This week in Nashville we had our first snow flurries. It was even colder than a month ago when I stepped off the plane in The Netherlands to a twenty degree temperature drop. On my fall break trip to Europe I was forced for the first time since May to exchange flip flops for close-toed shoes. I also broke out the scarves, a fleece and my oversized Blarney Woolen Mills sweater.
I bought the classic, the color and comfort of oatmeal, in Dublin in 2000. It was the first trip of several where I would learn to depend on the kindness of strangers. I’d met eleven church members once at a meeting before we left; two years later my roomie, Amy, would ask me to be in her wedding. We stayed in an inn— four-to-a-room in bunk beds—where the showers were icy but the egg salad sandwiches with salt and vinegar chips divine.
In that Greystones fishing village I met each morning with God, prayer journal in hand, on a cliff over the Irish sea. Each night I saw the sunset at 10 as we walked home to the inn from the pub. During my stay I saw U2’s studio, sang in beautiful churches, and hiked by the lake in the greenest of parks. On our free day I left the group and hopped on a bus alone to explore the next town down the road. Traveling with locals, anonymous, felt strangely exciting –something I’d do on future trips every chance I’d get like in London in October when I went to the British Library and finally saw the oldest transcript of Beowulf. Looking out the bus window I believed for the first time I could by happy teaching in a foreign land because it didn’t seem foreign at all. I could see my kids playing in the rural, rolling hills of Ireland, much like I had in the small Kentucky town where I was raised. The Emerald Isle also reminded me of Lexington where I was a college bride on a horse farm.
Since returning to my life I’ve been self-soothing with comfort food– Irish beef stew. I’ve missed that balmy June of 2000…felt restless with the change of seasons… simply wanted more …and savored the simple pleasures of enough. I’ve made three visits to McNamara’s– one with friends, one with my son, one alone. I might not be a Galway Girl, but in cold weather it feels like Ireland…and like home.
Irish Beef Stew recipe–I roast in the oven potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and herbs, then add to the stock. I also use 1/2 can of fire-roasted tomatoes rather than tomato paste and red pepper for heat.