Something I have noticed (and very much liked, as a Northern Californian through and through): Irish people will get in the water even when it’s freezing. A few weeks ago, I walked to the Poolbeg Lighthouse, where I met a group of friendly elderly men who were part of the Half Moon Swimming and Water Polo Club, playing in the icy sea. Another day, I took the DART out to Killiney. The train flew along the coast, suspended above an ocean so vibrant and perfect. I looked out and saw surfers, slick and black like seals, in the weak green light. I climbed up Killiney Hill as night was falling down between the trees and borrowed a strangers’ binoculars to see if I could still spot them paddling into the bight.
This DART ride reminded me very much of something I did often in my last year in Los Angeles: take the bus out to Malibu for an hour and a half, trundling along PCH, seeing truckloads of surfers bobbing in the waves as the sun came up. Actually, many things in Ireland remind me of Malibu, Los Angeles, California in general, despite the fact that the two landscapes are so fundamentally different. It’s not really that the two places look like each other, surfer example aside. Los Angeles is this big polluting city, situated in one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, in reach of the mountains and desert and the water all at once. Ireland, on the other hand, is a monotone fresh and green. Perhaps LA and Ireland’s only similarities are their extreme weather patterns (rain and wind, to me, is an extreme weather pattern, as are wildfires, of course).
View out the DART window during the trip out to Killiney.
Mainly, both places make me feel overwhelmed that they are so beautiful, and strange that they may be gone soon, and grateful I got to be alive to see them. In my poetry, I’ve been writing a lot about climate change and how it feels very mystic. One of my Irish friends told me about the disappearing beach on Achill Island. One day all the sand went away and then years later it came back all at once. Another Irish friend talked about how the Irish government is banning the burning of natural fuels such as peat; her grandparents have lived on a peat bog for years, drawing life from it, preserving food in it, bodies, harnessing its magics. I went to a Hist Debate called “This House Would Leave Space to the Aliens” and heard arguments about how we should not treat Earth as a back-up planet and should instead re-invest in it instead of flying Jeff Bezos into the stratosphere. At all these points, I was reminded of Los Angeles and having to have an evacuation bag packed, and seeing plumes of smoke in Malibu and helicopters carrying great gourds of water to them from a nearby lake, and hearing about my friend’s parents, who are veterinarians in the Central Valley, having to lead their horses into the trailer one by one, slowly and calmly, as fires were bearing down upon them.
I feel that these Dublin/LA experiences are somehow connected, but I’m not quite sure how yet. What I can come up with right now is that I am encountering new kinds of weather to deal with, imagining new ways we might treat the Earth. Ireland is doing this work for me, as did Los Angeles, because they are both so heartbreakingly, brutally pretty.
Photo of a wildfire that I took out the plane window during my flight from California to Dublin.