Ireland is a country that has danced through books I’ve read and songs I’ve sung for many years. Myths and legends grow here. So do sheep.
And I am finally here.
Here are my five favorite photos from my first five days in Ireland:
The first picture is from my first hike on this island. I walked to the top of Knocknarea Mountain in County Sligo where the cairn of Queen Maeve, who was buried with her spear, standing upright and facing her enemies, towers over the landscape. The trail wound through these trees. This was the view on my way back down the steep stairs. This was Ireland, the country in all the songs and the movies, the country where banshees and will-o’-the-wisps were real, the country where an informational placard on a house associated with the poet William Butler Yeats said, “The ghosts of smugglers used to tap on the window panes,” just matter of factly, no “Legend says” attribution accompanying the statement.
And this was Ireland, too, the statue of a woman waiting for her seafaring loved ones, or, in extension, the story of the emigrants who left in the Great Famine of the 1850s only to face rejection because they were Irish, stories told in Riverdance and “The Sailorman’s Hymn,” stories that formed places like New Zealand.
Stone is plentiful here, giants placing rocks at the tops of mountains, material for homes, castles and stone walls.
And the green and white and orange flying over Killary Fjord is Ireland. The fjord is in Connemara National Park, a place I didn’t expect. Musicians sung of mountains and green valleys, but I didn’t imagine them like this. Everything I’d seen of Ireland in the photos was gentle and rolling. These West Coast landscapes were majestic, towering overhead.
And then there was Killary Fjord itself, with its colors so vibrant, the wind steady, waves lapping against the rocks, and behind me, a sheep that had just found the friend for which it had been desperately bleating.
I write now from a place that may have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in his writings of Middle Earth. Perhaps, once more, I will be looking for hobbits.
“You are the song ever singing in me,
And you are the heart ever true.
For you are my land and you always will be,
The voice ever calling me home to you.”