Friday, April 29, 2005

Cowgirl Meets Fridge Philosophy

Before I came to Ireland, one of my dear barn friends gave me a fantastic card. On the cover is a black and white photograph of a woman standing on a horse that's moving at a fair clip. Underneath the photo, it says "A cowgirl gets up early in the morning, decides what she wants to do, and does it." (Marie Lords, 1861) I decided with my fresh start over here, I was going to take Ms. Lords' words to heart. I've tried to be a cowgirl - purposeful, not afraid of taking risks, open to adventure. Sometimes I might be more of a cowpoke, but hey, I'm trying.

I've also decided to incorporate another philisophy into my personal ethos. I just read Tony Hawks' entertaining book Around Ireland with a Fridge, in which he hitchhikes around Ireland with a fridge in order to win a bet. In the course of his amusing adventures, he learned to not worry, to make choices and then let what was going to happen, happen. It's hard to do, especially for someone like me who has a Black Belt in worrying.

So, today, I decided to put the new Cowgirl Fridge philosophy to work for me. I had an outing to Greystones and Bray, two coastal towns that are on our shortlist of potential home-buying locations. When I got to Pearse Station, I tried to pay for my ticket with a 20 euro note. The ticket seller asked me if I had anything smaller than that because otherwise, he'd have to give me my change entirely in coins. I didn't relish the thought of having seven 2-euro coins clanging around in my pocket. I zipped into the adjoining Spar, grabbed a soda, a newspaper and candy bar and then went back to the ticket window, where I was just edged out by a doddering elderly couple who asked about 47 questions about the train to Howth. I could hear my train rattling into the station as I stepped up to the window.

When I had my ticket, I dashed up the stairs and made it to the platform just in time to see the doors close. Bad news - the train was going to Greystones. Worse news - the next Greystones-bound train was scheduled to arrive in 30 minutes. I was getting ready to mentally complain and berate the elderly couple and the ticket seller and every red light that conspired to make me miss my train. But then, I took a deep breath and settled onto a fairly comfortable bench and read the paper. It was actually kind of relaxing and by not worrying about the time, I didn't stress myself out. The train came eventually and you know what, the town was still there when I arrived.

After a nice walking tour of Greystones, I took the train to Bray. I was pretty hungry at this point, since it was after 3:00 and I hadn't had lunch yet. I wandered the streets of Bray's city centre, searching for some sort of pub lunch, but I was coming up empty. I got smart and went out to the water front, where there were more opportunities, but nothing was catching my eye (or my stomach). I kept walking and walking, eventually ending up at the end of the promenade without finding a suitable lunch venue. I was about to get crabby, but then I decided to have an ice cream cone and do a little bit of the cliff walk.

As I walked up the steep hill to the start of the cliff walk, I looked back on Bray. The town was strung out along the shoreline, the pastel-colored buildings reminded me of a child's blocks. The tide was in and a fine curtain of mist hung over the far side of the bay, just enough to make Howth look a bit mysterious. The sun was shining down on all of this and the birds were singing and it was just one of those random perfect moments.

After my walk, I gave one of the pubs a try. It was now dinner time, but that was okay. Everything worked itself out in the end.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Mother of All Reverse Commutes

Well, strictly speaking, this can't really be called reverse-commuting, since I won't be going back and forth in regular intervals. But my move to Ireland is a reverse-something. Reverse-immigration perhaps.

Sometime in the middle of the 1800's, I want to say 1860-ish but I could be wrong and I am sure a family historian will correct me, my paternal grandmother's grandmother came to America from Northern Ireland. She was born there when the area was firmly part of Britain and she was reportedly fond of saying "If a cat had kittens in the oven, it wouldn't make them biscuits."

Sadly, my grandmother was the keeper of our family's lore and she's gone now so I can't ask her why her grandmother came to America. Maybe it was because of food scarcity or job scarcity or any-sort-of-decent-life-prospects scarcity. It had to have been difficult to live in a country where discrimnation against Catholics was not just legal, it was practically encouraged. I can only guess at my great-great-great grandmother's reasons for immigrating. I can only imagine what the journey must have been like.

Comparatively, my journey was a snap. Six and a half hours wedged into an uncomfortable seat on an Aer Lingus Airbus and then viola, I was here. But why? Why walk away from a perfectly decent life? I'm not an economic migrant or a political refuge by any stretch of the imagination. I'd make more money in the US and have a lower cost of living. Irish politics aren't really better than American politics, they're just different. There seems to be a fair bit of corruption around these parts.

So why am I here? Believe me, I was asking that question a lot the first two days or so. I don't think I can encapsulate my reasons into one tidy answer. It has something to do with being closer to Peter's family and his dearest friends. It has something to do with trying out something completely different, the challenge and excitement and nearly-keel-over fear of staring at a blank slate, a fresh start.

I wonder what my grandmother and my great-great-great grandmother are making of this. Do they think I'm making a mistake? Are they pleased that I'm putting down roots in their homeland? I wish I knew.

Could it be that this will turn out to be a "grass is always greener" situation? Sure it could. But it will be fun finding out.