Coming out of the sky after an overnight flight you might have several layers of clouds to go through, forty-five thousand feet is the highest you remember ever being. Those spaces between layers are crystalline and pure, mist that reminds you of the stories of knights and fairies. The light reminds you why you like to photograph in natural light. You might find yourself getting up before the sun while you’re here. Gliding out of the sky down to the runway you see little islands in the Irish Sea. You can picture the skirmishes between the Romans and the Celts, the travels of Christian monks to bring their word to the ancient people of this isle. This Emerald Isle. Green. Really, really green. You might suspect that they treat the grass with a shade of the color you’ve never seen before. A very good friend warned you that you’ll see shades of green you’ve never seen before. You suspect she’s right.
Airports, at least the ones you’ve seen, are becoming very similar. You deplane, find your way to the bus or whichever convenience you’re to use to get you where you’re going. Today you’re taking the 747 which deposits you a block or so from the hotel. It’s a quick walk, but all you can do is look around and soak up the sights, smells, and feel of the place.
You look at the faces…
The first thing you notice about the faces in Dublin is that a lot of them fit the description “hard-scrabble”. Especially when you walk by the taxi stands. Cigarette stains more than their teeth, yellowish spots are on the fingers and staleness hangs in the air as you walk by. You know that thing that fight trainers do when working with their trainees, sparring with matted gloves while the pugilist throws hands at them? Two of them were doing it barehanded and from the looks of it, doing it pretty damn well. You want to stand and watch. You have no desire to challenge either of them.
You wish you could hang there for a couple of days, getting to know them so that when you asked to shoot their portraits it wouldn’t seem patronizing. You want to remember their faces, you want to honor their lives. You want them to feel that regardless of how far you have traveled away from the life you once led that was so much like theirs, you have respect for them. Your father wore his job driving a cab like a badge of anger. His face was rather hard scrabbled damn near every night. But every night you never wanted to take his picture, you wanted to avoid that face. Time passed and you learned that he too had his own version of honor, or pride, like these hard men, of doing what they do as well as they can, and taking some version of joy from it.
But here is seems different, maybe because you don’t have to live with these guys. Your hotel room is right across the street from the Cathedral where the bells have been ringing for about forty minutes now. Christ and his boys telling you not to sleep just yet, stay awake while longer and hear what Christ Church’s bells sound like every Friday night.
Today you walked around without the family. You stood on corners waiting for something to tell you which way to walk, which blowing wind to follow. Again watching faces and just listening to the many languages spoken here. The ethnic Chinese cab driver told you that his thirteen year old son speaks Gaelic. Since dad is from Macao you imagine the languages in that house can span from Cantonese/Mandarin to Gaelic to English in one short conversation.
Sometimes you were tempted to sit in a pub where you could listen to live Irish music. The biggest pull was to a run down place where a tenor voice was singing Gaelic, at least you imagined it Gaelic. It’s been written that it is the language of poets, of storytellers. You wish you could stay here for several months, maybe a year so you could learn it. Meanwhile you settle in at the lounge of your hotel, listening to the bells across the street at Christ Church Cathedral and the men from Manchester as they dissect the Manchester United team on the television. You interrupt to ask if they can tell you about Ryan Giggs because your son would be displeased were you to come home, tell the story of meeting these Red Devil fans and bring back no word of the twenty year veteran of the pitch wars for the Devils. They agree with you about Paul Pogba being way overvalued and compliment you on your knowledge and short history of the side (one of them lives a ten minute walk from Old Trafford and has been following them since the 60’s. You’ve been on board for about ten years).
Headed for Adare for lunch and Dingle for a couple of days then on to Galway! This ‘journal’ was interrupted tonight after the girls left me alone waiting for the check after dinner (they wanted to shower and pack for our early get-a-way in the AM) when the pretty faced waitress started asking me questions about me and my writing and was I going to do a travel journey about this trip….
There’s nothing more powerful that beauty in a wicked world.
This child was so beautiful and innocent I wanted to send her to the North Pole so the wicked parts of the world would never touch her! Was that me being paternalistic or just reacting to my wish to prevent the pains of life’s experiences to someone fresh and just starting to know independence?
My last therapist said I get a bit hung up on the pathos of my life in my stories, not allowing for ‘happy endings’. I tend to disagree because I’m trying to uncover those parts of my life’s experiences that I’ve not examined how they affect my vision of both myself and the lessons I’ve either learned or not explored. I won’t disagree that I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at darker aspects of myself. I think I generally tend to gloss over them. This past year, and my advancing age as well I suppose, have been cause for much introspection.
Having those brief talks with this young girl reminded me that we all have journeys in life, and many ways to walk the paths that open before us. She stayed with me as long as she could between the calls to attend to her other customers. During those interruptions I got to reflect on what Pam, the therapist, had said and came to this conclusion.
I am my own happy ending. More later, time to drive across this beautiful green place to the Atlantic coast.