“I love my country more than ever, more than anywhere. I never belonged anywhere else” Ceire Sadlier.
I am in a cottage on a south Kerry cliff that once housed a family of 12 or more. The windows bang in the wind of a black night and I am sure the ghosts will seep through the thatch on top of me. They are the ghosts of people who died in the Famine. They are the ghosts of the neighbours of my relatives’ relatives. I am somehow connected to them.
When I am 15, from the top deck of my bus on O’Connell Street, I see a woman running across the pavement outside the Savoy. She is striking, in a long, black, velvet, hooded cape. The bus, just moving, farts and seizes to a stop. When she is under the window, I see that it is Sinead O’Connor and somehow, I am connected to her.
After work, I emerge from an office in Darndale to my car, parked in front of a long green. A young man is belting along the grass on a sulky – a stocky, hairy horse pulling him. Pulling into my road, a girl is walking home from her match, swinging her helmet-topped hurley under her. A ring-knuckled man on the road west is selling necklaces beside a donkey. And I connect with them.
“Every rock on every beach on every coast belongs to me. Every blade of grass in every field is mine”
At the Dart station, before the marriage equality referendum, I chatted to the Minister for Equality. On my street, I can speak openly to the Minister of Education about my concerns on my children’s future. In the airport, I meet a former president, turning embarrassingly servile in their presence. Whatever we all think of the politics and the administration, it is remarkable, in comparison to other countries, that we can connect with them.
Walking past Boland’s Mills, I think of the women and men who spent time in the building more than 100 years ago. I think of them as someone points to Michael Collins’s house in Clonakilty. I think of them when I cross the invisible border on my drives to Donegal. I feel connected to them.
On a winter night, I listen to Colm Mac Con Iomaire in a candle lit Christchurch Cathedral and walk home on the same pavements as Banjo Barney from Donnycarney, a man whose music coloured my childhood. I can touch the same bricks as Seamus Heaney or Countess Markievicz.
A young man in a Coolock petrol station gives me money to fill the air in my tyres when he finds me change-less, swearing at the pump. An old man on a Kerry mountainside drives out of his way to show me my way, knowing it would be easier than trying to tell me – and we share a laugh although I cannot understand a word he says. A woman in a cafe in Cavan gives me free coffee because she heard I was having a tough time.
Every rock on every beach on every coast belongs to me. In Dublin, in Donegal, in Cork, I feel connected. Every blade of grass in every field is mine. Every breaking wave is mine and when I die you can throw me into the sea because I belong to it.
I have spent more of my life away than here. I spent eight years in Malawi, four in Ethiopia, one in Vietnam, five in Zambia and two in Tanzania. Through no one’s fault but my own, I never belonged anywhere else but Ireland. The feeling that I fit better here than I do anywhere else doesn’t sit well with my ideologies of equality and globalism.
“I am not callow. I am first to the podium to wave my fist, roaring about dearth and misogyny and rain”
There is an exhilaration in being hit by the hot air of an African runway, knowing that grey streets and grey skies are 10,000 miles away. There is pure pleasure in hearing an open-backed truck of 50 people singing in perfect harmony. There is wonderment in a street full of purple jacaranda trees in bloom. But, held back only by my own psyche, I was only ever a visitor to those places.
Here is home, and it is beautiful, and we do not talk about it enough. Because it’s all about the rent, and the jobs, and the money, the money, the money. Sure, this is it, we say to each other. To say nothing of the weather.
When are we going to start talk about our beautiful country, our beautiful people? How lucky we are to be surrounded by sparkling seas? How lucky we are that we are soaked to our souls in history and art and music and words? How lucky we are that we can make each other talk and laugh like no others can?
I have been home for three years now. I am not callow. I am first to the podium to wave my fist, roaring about dearth and misogyny and rain. But I love my country more than ever, more than anywhere. I think we should talk about that more, because we need to remind ourselves that we are connected.
Article courtesy of The Irish Times