I came to Dublin to escape the mundane. I needed to run far away from the 300 mornings I awoke on North 29th street to the 48 bus barreling past my window. The trash ridden sidewalks that invaded the sanctuary of my stoop; the noise pollution, my never-changing work schedule. I didn’t want to see the same old friends, who drank the same beer at the same bar, talked about the same shit, went to the same school. I needed to fill the pages of my beautiful leather notebook that I’d let sit on my desk collecting dust, unable to spill a word onto the virgin white pages. Necessity for unfamiliar inspiration is nothing new; it took me to New Zealand at 17, the woods of Alaska weeks after graduating high school, living and working on a horse farm in Maryland last summer, and, in between, a copious number of camping trips and music festivals up and down the east coast.
I needed to find the beauty of a new friend, a new place, panoramic landscapes that remind me the world is worth seeing. I knew Dublin was a city of comparable size to my own, but Ireland as a whole is a haven for inspired writing, kind people, and untainted landscapes. Reflecting on the 30 days I’ve spent here, I feel a reawakened itch, enthusiasm; a comfort that rips me out of my bed every morning to excitedly devour the 16 hours days in Dublin.
The city has been somewhat lackluster, but that was an expected reaction not just to Dublin, but any new city. I can’t find beauty in clusters of people, in landscapes plagued by the smell of human waste, entire blocks dedicated to the excessive consumption of food and drink. If I wanted to see humanities perverted need to manipulate, control, use and destroy, I would have stayed in Philly.
Dublin might be highly modern, but it also holds one quarter of the entire Irish population. If stuck, the most remote reaches of the country are accessible by bus within five hours, in any direction. Wake up any given day, any three day weekend, and go see natural wonders and small communities of hospitable folks. All this obtainable beauty allowed me to change direction at a whim and chronicle the journey through written word.
I basically made the sign of the cross through this country in one month; beginning in Dublin on the Eastern Coast, snaking up through the cow pastures of Northern Ireland to Dunegal, cutting west in a rental car full of rambunctious Italian friends to Galway, and finishing my six week adventure with a weekend trip far south to Kerry. A few hour journey that offers a completely different world was unfathomable to me in Philadelphia, but even more impressive were the dramatically different villages and sea towns that were just a few dozen kilometers from Dublin. Howthe, Greystone, Wicklow, Glendalough; these scenic escapes were feasible day trips but always left me feeling completely refreshed and inspired, with a head full of stories and notebook filled with observation.
I have never seen such a diversity of landscape within a country so small. Each journey began by leaving the Westernized city behind where it was immediately forgotten. The surrounding suburbs, in any direction, give way to vast stretches of farm land, docile sheep, cows, horses, donkeys. Farther away becomes even more exotic. Dunegal, or “cowboy country” as a few Dublin teens referred to it, was totally untainted. Large mountains cast shadows on small farm homes tucked neatly in the center of their several acre property. The huge stretches of bogland seemed eerily equatable to a post-apocalyptic world where nothing could grow and no man could live.
The Slieve cliffs, standing 600 meters tall, three times the height of the Cliffs of Moher, brought me face to face with a bighorn sheep. I couldn’t have been more than 8 meters from the edge of the cliff, attempting to climb toward a higher plateau, that apparently had already been claimed as the territory of this beast and his family. A similar standoff happened in Inishmore as I attempted to follow a dirt path which cut across stretches of green fields and maze-like stone walls. A gigantic bull stood 20 meters in front, protecting two heifers behind him. I naively walked toward him, so certain my 150 pound frame would send him running in the opposite direction. Instead he stomped his right leg, brandished his pointed horns, and forced me backward, abandoning the path all together.
On the Cliffs of Moher, my companions and I rebelliously climbed over the wall separating the tourist path from the more treacherous terrain much closer to the cliffs edge. We pretended we could not read, “Caution, Danger, Do not Enter”, in English or Gaelic. As we barreled along the trail we were blasted by more ferocious winds than I’ve ever experienced. We sat nestled on a perch at the absolute edge of the cliffs; threw rocks out into the sea below and picnicked in triumph.
As I dreadfully stare at the calendar, perpetually reminding me the adventure of Ireland is soon over, I have to recall what I learned instead of focusing on what I’ll miss. Summarized by Dublin kids that laughed and said, “Why the fuck would you want to come to Dublin, Ireland, any of it?”, I remember the, “grass ain’t greener, wine ain’t sweeter, on either side of the hill” (Robert Hunter). Everyone figures their hometown is the most boring place on earth, anywhere but here would be nicer, but that self fulfilling prophecy is completely in your own control.
Answering the call to adventure, reawakening the itch to live in the fifth gear of your soul does not inherently mean traveling across the Atlantic Ocean. Philadelphia holds 1.5 million, in over 100 neighborhoods; I might be tired of the two mile stretch between the Art Museum and Temple I call home, but Ireland forced me to remember the world is a gigantic place. A four hour road trip, a 50 minute train to Wissahickon State Park, countless opportunities offer relief from the banal. One new friend, one conversation, one smile can turn a day around and force you to walk with your chin up, anxiously awaiting another moment of unexpected excitement.
It Never Made me Want to Leave
Kaleidoscopic water colored, salted depths of forest green,
Like dinosaur daffodils, jetting out in swords of light.
Garden of God tended only by rain, more brilliant then those more tame.
Cookie-cut houses vomited by chance, all I own I left within.
To ponder stark naked in rays of fire. Not an eye stares back.
The birds busy fighting, flies off the beautiful foal.
Don’t worry cause I’m safe in the wind, as the crooked rim slides down my bridge;
Waiting to go to the home that follows, swaying out toward a cool sea breeze,
He lays in a nest, to find spirits and force, we all lost at birth,
all that ever mattered was finding this place.
Life Lies Beneath the Lake
Propulsive vines of life, scattered along pebble-cladded beaches,
Stretching in every direction, in tangled foundations of a dead mossy tree,
Heaven floats down from the baron peak, and trickles love along the slope cutting creek,
it all ends up and around us, to settle below the lake’s glassy surface,
Without saying a word it tries to answer, all questions unknown which I carried so far,
A cloudy day has never been kinder, nor rain more welcome than now,
to wash away worries and cleanse every kid.
Learn to Smile Again
Natural worlds smile bright, painting the sky with broad silky strokes,
To turn the earth into my own canvas, snow white fluffy lines dancing along,
the clear and untainted baby blue, reminding God’s creatures to stop for a while,
to turn it all off and nestle in the grass,
and allow the suns piercing rays, to permeate deep into forgotten souls,
and for five minutes or the rest of my life, pretend everything has always been O.K.,
The sort of life that pulls you out each morn, from comforted dreams of distant fogged memory,
and rips open shades, to explode in light and color,
and imagine the perfect place to lay around and smile back.
Stand on Top of the World
Swingin’ a sunshine kid in the purple dress of cotton flowers,
acrobatic freaks performing for no one,
as bluebird notes crawl off the strings of some painted mandolin,
orchestrating the lovebirds picnic in their own private garden,
while every pup runs farther from their leash, a soft sun bakes naked bathers,
the only forbidden substance a sad lonely grin.
tall and proud the monument’s unmoved, to watch and protect God’s kids from the world,
a world they turned from to remind them of youth,
and times much freer from the concrete chains,
each blade matters, a place for all men, woman, creatures born for something better,
a bright shining haven to find during life,
remind the hopelessly beat down, that once in a while it’s ok to run,
to pull worries from your pocket and laugh and cry,
and love the mother with enough lovin’ for all,
when all’s overwhelmed and you see nowhere left,
leave your shoes in the grass , and cleanse body and mind in Mother Earth’s garden party.