In May 1995, Kate, her dad and I traveled to Ireland. Best I can tell, we visited some of the places where my ancestors lived and then left about 150 years before.
As vacations go, this was a difficult one, with relationship issues magnified by the rainiest, coldest, stormiest spring days local residents could remember in decades. Nonetheless, we did experience some amazing places. Glendalough, where you can still see the monks’ “beehive” shelters. The Cliffs of Moher, so high and clear the poets say you can see tomorrow. A bed-and-breakfast in County Wicklow that gave us bottomless cups of tea and kindness. And one of the most poignant museums I’ve ever visited, the Heritage Center in Cobh.
At the height of the Irish flight to the U.S. following the Great Famine, Cobh, then Queensland, was a primary port of departure. Families would come by train to bid their loved ones goodbye. Knowing they likely would never see each other again in their lifetimes, they held “American wakes,” singing and keening and sharing the sadness. Neither those staying nor those leaving knew what was ahead. The background audio throughout the museum captures that emotion.
I’ve realized in the years since visiting Ireland what a gift it is that we cannot see too far into our future, at times. For if we knew, we might not go. And if we didn’t, our intended lives might not open.
Here’s to the inner vision that carries us past the point of no return.
Photo: The Cliffs of Moher (photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons)