As I said “I do” at Dun na Sead Castle in Baltimore, Co. Cork, my life forever changed. Ireland was no longer a picturesque window into the past or a battle against modernity. It was, instead, the culmination of every childlike dream. I saw the world through the eyes of Joyce and Wilde. I no longer felt embarrassed that I shamelessly requested Galway Girl in Kilkenny, or that I incorporated “cheers” into my daily American dialect. Because, for me, Ireland is far more than any reading of Ulysses or the most pristinely perfect accent on earth. Ireland is a delicate step on a cobblestone road. It’s rich, chocolatey coating on your taste buds with each intoxicating breath of Guinness. It’s using “like” after every sentence and “slÌÁinte” with every drink. As I envision Ireland, I think back to my mother’s corned beef and recite Steve Earle lyrics. I compare every American beer to my first taste of Guinness or Murphy’s. I wear a Trinity College sweater and a flat cap far more than is socially acceptable. I love every inch of Ireland, from the ubiquitously rolling hills to the impossible parking in the Galway City Centre.
Ireland, however, means so much more to me than all of that. It is the fact that every time I close my eyes I am instantly transported and immediately in love. It grants me solemnity in a busy and chaotic world. It transforms all of the finicky obstacles that so often tear us down into mere speed bumps. In Ireland, there is no judgment, no anger, no negativity. It is humanity all around at its most fundamental state of mind — the state that Plato envisioned as the original thought.
My wedding was beautiful. I knew no one in Ireland. I had never heard of the tiny seaport town of Baltimore. Yet as I wrote my vows, I unknowingly incorporated the unspeakable vastness of it — from its lush history to its calming sea air. As my fiancé and I pulled our miniature rental car up to the castle that is forever cemented into my memory, I felt a new level of adoration for the world. Theretofore my world had consisted of lovely things: books, music, tea, sunshine and the girl standing next to me. Thereafter it became something far more grandiose and exemplary. It became a world that is simultaneously nostalgic and progressive. It brought back so many memories that I didn’t know existed outside the little bubble I called life. After leaving that great country I decided that life was not as complete without it. I was all in. Whether or not I ever call it home, it has a place in my heart that transcends my physical location on earth. So, one morning I put on my Trinity College sweater and flat cap, and walked out into my little corner of America. I saw litter on the sidewalk that is remarkably absent in Ireland. I bent down slowly, and picked it up. I walked with my dog down that isolated road knowing for just a moment, as I try to make my world a little more beautiful, on the other side of someone else’s they hold up a pint of Guinness, and with that brogue exclaim with every facet of their being, “slÌÁinte.”
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