From friends, family, and casual acquaintances we hear:
“I LOVE Ireland. It’s so green. I’m definitely going someday.”
Yes. It is. It really is as green as everyone imagines it to be. And the cottages, stone fences, and the fields of placidly ruminating sheep, they’re all here. As far as lush natural beauty and a ludicrous wealth of natural splendor are concerned, Ireland is truly blessed. That myth of Ireland does not disappoint.
This past week, as I returned from a conference on the west coast of Ireland, I marveled at a country where you can stare at the Atlantic ocean, hop on a bus, travel the width of the country in a tad over 150 minutes, and stand staring at the Irish Sea. That’s sea to shining sea in 2.5 hours. But the land you’ll traverse during that drive takes generations to truly know.
The island’s noticeable lack of trees, while contributing to the rolling green blanket of countryside can only be fully appreciated when you realize that the scarcity of trees is due not just to the insatiable needs of the islanders, but also to a massive British deforestation campaign that was aimed at denying shelter and refuge to insurgents. In Ireland even the hills have history. The land itself is the oldest pawn in a centuries old political gambit.
Ireland is hard-earned territory. The Vikings, Normans, English and others came, settled for a time, and moved on (or were voted off the island). But vestiges of all of these people persist in the hills and valleys of Ireland. Just beyond the eastern slope of the Wicklow Mountains (south of Dublin) lies Glandalough – two lakes, and a number of battered stone structures nestled deep in a winding green valley. Hundreds of settlements like this dot the Irish countryside. Some are well known and heavily trafficked. Others are known only to families who’ve worked the land for hundreds of years, through good times and bad.
Today Ireland faces economic hard times. But her natural riches are everywhere. I find it an extreme pleasure to fight the onset of city blues with brief forays (in any direction) into the countryside. It’s always a feast for the eyes, and will doubtless be a lesson in Irish history as well.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
Irish Presidential Elections, Politics, and Political Parties