When I was 23, I flew to Ireland with a backpack. I spent three lovely weeks in a wander. I went alone. And it was marvelous.
In Ireland, it rained. A lot. I was almost always slightly damp. For several days, I was quite sick. In Dublin, I met a man who claimed to have set bombs for the IRA. Near the Cliffs of Moher, I learned that being “brave” enough to hitchhike is a rather stupid choice. In Dingle, I fell in love with mountains and sea but mistook them for a boy. When I left, with a newly acquired smoking habit and a heavy stack of Irish myths, I believed that nothing would ever make me sad again.
At 23, I thought I had discovered internal truths of such magnitude they could never be forgotten. I’d had a grand adventure — no small thing — but not a revelation. At 41, I have come to disbelieve epiphanies. The truth is usually smaller, spare, and easier to miss. The deepest revelations come dressed in the mundane.
Lately, I’ve written quite a bit about our new puppy. He is a furry ball of chaos who compels our firm devotion. Right now, he is also teething. More specifically, he is eating up our house. He chews books — a grave sin in the home of a bibliophile like me. He chews shoes. He ate one of my perky pink pumps, the only color in a sensible sea of black and brown. He gnaws my grandmother’s hope chest and her antique desk. He ate his toy box. He steals the recycling. And dirty socks. Hapless stuffed animals end up between his jaws. Sometimes he forgets and tries to eat my hand.
Every morning, we take him out with the intention of wearing him down. A 45 minute walk can buy me an hour or more of puppy nap time, time enough to get some schoolwork done. Without a walk . . . he eats the house. And us. So, Mocha gets his morning walk every day. Rain or shine.
It’s the rain that creates problems. Mocha hates rain. He has just recently surmounted his mortal fear of puddles. On rainy days, our dog walk looks more like a puppy pull. On rainy days, Mocha forgets that he loves treats. That he loves us. That he loves mud — especially for eating. On rainy days, Mocha drags his heels, then hangs his head in resignation. He is not a happy pup. In the hardest rain, we tuck our chins and push on, dripping, soaking, until we reach the tipping point where everything looks funny, from sopping socks to muddy legs. Mocha is not particularly amused.
Sometimes the rain is softer, and it’s then I think of Ireland. It comes back as a kaleidoscope of memories, jumbled through a sieve — small towns and youth hostels, the rumble of trains and the hiss of busses, the strange comfort of carrying my life on my back.
Time returns in slices — an afternoon with bread and cheese in the cradle of rolling mountains. Kylemore Abby in Connemara. A rented bike on an endless hill. Hanging upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone.
It’s a cliché, of course, but nevertheless true: There is no green like the hills of Ireland. It is color bejeweled, enchanted. There is no green like Irish green — and no me as I was then, so certain that everything after would be easier than all that came before.
Today, so many years and lifetimes later — oh how many careers, and cities, and divergences that space contains. Today, I walk the dog in the rain. Boo Monkey is convinced there are owls in every tree hole. Rainbow Girl skips and dances, her feet a living pirouette. Mocha trods, more or less, and I go with him. I marvel at the distance covered, from here to there, then till now. I marvel at my Celtic knot of days, interlocked, encompassing both solitary Irish hills and family dog walks in the rain.
What memories do you return to when it rains? Please share!