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I have returned safely from the Emerald Isle, and holy crap, I don’t
even know what to say, but being me, I will now expend a pile of words
to say it.

First, there’s the color.

To call Ireland green
is to commit glaring sins of omission. It is the sort of green reserved
for gods and Pantone swatches. Kelly green, acid green, the greens you
see in jars of pure mineral pigment, greens that blow out your photos
the way that red roses or blue skies do. Green as primary color.

When I lived in Oregon, I thought it was green, and then I moved to
North Carolina and realized that it had been grey-green. North Carolina,
I thought, was green. Then I went to Ireland. Now I see how yellow the
undertones here are, and how desaturated the greens are by comparison.
Fortunately, I am told that the only color that compares to Ireland is
in the depths of the rainforest, so it will stay green in my head for a
long time.

Also, as with so much of Europe, things are
relentlessly old. I stood on the battlements of a ruined castle built at
the same time as Blarney Castle and I could see three other
ruins from the top. “Oh,” said my friend Carlota, “that’s the NEW ruin,
over there…” Eventually it became a running joke–“Oh, that’s the NEW
standing stone…”  It became exciting when the new building wasn’t older than my country. Occasionally they predated Europeans in North America at all.

Yes, I’m including the Vikings.

possibly the most intense thing was simply that it was relentlessly,
savagely picturesque. You could point your camera in any direction and
come away with a postcard. It was beautiful, and it kept being
beautiful, and eventually it got to the point where you would look over
the view and start swearing, because it was being beautiful again. Probably with cows.

After awhile, you stopped going “How lovely!” and started going “How do people stand this?”

(I asked Twitter. Residents uttered some variation on “Whiskey” and “You get used to it, but whiskey helps.”)

just have to figure that sooner or later, living in that kind of beauty
would weigh down on you, and you’d either become hard as diamond or
break and become a poet. It’s just…intense. I think of people
who left there–my ancestors, some of ‘em–to come to America because of
poverty or starvation or hope or whatever, and I can get just the
smallest glimpse of what that must have been like–enough to know what I
can’t really imagine what it was really like. America is
beautiful, don’t get me wrong! (I believe there’s a song about it.) But
it’s a completely different sort of beauty, a sort that doesn’t much
care about the people on it. If we all died tomorrow, I doubt America
would even notice much, but Ireland would be sad that the people were
gone. It’s the difference between the Rockies and a green field with a
black horse grazing surrounded by rooks, under a hill covered in mist.
They’re both beautiful, it’s just…scale.

I don’t know. Maybe
I’m raving. I am only a tourist and don’t pretend to know anything about
what life is really like there. It was just…so visually intense.