If ever there were a moment to be speechless, it has found me.
I’ve been back from Ireland for just under a month. And, every time I’ve sat down to write, or even think about writing, what this trip is, was, and forever will be in my mind, life, and sobriety, I am struck dumb.
Incredible is hardly the word to encapsulate this adventure of epic proportions. But, these days, I find that searching for the perfect word, to build a perfect sentence, just isn’t worth the time. More important, is that I spill my heart. And, that is what I’ve learned to do. I say learned only because after returning from Ireland, I discovered that I am only a mere pupil. Learning my world and learning myself. And, I suppose I knew all that before. I knew I was on a quest, I knew I was seeking. But, before going to Ireland, I always thought I knew what I sought to find, it was just a matter of finding it. Abroad, I learned that if I truly let go of every notion that I’ve painted in my mind, and I mean, truly let go, releasing every ounce of expectation and control. I mean, go forth blindly and bravely into something, into anything, with utter trust that you are meant to be where you are in time and space, no matter what the outcome. If I can do that, there is a freedom beyond any expectation I had previously.
I left a girl. Huddled in a hoodie on the plane. Recycled air blowing on my freshly showered head. My tray table up, my seat belt buckled, and the overhead compartment shut. In my carry-on bag, stowed securely below the seat in front of me, were my books on Ireland. Maps. Snacks. A beach book. Magazines. Crap. Lots and lots of crap to comfort a crazed and giddy child.
I landed at Shannon airport at 9AM Ireland time, and I knew then, that there wasn’t a book on Earth that could help me. I waited on line at the car rental pick-up, waiting for, yes, a car, but also the keys. I would start a vehicle in a new, strange, and magical world. I would drive on the left, in a car fueled by petrol, while I fueled myself with strange European lattés from a magical machine that the locals seemed to favor wherever espresso was involved.
I would wind down roads so beautiful, and become happily lost to the rest of the world. I would meet strange characters, attend AA meetings equipped with brogues and the fastest renditions of the Lord’s prayer and the serenity prayer that I have ever heard. I would scratch my rental car on my second day there, so severely, that in my old life, in my old world, my trip would have been ruined and wrought with fear and regret. Instead, I drove on.
I drove into rain. I sat in pubs, sipping lonely cups of coffee and wishing my mother, father, Lars, anyone, was at my side talking to me. I wandered aimlessly down streets with little shops that held little women with little knick-knacks. I climbed a mountain that tested my limits, and upon reaching it’s summit, discovered who I am, what I am made of, and what is truly important.
I, myself, stood in an Irish cloud beside a white church, almost lost in the mist. I watched sheep bleat and scatter in driving rain. I learned that photos can only say so much.That stopping to snap them, we truly become tourists. So, I learned when to set the camera down, and when to step out on the edge and live. I learned that there is nothing more sad than being a tourist in your own life. A photo is nice. A paper memory here or there is a sweet remembrance. But, breathing the air, seeing the clouds move across clear, perfect skies, only to merge and form sheets of rain so thick you eventually just allow them to wrap around you like an Aran sweater. Now those moments, those are the gems in your pocket.
Alone, I let everyone go.
No use wishing for what isn’t there. No use wanting for what can’t be had, at least for now. Loneliness is not so horrible when you accept it is the reality. And, before long, each stone along each beach I walked down became a story teller. Each lamb, screaming its complaint, became the nagging friend that eventually, through persistent whining, makes you laugh as hard as your neurotic cat.
If you are not near your physical home, there is no other home to go to than the one in your heart.
And, among mountains whose peaks kissed the lips of God, flawless, unblemished skies, beaches where the ocean bleeds seamlessly into the crystal blue horizon, there I made my home. And there I found that I needn’t ever miss what is in my heart, because, my heart is wherever I am, and it can carry an infinite load.
I sat, thinking how to write to you, dear readers, about this trip. Day by day? City by city? Lesson by lesson?
There is no way to write it. So, suffice it to say, I am changed in ways predicted and unfathomable.
And, after a glorious time away, I am back. Here, in Portland, Oregon.
Home. Alive as ever. Here in my heart.