Well, last week’s post seemed to stir up a bit of interest on all sides of the issues, not least of which was my use of the word “hate”. Many of the people who left comments felt that after living in Dublin for only a month, hate was too strong a word for me to use with any credibility. Now it strikes me as very odd that the validity of an emotional response would, could, should, or ought to be measured on a calendar. Regardless, I’m curious to see if I get any sincere comments taking me to task for using the word “love” in this week’s title. To anyone thinking along those lines, let me just say that I tried out “Five Things About Dublin Ireland That Make Me Excessively Ecstatic”.
Number Five: The Weather
When I tell most Dubliners that I love the weather here, they look at me as if to say, “We really should stop giving visas to the insane”. But I have both personal and objective reasons for loving the weather in Ireland.
First of all, even in the dog days of summer, temperatures in Ireland are generally pretty mild. It may rain almost daily, and is usually cloudy for at least part of every day. But partly cloudy means it’s partly sunny, and often that’s just enough to dry things off without making them hot.
Secondly, when it does rain, it hasn’t been (so far) the frog strangling, sewer-flooding cloudbursts I experienced while living in Florida, or the thunder and lightning laden tornadic micro-apocalypses from my time in the American Midwest. The rain in Dublin (again, so far) has been pretty mild, and the wind has been steady and cooling. Perceived humidity (thanks to low temperatures, and regular breezes) is often non-existent.
But the main reason that I love Irish weather is that it is largely responsible for the lush clean, green environment.
Number Four: The Environment
One of the first things I noticed about life in Ireland is just how green, lush, and alive the whole country seems to be. Even in downtown Dublin, which by rights ought to be choked with smog, the air (even on cloudy days) looks, smells, and tastes remarkably clear. In the “hot months” of summer, the grass is still green and things continue to bloom.
I know this is not unique to Ireland. I’ve experienced this vibrant lush life in other places, such as Seattle, Maine, and Galician Spain. But this makes my list of things I love about Dublin and Ireland because I think it’s largely responsible for the good feelings that people (visitors and locals alike) carry with them once they’ve spent time here.
In our over stimulated world, with too many cars, gadgets, and billboards, it’s hard not to feel really good about a place that, on balance, just looks nice, and affords you the opportunity to breathe clean air. You cannot help but feel good when you live somewhere that daily forces you to simply stop for a moment, take a look around, and marvel at the world around you. Living in such a place changes everything.
Number Three: Sense of History
From the Neolithic Age through the Celtic Tiger experience, Ireland has been a crossroads of conquest. Vikings, Normans, Celts, Google executives, and others have all plundered, pillaged, and left their legacy in the form of stone walls, castles, battlements, abbeys, crypts, bridges, illuminated manuscripts, and glass/chrome office towers all across the Republic of Ireland. Yet through it all, Ireland has fought for, and now maintains, its independence, having fashioned a proud, distinctly Irish identity for itself.
And, while there are many who would relegate Ireland’s past to history books alone, one cannot walk through Dublin, or Waterford, or Knowth/New Grange and not realize how important Ireland’s past is to its present sense of identity. It’s clear to anyone (who more than just passes through) that living in Ireland means living with Ireland’s past. In ways both big and small, history has worked its way into the very fabric of daily life in Ireland.
Number Two: Cultural, Social, and Political Awareness
In general, most of the locals I’ve met while living in Ireland seem to have a fairly high level of social and political awareness. Irish society seems to be fairly engaged and aware of current issues of national policy and politics. And, above all else, the Irish seem to have thought about how these issues will affect not just them, but others, and, down the line, the country as a whole.
I’ve heard that Ireland has an extremely high per capita rate of newspaper readership. But it should come as no surprise that the country that brought us Beckett, Joyce, Wilde, Synge, and Shaw should be a nation engaged, enraged, and moved to action by the written word. It’s part of their heritage.
That said, what surprises me most about the Irish social consciousness is the effect that this level of awareness has on me. Because the Irish are so engaged, I’m called to know more. A high level of engagement is obviously important to the Irish. Why? On a day-to-day basis, what does it do for them? What are the issues that move them? Their awareness gives me even more of a reason to chat with people, and to meet my new neighbors on a somewhat deeper level than just ubiquitous weather chat.
Number One: Laid Back & Easy Going Attitude
Maddening as it can be, one of the best things about Ireland is the laid back easygoing nature of the Irish. I still contend that on a moment-to-moment basis many people in Ireland are content to do their best at a job, but aren’t compelled to perpetually push things to the next level of excellence. But I also see the value of living in a culture where you aren’t seen as weak if your singular focus is not being the next Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, or J.K. Rowling.
It’s all well and good to strive to better yourself, but there is a balance to be struck between doing your level best and manic self-improvement solely for the sake of outdistancing your real or perceived competition. A great deal of personal energy is preserved when you stop worrying so much about having to be on top.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
- A Brief History of Immigration
The Logistics of International Moving