I stand tall on the large sea vessel, a cruise ship decked with tourists, workers and cars. The noise within the ship is loud, the voices of hundreds of people jumbled together into monotonous tones. Out on the deck, the wind whips my red hair while the sea sprays salt onto my exposed skin. The Irish Sea is calm today and as we head west, I see the country of my ancestors. As the winds continue to blow, my grandmother, many generations older, appears before me, as if rising from the sea, as if welcoming me home. Her dress, plain in its browns and checked pattern, moves slightly as the wind caresses the homespun material. Her eyes are weary, yet she smiles, arms outstretched, waiting for me, guiding me to the land of her birth.
Only part of my bloodline traces back to Ireland, but the isle of Eire has beckoned me since I was a child. In all its wild beauty – the greens of the mountains, the rock-strewn hills and fields, the abandoned monasteries and monuments to lives lost in the great famine, I am home. As I travel west across the tiny country, my senses are filled with great urgency. I want to inhale the land that beckons me, while the sirens from the sea call my name. With no plan, no itinerary, I let my heart chose my next destination:
Inis Mhor, Arran Island.
Within a day of entering Ireland, my voice adapted to its surroundings, quickly accepting the tongue of my ancestors. I am my grandmother, more than once removed, as she is me. Here, on the small island of Inis Mhor, a thick brogue rises in my throat, my pattern of speech broken and distant from its midwestern roots and unrecognizable to my parents. My Gaelic heritage, silently buried within me, has broken free.
Off the coast of Galway, where the winds blow loud and fierce and men huddle beneath woolen jackets, their caps pulled tightly over their ears; I have found what I am looking for. Every word I utter is thick in Irish cadence. My words have slowed to match the passage of time. Calmness surrounds me; peace has entered my soul. I have inhaled my island. My skin has been kissed by the salt from the sea, my hair curled by the winds blown across barren lands. My feet, blistered and sore, have pounded the same ground the ancients walked thousands of years ago. Every exhalation blends with the air that blows across thatched hut and rock wall, tying me to the sacredness of place.
Today, the Irish brogue has been lost to memories. My journal sits to the side, waiting to be used once more. But, I close my eyes and breathe, slowly.
I can smell the sea, feel with wind in my hair and taste the salt blown across rough waters on my lips. My feet once more find themselves walking on hallowed ground dotted with ancient ceremonial stone circles. Today, while fresh snow rests outside my window, I honor my ancestors. I remember their struggles. I light a candle, and with serene whispers, I remember those who were driven from their lands, their beliefs held tightly in their hearts.
© Tara E. Wisnewski Janisch and Rugged Earth Blessings, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of original poems, essays and photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.