Thursday, May 28, 2009


Here I am back in Boston as planned, and although my cats were immediately, visibly enthused to set foot on the terra firma of their American home sweet home, I am, on the other hand, very mixed about being here. I had created a life in Dublin.

What does that mean? It means that I'd found an Animal Welfare Clinic with friendly and caring vets for the cats. That I'd found food and a bed and litter box that agreed with them. I made my peace with the all-in-one washer/dryer, meaning I'd figured out how to keep it from ruining our clothes. I'd sussed out the best grocery shopping values, saving countless precious euros at the markets. I'd befriended the library and library card, located the nearest resale shop, a charity for the blind. I discovered favorite foods, walks, restaurants, parks. I knew the train to Howth and Bray, and was familiar with most of the stops in between. I'd made friends, developed my work and writing and photography. I figured out how to be comfortable in uncomfortable furniture. I learned my way around the city, the country, the culture, the kitchen. When passing people on stairways and sidewalks, I no longer moved automatically to the right. I'd adapted so well that I'm confused here now. It's that same confusion I knew during my first days and weeks in Dublin. Left? Right? It is all a jumble, and that part amuses me, actually.

I gifted my family at birthdays, at Christmas, even from that distance. I had built up to sufficient the stores and supplies in our drawers and cupboards. At the charity shop, I'd found pilsner-like flutes for champagne, prosecco, beer. Cordial glasses for the Bailey's, or when we only wanted "a thimbleful" of wine for aperitif or dinner. Nice plain white plates and bowls. At Marks and Spencer, we bought two good mugs for all that tea: I've never drunk so much tea! And we bought one large bowl that turned out everything from hennas to Irish breads and scones to dinner salads. One pot, one skillet, one small and medium saucepan: simple, and I liked that.

Now I am back in my home of 15 years, and even after multiple purges/thinnings down of its contents, there is still WAY TOO MUCH in these cupboards, closets, drawers. Too many mugs, too many bowls, too many skillets. I feel I could drown in this excess of accumulated goods.

Plus I could sense as I was about to leave Dublin that I was on the brink of making not just a life there but a home. First of all, Dublin is a gardener's paradise. Second of all, the flowers that I'd seen on arrival the previous summer were just starting to show themselves, signaling the onset of my favorite time of year. The weather was actually starting to feel summer-like. There was a writer's festival coming up in June, and "Bloomsday" as well. Regular, vigorous walking had done better by my body than my decade and more of daily swimming. I'd found the potted jasmine for the terrasse and was ready to purchase it along with some annuals for the planter boxes.

But here's the real truth of the matter: I'd fallen for Ireland, and happily adopted a European lifestyle. Ireland is not Europe by some Europeans' standards. It's not "continental" enough. But it was European enough for me. Impeccability in dress; decorum on public transit (you never eat on trains because the aromas might annoy another passenger); thick history and heritage in lands, in structures. The flour, potatoes, grains, the dairy, the meats: these foods had rich flavors for a change!

If there was a groove somewhere, I had definitely slipped into it.

What's more, I was just beginning to get clues that my work had a place there. Take the last cabbie who drove me to my flight. He asked what I did, and I told him. About Claritywork, he remarked,

"Oh, we have plenty of people who need some of that," he said, citing the economic "crisis" as the cause of a lot of unrest in marriages.

"We have an expression: when the money's not comin' 'tru the door, loove goes out the window."

Was I missing an opportunity? Why was I leaving exactly?

My mother, my siblings and their families, a hot Boston summer, Cape Cod beaches, my tranquil, spacious, beloved home, the cats' liberation, the bearded iris, the lilac: these were all reasons I was leaving, or so I had said.

And so I am here in Boston now making my house my home again bit by bit. I've hacked back the overgrowth in the gardens, started the car and circled the block with it a few times. I'm finding things, finding new places for things. Removing things.

"I have a whole life back in Boston." I know I said this at least once over there, no doubt to an immigration officer, assuring that I had no designs on Ireland as my permanent home. So here I am in my "whole life" in Boston, and I keep looking at the sky. I'm trying to find some semblance of the Irish skies I fell in love with. The mountains I saw each day in every light, in every weather: I can't even bear to think of them. I had wondered how I would leave them each time a mere glimpse of them stopped my breath. Now I have left them, and I am wondering how.

How could I leave those mountains?

Somehow I left them, though my eyes filled with tears as the plane took off: there across a rare, cloudless sky stretched the entire expanse of the Wicklow range, tearing my heart out. That plane dropped me here where I am beginning a new chapter in my Boston story. I am skeptical about resuming my American life. I am thinking twice about whether or not I really want to register the car. I have continued to enjoy the European way: getting around by foot, bicycle, buses and trains. I am buying for the backpack: food and supplies in small quantities. I am buying in the European style, for the European-sized fridge.

My neighbor talked the other day of wanting to buy a freezer, and the notion was suddenly completely foreign to me. My Dublin kitchen was simple as I've said, and I'd like to keep mine here that way. Why do I have six kinds of mustard?!? No more stockpiling, I say. I have proved that I can live with much less. I know now that I prefer it. So I have a huge task ahead of me: converting the context of my former Boston life to accord with new content. I am convinced I can take that life with me, wherever I am, wherever I go. I'm sure going to try.

But there's no getting around it: the mountains are gone. And the skies too, and along with them their dramatic shows, their rainbows. I'm at a loss as to what to do about this. I feel as though I've fallen out of Paradise. What have I done? Where has it all gone? It's disorienting to say the least to take such a fall, to suffer such a landing: everything all askew as if I bumped my head. Surely before too long, I'll shake this off and regain my bearings, my balance, no? In the meantime, I'll abide this discomfort and call it good. Because it is good. Whether or not it feels so, I know it is good.

It could take awhile to discover all of what Ireland was about for me, to reveal the full extent of what that call was for. Something tells me I've only begun to know...


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