Picking up my story with Sunday, which would be the third day of my trip …
Having slept much better on Saturday night than on Friday, I felt quite a bit more cheery on Sunday (not to say that I was blue on Saturday, but rather tired, a little stressed from the driving and getting lost, and with my eating disrupted. If you know me well, you’ll know that the great revelation of my solo trip in summer 2003 was that relatively regular eating, drinking and sleeping are necessary for me to keep things on an even keel. This doesn’t mean I can’t travel, it just means I am wise to watch it and not over- or under-do things particularly on trips). Another advantage of being anywhere a second day is that you get a sense of the rhythms of that place, and such. Apparently the storms I was experiencing on Saturday (as my little car was rained, and then sleeted upon), along with the rest of the West of Ireland, were quite unusual and extreme. There was even a lightning storm over the bay, which I’m sorry to say I missed seeing. Imagine the pictures! And, I gather from my B&B host, they nearly never get lightning or thunder. In fact, there was a feature in Monday’s paper about some guys surfing some huge waves off the coast of Donegal (it seems there is a man doing a documentary about Irish surfing). On Sunday things had evened out a bit though there was intermittent rain: 15-30 minutes of rain, followed by 30-60 minutes of clear skies. You can actually just watch the rain clouds blow in off the sea, and see the clear skies as the cloudbreaks sweep over as well. Armed with this knowledge, it’s much easier to stay dry and warm, and thus, happy. Finally knowing the signs of imminent showers, I’d cut and take cover anywhere that seemed reasonable until it blew over, which seemed to be the practice of most folks; a rain jacket and an umbrella are all well and good, but the winds were very strong and getting soaked seemed an inevitability if you insisted on walking around in the open.
Sometimes these destinations were more sustainable than others. My first shelter was the colonnade of the High Court building (closed as it was Sunday). While I waited out the rain, a garbage truck pulled up to the curb. The driver set the flashers and walked over to check the municipal bin in the courtyard right in front of me. He then proceeded over to me and remarked, “There’ll be no court today. They’re closed for Sunday” — which I think was his opening to start into what was clearly an issue that was of great importance to him, observance of the Sabbath; specifically, Sunday isn’t really – and couldn’t be – the Sabbath day, despite Christian tradition, which is why he had no objection to working on it. When he encountered no resistance from me on that point (actually I rather egged him on with some factoid I recently picked up as to why worship got moved to Sundays to start with), he plunged into a thoughtful, wide-ranging exegesis, amply supported by Scripture, on (as mentioned) the origin of the Sabbath, the creation of the world, the co-existence of God and science, and the Catholic Church (and a Synod the date & place of which I should remember from my medieval history classes, but don’t right now). We tossed the ball back and forth for a bit. It was really quite extraordinary. All the while his truck idled away.
Obviously the following can’t apply to everyone in Ireland – but apparently it is true for many – that people really love to talk here, as I have often read and heard in the past. Now, I don’t mean necessarily to rattle on junior-high-style for hours with anything that crosses your mind (usually on the phone, right, with your best friend, like, as soon as you get home from the mall) – but to tell stories, to discuss, to play with language. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it. Every time I’ve fallen into these conversations it’s like a little gift. Furthermore, apparently what you might call the Irish sense of humor was preserved in my antecedents even more than I realized, because it all feels familiar to me.
The whole time talking with your man the garbageman (as they’d say here … anyone you don’t know is just ‘your man there’), I kept thinking to myself, ‘This conversation would be completely impossible and improbable anywhere but here,’ and was reminded of the scene at the train station in the Quiet Man. I was delighted; he obviously didn’t want to quarrel or hail down condemnation, but to engage. Having frequently felt that my impassioned and energetic ‘discuss’ was interpreted as a difficult and argumentative ‘quarrel’ in the past, I’m rather sympathetic to that myself and grateful when that’s not the case. He was just what this lonely American girl needed, a real conversation and a real cultural experience (and he made some good points too).
I hope I haven’t inadvertently made him sound like a kook, because he was anything but; really, more of your Average Joe you might say, going to work and to the pub, just your average day to day. I feel like Americans in particular so often get the heebie-jeebies if anyone actually integrates the Bible into their real life, or talks about it, or God, as a matter of course (I am excluding the fire and brimstone street sermons, or explicit religiosity, and thinking more about the day-to-day of just somebody, anybody); perhaps that’s common everywhere in the world, I don’t know. There are kooks with Bibles, to be sure — and plenty of kooks without them; just like there are kind, sane, reasonable people both with and without Bibles. People have bad experiences with religion and religious folks; I myself have had a few, and am no fan of boxing anyone up, much less putting God in a box, which often seems the end result of religion to me (to do an extreme gloss on my opinions on that subject). Judgment meted out often results in judgment returned; hypocrisy stinks; watch out for your own log, forget the toothpick; etc. Anyway, all that mess just makes me feel sorry and kind of sad. Jesus had plenty to say on these subjects, and I’ll leave you to ferret it out of the Gospels yourself, should you so choose, as it is time for breakfast and I am so hungry… how does that keep happening, when I was so full last night?
Sunday afternoon will have to wait for another post, it’ll be a long one – lots of stories to relay.