Part Of The View

The Irish school girls beg for money, 2 Euros for the Irish Heart Association,on busy Grafton Street as early morning commuters hurry past. In their overly long plaid skirts, white blouses, and red sweaters, the girls look very prim and proper, until I overhear one say, “This is shite.” Her friend swings her empty white bucket in silent agreement.

I make my way as always to St. Steven’s Green to watch the swans and ducks, the gulls and lowly pigeons. A woman in a rainbow sweater strolls by her arms loaded with bread . She asks if I would like some to feed the birds, but I decline. She nods. “You’ve come for the view,” she says.

“I’ve come for the view.”

She smiles, and her eyes twinkle a little. “It’s a good view. Peaceful.” She moves on, throwing chunks of bread into the water. The birds set up a clatter for a moment, then settle again as I seat myself on an out-of-the-way bench.

Outside the the park modern Dublin moves at a modern pace; its streets are crowded and voices speaking a variety of languages fill its streets. The Celtic Tiger may have been wounded but not mortally. I believe Ireland will sneak back on little cat feet. It’s part of it’s magic.

I feel myself relax, the peace and green, and the serenity restoring me somehow. It only happens here. Perhaps Leprechauns really do lurk under the bushes, just out of sight spreading their magic to us mortals.

I hear footsteps behind me and the click of a camera as a man in a jaunty tan cap begins to snap photographs. When I offer to get out of his way he says, “Oh no, love, you are the picture.”

Of Irish Bookshops, Cabbies and Poets

Recently I was in Dublin taking my youngest daughter to college. She’s decided to get her joint honors degree there, and we spent a good deal of time walking through the streets as well as taking cabs.

I should note that we arrived in Ireland on the day of Noble Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney’s funeral, which was rightly a case for mourning throughout Ireland and the literary world.

In a world growing less and less filled with the beauty of verse, Heaney was a much beloved figure, even beyond Ireland, which is a country that loves poets. Almost every cabbie who drove us had something to say about the death of Mr. Heaney, and I had one who quoted him extensively. (It was a lovely thing to hear “Bogland” recited in a delightful Dublin accent.)

It did occur to me, however, that the Irish have produced an inordinate share of great writers and poets. Perhaps it is because they seem to love books. In Dublin I counted numerous bookshops–not giant chains–but honest-to-God shops. There is for me something delightful about walking into a book shop. I believe it’s the smell of books; you breathe it in, and your mind begins to expand. You can’t get that from an electric device (and I do own one of those as well).

Because the weather was so delightful, I had the luxury of spending time just sitting in St. Steven’s Green with the other locals, reading and watching the ducks and swans and occasional heron. There was a certain magic to the experience.

I know Ireland, like the U.S., has been hit by a tsunami of economic problems, but it still retains a bit of it’s magic. As one of my wise cabbie friends said, “Oh, Ireland always calls you back. It’s possessed of a deep magic.”

Deep magic, indeed. He was right.