It’s been a blessing, this idea of going to sea. It came to us from Ireland, not COVID. A year ago, when international travel was still a thing, we came home from watching sunsets over foreign seas to explore waters to the west. As 2020 opened, with its unexpected horrors, we were talking boats.
A good thing, given where we are today — with Americans barred from foreign shores and the thought of breathing next to strangers unappealing.
By the first of March, we chose a boat to suit our older selves and our disparate experiences, from mine (next to…
“Congratulations on your 50th trip on the River Shannon!” read a banner over the desk in the boat office as we arrived. The congratulations were not for us. This was our first.
Having circled Ireland’s outer edges two years ago, we were heading for a passage through the midlands, along the Shannon River, which divides the country in half. We were in Carrick-on-Shannon to rent a boat and cruise downstream on current which was running high and fast from recent storms. Happily it was early October; many of the boats were already moored and stored for colder months to come.
First thing I checked each morning, out the upstairs window facing west: Can we see Croagh Patrick? Is its elegant triangle on the horizon? Do shrubs point their shadows across the fields in its direction? Or is it obscured by the weather?
It’s Ireland, mid-September.
Croagh Patrick is Ireland’s holiest mountain. Its nickname is “The Reek,” coming from the Irish Cruach Phádraig, meaning Patrick’s stack. Saint Patrick fasted there for 40 days in 441 AD; pre-Christian artifacts show activity centuries before, when it was called Cruachán Aigle or high mount. At 2500 feet, it’s not the tallest mountain, even in…
Leaving home, I had some questions. After loving Lisbon a year ago, we came again this year to dwell a bit. We unpacked our bags to enjoy two weeks without an early-morning launch toward another destination. Two weeks for markets, some “home-’’cooked food, and to wonder why Lisbon caught my fancy last year.
We had time for errands as well as monuments. One morning, we had two: I wanted to see a shop I’d run across online, and we needed coffee (having finally run out of the Dorothea coffee we brought from home). …
…in Tuscany’s October or Paris in November? Last time, my first, Tuscany was April, and May came along in Paris. They were warm and sunny, lush and green. That time, I was charmed by the somber weight of time in Tuscany’s hill towns. Walking the passageways, I’d aim my camera high, excluding signs of current life and aiming for a sense of timelessness.
There’s a black wall on Rue Oberkampf in Paris. It’s called Le Mur — the wall. We arrived on Saturday when its transformation had begun. There was an artist known as Snake, a ladder, some cans of paint, a few folks watching.
He was already underway when we arrived for a street art tour. We’ve walked through street art in several cities now, which has turned disgust to curiosity and often unfolded beauty where there was blight: Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Lisbon. Now Paris. I don’t love it all, but I love the treasures and the insights that emerge.
You’ve lost more than you could imagine losing. Your safe world is gone. You need to move on. But how? That was us awhile back, while we were far from home, early in a 3-month journey overseas, on the way to Ljubljana.
Someone in a desperate life stole everything we had. We had nowhere to go, no way to get there, no way to contact home. We needed to recover: salvage our identities and minimize the damage. Block credit cards, wipe computers, disable cell phones, get new passports, and go on. …
One day we will return to the truth of the spirit as revealed in the eyes or the voice. ~Joy Harjo, US poet laureate