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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Monday, March 27, 2006

Western Ireland sojourn

County Clare is still a special place

A mossy Irish woods, County Clare, on a wet wet Sunday in March

I found myself on short notice stepping onto an airplane to Ireland last week. I lived there, on the west coast in an isolated and wild country called the Burren, several years ago. The last time I visited was 12 years ago and when I left I had every intention of returning every year, if not more often. Life became more complicated, with changes at work, a growing family and health problems in the family.

Meanwhile, Ireland moved on. It grew wealthier and more European, finally letting fall the unattractive mantle of bitterness and weak confidence that still seemed to gnaw at it for more than 70 years after freedom from British colonial government.

Irish homes are larger but do not improve the landscape

Suddenly there I was, on a business trip, seeing the new Ireland. My initial reaction was that the architecture, at least in the countryside, is not a strong point. Town planning is a little weak and the massive increase in the number of roads and industrial estates appears more chaotic than organized. That is the veneer of success.

Tiny first flowers peek out from under dripping mossy rocks and thorny briars

But it did not take long for the beauty and charm and sheer wonderfulness of County Clare and the Burren, as well as the southern end of County Galway, to win me over completely again. Work and pleasure and time with old friends were all loosely woven together and Irish time, which is some of the most flexible in Europe, took over. I don't think anyone speaks English more beautifully than the Irish. Once again I fell under the spell of lilting tongues, soft voices and words woven in colorfully poetic braids even when discussing the most ordinary of things.

The weather is no ordinary thing in the west of Ireland, however, and there was much discussion of it, as we watched the Atlantic sweep its wave up into the air and wash rain over us. I have always loved the way the weather in Clare changes every few minutes - constant rain has never been part of my image of this corner of the world. But this weekend, rain kept us company, quite steadily.


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