Opinion

Irish Adventures

Waters of Life
There were three stops on our trip today: the rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway, and Port Stuart.

The rope bridge was not something that my father would ever desire to experience, although it truly was not as bad as I was anticipating. It held out over a crevice in the rocks above crystal clear blue waters, there was even a seal on a rock! Once across, you were atop a large rock-islet of sorts, covered in lush green, green grass. I climbed down to a little ledge overlooking the water to lean back into a wall of flowers and watch the waves. Needless to say, I could have stayed there forever and been perfectly content.

Next up was Giant’s Causeway. Legend has it that this world wonder (comprised of hundreds of thousands of rocks in the shape of almost perfect pentagons) came about when two giant brothers fought, ending in one brother smashing the Earth with his fist. Others claim that it is, more rationally, caused by some freak volcanic accident. Personally, I think the Giant story is both more rational and closer to the truth.

At Giant’s Causeway, I made my way down over the slip-slidy rocks to a thin stretch of pentagons extending into the water. There, I swirled my fingers around in small tide pools of creatures like living shells and these funny little red bush looking fellows that suck your fingers lightly when you poke them. Having satisfied myself with these pools, I stepped out onto the farthest edge to watch the water. The ocean has, for all my life as I have known it, been my favorite sight, smell, taste, feel, and sound. In it, I feel all of God. In it, parts of myself and parts of Him make sense to me. So I stood there, with the clean, cold foamy crests crashing about my ankles and knees and the salty mist tingling my skin and talked to Jesus. A good long talk about life and all the things that I’ve done wrong and all the ways that I love Him. And I made promises. Oaths of love and commitment and dedication to whatever plans are in store for me that I am not yet aware of or comfortable with. It was a beautiful hour.

Finally, we stopped by Port Rush to be stupid Americans at their finest. Although the locals were taking dips in wetsuits, we jumped on in the loch wearing athletic shorts and tank tops. For five minutes. Everything was right about it. Everything was wrong about it.

Remembering Titanic
How many Americans can say that on the day of the hundredth year anniversary of the Titanic, they were in Belfast, Ireland, at the birthplace of “The Unsinkable Ship”? Not many, I’d think. But this girl can!

One major thing struck me as I moseyed about the Titanic museum with my new friend Flo (I adopt strangers. It’s rather a fond hobby of mine). Belfast makes a huge deal out of the Titanic. In fact, they erected an entire center of town for it, complete with tours, coffee shops, and a museum, all for this. At first, this all really bugged me. Why on Earth would you celebrate something that is such a point of shame? Yannic, my host parent, answered me by saying “well it wasn’t the Irish that sunk it.” And that’s true. Building the Titanic reignited the economy of Ireland for a time. It was a ship built with hope, commissioned with hope, and sunken with broken dreams and broken bodies.

More than that, though, there were thousands of letters aboard the ship. Millions of words, commas, sentiments, questions, and propositions were lost to the depths of the sea. How many family members, business partners, and loved ones never received word that they so hoped for? And in the end, there was silence. Silence for years. It remained a rather quiet affair until the major motion picture came out.

And that’s another reason Belfast is blowing up with publicity. They exploit their connections with Titanic to a world that has heard a beautiful love story. It is no longer about the ship or the real event. We’ve turned a tragedy into something we can market. And I can’t decide whether I should be in awe or be ashamed. But at least it is remembered, no?

Stories of Love
Today I met a very lovely gentleman named Hadden. He drove us very safely on the wrong side of the road (to me) from the airport to our garden manor on Finaghy Road South.

While we drove, he told me of his life, how he’s seen poverty beyond compare. But a proud poverty. A poverty in which the people are excellent and generous stewards of the little they are given. He told me of the workshops he teaches on sexuality. Of the pastor in Ukraine who asked the question of what it looks like to love your wife just as you did in your youth.

Then he told me of the first time he saw his wife. How he saw her at church, wrote to her to meet him, was afraid she wouldn’t show, and how ravishing she was in her fitted royal blue coat when she did show. Though she has aged, that is the woman he still sees.

Then we departed and our group went to a park. And I was struck with the overwhelming recognition of the beauty and creativity and coolness of the God we serve. There were trees three times the length of my arms that moved like slides, like elephant trunks along the ground and up. A rabbit-sized opening led to a cavern made of trees, with the ground sprinkled with pink petals. To quote one of my favorite books, it was lovely beyond any singing of it. There are reasons that Europeans love Europe so much. The earth is enriched with culture and history. You feel the ages under your feet. In those large , respectable trees I can’t help but imagine all the years of couples picnicking underneath, carving their names, children climbing, growing older. There are stories upon stories of love, of loss, of life.

This is a land of impossibilities and adventure.