further progress and make a difference in my life and others’ too.

Cheers, Ireland.

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