At first, it will just look green. All of it. It drips with green, it crawls with it. Two nights in and you’ll be dreaming in green, you won’t know another color. I’m telling you, wait a little. Look a little harder. The country is screaming with color, colors I could not have dreamt even in a most vivid dream.
Ireland was the first country I traveled to, and that was no accident. I always wanted it to be so. I promised myself the first non-American soil I touched would be the land of my ancestors, the land I felt was mine before I even met it.
There’s another thing about Ireland. It wants you. Oh how lovely, the elation one feels when that thing that is wanted… wants you back! So swallow a pint and stifle that jet lag and start looking for the color of which I speak. I’ll give you some tips.
In Dublin the city sings like a fine, steady note that never dares to stop. The people are without a doubt the most colorful thing to be encountered there, but take a walk and you’ll find more cause to celebrate. From the window boxes of the Shelbourne Hotel (famously bombed in 1976 during “The Troubles”) to the flags that hang from the windows of your favorite pub (one of mine is Madigan’s on O’Connell St.) all the way to the pearly silver of the Spire of Dublin (lovingly called “the Stiletto in the Ghetto” or “Stiffey on the Liffey” by locals), I reckon that something hollers out at you and begs you to stay.
Follow the color southward to find more unthinkable beauty. In Co. Kerry the ocean whistles from down below the cliffs, it’s blue and it’s true and if it wasn’t so cold I’d have leapt in. In a parking lot at the cusp of the Ring, I met a gypsy man and his collections of animals. The wind chill might have frozen me to the bone, but for approximately 25 minutes I help a baby black lamb close against me and smelled the top of its tiny, woolly head. Finally the man extricated the precious thing from my grasp. If I had the ability to smuggle it through customs, don’t test me–I would have.
From there it was Tipperary with Cashel Rock and the best chicken coujons I ever had the privilege to shove into my mouth after hours of hiking the emerald hills (Lady Swell is the place to lunch, I assure you.) Standing underneath the withered and weathered castle of Cashel was spooky and raw. I heard a million voices but could not discern a word. I still think about it sometimes–everything echoed, history dripped from the walls like honey.
Across the border to Northern Ireland we went, traveling on the heels of Brexit. The city of Belfast felt English and wise; I loved it, but it did not sing like Dublin. Perhaps it chanted instead. All the voices of dissension, shrapnel from old bombs still leaving us deaf to the music. The murals, the politics, the Harland and Wolff cranes that loom above the River Lagan–heavy with history, with life and death.
It wasn’t all green–it was a litany of all good colors, purposefully mixed and married to represent a country so lively and honest I still wonder how I ever found it in me to leave it. The water is bluer, the sky the most crisp, the tea is more steeped, and the stout is much darker–to match my hangover in the morning.