A waitress at Sheehan’s in Dublin, she had reddish brown hair, smiling eyes, but – surprise! – a Southern drawl because she was from Alabama.
She told us she grew up dreaming of living in Europe someday, and discovered Dublin to be the most affordable city. She arrived with no place to live and no job. She found both with Facebook help, and made real-life friends.
Our friends on this tour were strangers just weeks before we left, but each proved to be genuinely affable, all interested in literary Ireland, all avid supporters of the Irish Classical Theatre Company in Buffalo. And it was Vincent O’Neill – the theater’s founder and creative genius, an accomplished mime, a student of Marcel Marceau – who shared his knowledge, experience and celebrity with us, and his origins at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin as well.
We visited his hometown on the ocean at Sandycove, where the Joyce Tower keeps legends of the Irish giant alive. We toured Trinity College and marveled at the Book of Kells. We climbed on the statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square Park.
We toured the Dublin Writers Museum trying to know Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett and John Banville a little better. We learned how the striving city of Dublin helped to form the ideas of its writers. I discovered an urgency to read Anne Enright.
And on long bus rides through beautiful sheep-laden countryside, Vincent read Yeats and Joyce to his sleepy sojourners. He told us we would find similarities between Dublin and Buffalo, and on the first Sunday morning near St. Teresa’s parish, we did.
To walk the streets of Dublin was to know the same “urban effort” that walking most places in Buffalo can suggest: its small size and slower pace, the absence of big investment, the prevalence of kindness, stray Guinness bottles on the sidewalks where Saturday night parties had been.
Phoenix Park and St. Stephen’s Green, like the Olmsted parks, are the green space of the city. Tours are whirlwind.
We left Dublin and traveled to Belfast, to find its Opera House, a European Shea’s Buffalo, where we saw a buoyant performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and then to the quaint town of Westport where the bike paths were open, endless and effortless.
Then, by boat, we traveled to the idyllic Aran Islands, a place so untouched that tourists and photos seem out of place. I envied a woman knitting in a tourist hovel for the simplicity of her life. She said she envied women with education.
Surely in the Emerald Isle, the grass is greener. It is the home of Kerrygold butter, the best in a world where the cows graze on grass, not corn, in the same countryside that has supported their serenity for centuries.
They need lots of rain for that kind of green, but there was no rain for us. Our luck was never to hang an umbrella to dry, only to dream. We travel to find life in all its possibilities.
Sadly, we came home to our responsibilities all too soon. We left the waitress at Sheehan’s to write the second chapter of her life.
I hope she finds the luck of the Irish, whatever that is. I hope it rains just enough to water her dreams. I hope she never has to leave.