Thursday, December 24, 2009

On my return from Ireland

The raindrops were beaded like Christmas lights on the clothesline as the dusk fell pearly-grey; the wind shook the palm trees in the damp haze of the streetlights; the waves were heard leaping the beach to scatter detritus on the sidewalk; and I was in the glow of my lamp.

My trip to Ireland, to play chamber music and see friends, was so good, that I'm even happy to be by myself here in rainy Provence in my moldy apartment. As the train rolled closer to "home," the red roofs, scruffy flora, and jagged horizon looked new and welcoming. Not really new, since the land here looks old and the buildings tired, but new as if I was seeing anew. The homecoming that greets a long-traveling daughter, the voyage to a place seen only in the mind's eye never by daylight, the first time opening your eyes fully. "I live here," I told myself, here where walking through the hills feels like walking through an arid movie set.

What drug of new vision did my few days in Ireland give me? Partly that travel-rapture that has eluded me here in France. When I was a student in Paris, visiting Marseille, visiting Chartres, wherever I was, the slightest discovery was thrilling; returning this fall, I felt blase. I even went, very deliberately, to the particular cathedral that I once felt a certain kinship to. But no; nothing.

Now, Ireland. My excitement to go to Ireland was untempered and uncomplicated, and when I got there, I was as delighted as I had been prepared to be. The first day, I took a walk through the countryside. I was in such a rapture that I stopped to stare at chickens.

You may suspect that it would take something more than rain-rich pastures, or even cozy fires and unparalleled hot drinks, to cause such joy. You'd be right.

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