A Blessing on the Cold

Bendacht for anmmain ferguso. amen. mar uar dom…

“A blessing on the soul of Fergus. Amen. Because I am cold…”

This little musing in Irish is written at the top of an early medieval Latin manuscript composed by an unfortunate scribe forced to continue his work in the stone-walled scriptorium of some remote monastery despite the cold Irish weather. As I find myself stuck in the library, forced to write a term paper as the relentless Irish rain floods the streets of Cork, I empathize with poor Fergus. I’m cold, too.

But—and this may be a controversial statement—it’s the cloudy weather that’s the most beautiful.

Don’t get me wrong, the sun makes for a much more pleasant day, but looking out across the countryside shielded by clouds, you can’t help but envision the great Irish stories taking place here. The armies of Connacht standing under the grey clouds, wind ripping in their ears, as they face Cú Chulainn in his vicious warp-spasmed form. This is the weather of epics, this is the landscape of sagas. Cloudy, fierce, cold perhaps, but awe-inspiring.

I had about a week after my exams ended last semester before my flight back to the states for winter break. My girlfriend came to visit, and we travelled around the south and west of the island to see some of the places we had been wanting to see for months. Number one on the list was the Cliffs of Moher.

As soon as we exited the bus at the Cliffs, we were hit by a powerful wind. I kid you not, it was strong enough to push each of us back a couple feet (our fault for visiting the Cliffs during a level yellow wind warning). It was cloudy, cold, and—I really cannot emphasize this enough—it was windy.

We were still a little drowsy from the Dramamine we took for the 2.5-hour bus ride, and we were freezing and miserable as we fought the wind to make it into the heated visitor center. We barely wanted to leave the building, let alone hike along the edge of a cliff! But once we forced ourselves to brave the wind and push ourselves onto the trail, it was all worth it. It was still cold, still cloudy, but that only made the scene more dramatic.

Shayna and I at the Cliffs. It wasn’t raining—that’s seawater lifted by an updraft.

What must the first Irish settlers have thought thousands of years ago when they came upon this landscape, as they looked out over the brutal cliff faces towards the distant Aran islands with roaring wind pushing them back and cold seawater raining down on them. I wonder if they thought the same thing I did: there is such stark beauty here, this is such a breathtakingly powerful place.

Perhaps it would have been more pleasant in the sun, but no other conditions could have made it any more beautiful.

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