Here's to Old Ireland
Here we are. On the precipice of Spring. The cascade of cliffs leading to the Hayjers are almost green, except for the scattered sprinkle of snow that the sun has been unable to persuade to melt into the sea below. The robins have started to make a casual appearance, having willfully returned from gentler climes. The fishermen are over on the wharf, enthusiastically loading pots aboard the boats. The gannets are on their way back to the Cape, having spent their Winter in the balmy Gulf of Mexico. And alas, it is St. Patrick’s weekend, a time to celebrate the revered and revolutionary St. Patrick of Ireland.
It has been almost twenty one year’s since my love affair with the old sod began. Fr. Peter (Muldowney) had been with us as our parish priest for three years. Having been called back to continue his ministry in his home country, he invited one and all to come and visit, to see the striking beauty he had spoken of so often. Mercia and I decided to take him up on the offer. At the tender age of 20 and never having traveled, we boarded a midnight flight to Dublin on Mother's Day 1996.
As long as I live, I will ever forget the sight of flying over those dazzling green fields for the first time. The green hues were as enchanting as anything I’d ever seen. During that trip, we visited the most famous sights including the towering Cliffs of Moher and whimsical Blarney Castle but what continues to emerge as I remember Ireland over two decades later is the people. Much like us, they were friendly, inquisitive and kind. I was as moved by their accent as they were by ours. I remember hearing an older lady say "school" as we do, rounding her o's into a full circle and immediately recognizing our shared history.
As Chris and I prepare to take another trip to Ireland this Spring, we often get asked, “Why do you keep going back to the same place? Haven’t you seen it all?” During our last trip, we welcomed a new Irish adventure as we climbed the legendary Slievenamon in County Tipperary. The view was astounding and the company even better, as you can see from the pictures above!
So why do we keep going back? We go back because the sense of home that we feel when we step onto that island is extraordinary. Only 250 years ago, the renegade explorer Thomas Nash of Callan, Co. Kilkenny declared his intentions for Branch to be his own and boldly decided to make his home here, as did the Irish men and women who chose all of our communities from Branch to Ship Cove. They chose us and entrusted to us the gifts of language, dialect, stories and traditions that so richly inform our lives today. No, we’re not Irish, definitely not. We are Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans but without the tenacity of those from that hardy country 3269 kilometres across the Atlantic, we wouldn’t be here.
So on these days that celebrate all things Irish, let’s pause for a moment and thank those who came before us, those who entrusted us with words like “whist”, with stories of fairies and with a remarkable ability to persevere.
And something tells me they'd also appreciate it if we remembered their patron saint, St. Patrick, with the prayer of the good saint himself:
I arise today, through The strength of heaven, The light of the sun, The radiance of the moon, The splendor of fire, The speed of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of the sea, The stability of the earth, The firmness of rock.
I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me, God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's shield to protect me.