It is an old saying that there are forty shades of green in Ireland, and after a tour there with our church choir during the last half of July, I think there might even be more, at least to a someone coming from the drought-stricken browns of Southern California. As we flew in toward Shannon, I found myself yearning for the emerald and shamrock fields lying like a patchwork quilt over the beautiful island I had last visited forty years ago when I was pregnant with my first child.
At the time, I was working for a travel wholesaler; we specialized in tours of Ireland, and I was sent on what was known as a familiarization (or "fam") trip so we could see for ourselves the hotels, restaurants, and bed and breakfast facilities we were selling to travel agents, as well as experience the ambience of their surroundings. I lived in New York City then, and we went in the off season so I wasn't as overwhelmed with the green. I remember that everywhere I looked, there were children with bright pink cheeks that I thought were picturesque until someone told me that they were all chapped by the cold wind and rain that seemed ever present. It wasn't snow needing to be shoveled, but the overcast skies were dreary, and the greens could look dull.
I think we had sunshine the day we went to kiss the Blarney Stone. I had no idea it required a climb of one hundred steps to the top of Blarney Castle, that you then had to lie down on your back, and with someone holding you, lean back down over a chasm and kiss the Stone on the other side and down a bit (a little tricky when you're seven and half months pregnant!) and then have them haul you back up to a stand.
I told my son who came with me on this trip that I already had my gift of eloquence, but that he should surely kiss the Blarney Stone to give him an extra fillip in his stand up comedy routines. We had glorious sunshine the day we climbed the hundred steps together, and could see green vistas from every vantage point as we ascended and then clambered back down the hundred or so steps that carried us a different way back to earth. Standing on the battlements and gazing at the panoramic views, with the breeze ruffling my hair, I felt as if I were slaking my thirst for lush green landscapes, fields, and hills and valleys. I wanted to gather it all and press it into my heart and mind and carry it back with me. In a way, I think I did, for although our tour was exhausting and stressful for I was getting up at 5 every morning to practice my French horn since I was playing with the choir as well as singing every other day and we kept up a pace that my former boss told me made him "feel aghast" when he read our itinerary, I felt refreshed and renewed down to my soul in a way I have never experienced before, as if the very essence of green were distilled and poured into me, leafing out and dripping emerald light from every pore.