I finally did it.
My (admittedly mild) goal of touching something older than the United States finally came in the form of an Irish castle that had very little in the way of description or formal marking. These enormous stone ruins were found in a nondescript field that had little aside from a couple lounging in the grass and some dogs playing at their feet. Nobody seemed to give much care about the castle.
A few yards away from them, I could feel my memory recording every detail of the time I stood in its midst. As I walked through the building’s skeleton, I thought of the conversations of gossip, jokes, or politics that must have taken place within these walls centuries ago. I was fascinated. As I left the room, I asked one of my companions about what this place was called.
“I’m not sure,” she replied. “It’s just some castle.”
A quick search on Google Maps revealed that it was, indeed, just “some castle.” The casualness of it all and the utter lack of information surrounding the place didn’t leave my mind for the rest of the day. How could people live amongst such astounding history with the same sense of indifference one might take towards having multiple banks in your neighborhood? Perhaps it’s merely the natural byproduct of living in a world saturated by these relics.
Coming from Kansas, our greatest sources of excitement are typically focused on what’s new in town. Merely an ocean away, the most common tangible forms of “ancient history” in my life might come in the form of an old tractor or a disconnected payphone. That day, however, the idea of living in a country where there are pubs that have served pints since before the United States was even an idea, let alone a nation, finally sunk in. Although the varying levels of COVID-19 lockdowns have prevented much of us within the Mitchell cohort from exploring a lot of what Ireland has to offer, the lesson that the presence of these ancient buildings strewn across the rolling green hills remains: time simply trudges on.
Although it hardly needs to be said, 2020 has been an incredibly unique year to move to a new country. Watching the consequences of wide-scale political upheaval, record-setting hurricanes and wildfires, and the continuing devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic has hardly been easy to do away from friends and family. At times, the onslaught of this year has felt so unprecedented that it feels like maybe the world is, in fact, ending. But in the days and nights that I can explore my own corners of Ireland overwhelmed and amazed, standing in the aftermath of such great history has been a continually surprising source of immense comfort.
This land has persevered through its own set of plagues, revolutions, and conflicts. Even after a few turbulent weeks in Ireland, I’m confident that we can all do the same.