Comin’ around the Bend

I’ve been thinking about posting here for a while. I’ve hesitated in part because, in my pursuit of this degree, I’ve wanted to reserve my writing energy for things required for class. But I want to be more free-form just now.

Galway has been a trip so far. My accommodation situation went bonkers about three weeks back, to the point that I wondered one night if I should fear for my safety, but the result is that I’ve ended up at an amazing place that I probably wouldn’t have considered otherwise because it’s so far out. Few buses come here, and some of the commutes are long. Sometimes it’s a three-mile walk to and/or from the bus stop (depending on the timing), but it’s beautiful countryside and often a kind soul offers me a lift. It’s a safe place. Also I like the exercise, and I’ve befriended a dog and three ponies along the way. I have class only three days a week, anyway, and I like public transportation, so that’s all good.

The distance from Galway city does mean that it’s a lot harder for me to engage in extracurricular activities, but they are not my focus right now, as much as I would like to learn Irish dancing and the language (and perhaps something in the way of music . . . ?). I came here to sink into something like this aspect of Ireland: small-town rural, preferably coastal life. Right or wrong, I think of this as “the real Ireland” more than I do the urban, built-up parts, no matter how old they are. The landscape speaks: the breeze in the tree by my window, the hills of the Burren to the left, and the bay off to the right. I can walk to the beach. The fresh air is soul-sustenance — and I was starving.

I don’t know how it’s all going to work once I start looking for employment, but I’m not concerned about that until after the winter break. Finances are holding up, and anyway it’s all I can do to keep up on schoolwork (with a healthy balance of the craic). I’ll have one fewer class next semester, and then all summer to organize my time as I wish (or can afford).

For the break — only a month away! — I’ll stay in the cottage on the coast of County Waterford where I stayed last year. It’ll be good to see those guys — the people I met in the little village before, the cliffs, the wildlife, that face of the sea — and absorb it all from my newish perspective. Will it be the same? Certainly at least a little different, but maybe just as good. I imagine I’ll get some good writing in.

Speaking of writing, I pulled my book from CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing arm) and am working on pulling the e-versions from BookBaby. It’s strange not to have it out there but feels good. The niggling desire to tweak the text and to find an eco-friendly means of production (paper and printing processes) suddenly feels like an imperative. The book likely won’t see print again at least until next year, as a second edition. At some point it will be joined by a sequel, which is coming along.

I’ve been “hermiting” a fair amount, but that feels good, too. Just holing up in this wonderfully odd-perfect room and waiting on the spirit to move me.

Oh, I dyed my hair a deep violet yesterday, the first drastic color-change in a few months. It feels like a perfect fit for the lifescape opening out before me as I round this latest bend.



So. Here I am.

It’s the third day of my third stint in Ireland. I’m at that stage of a new endeavor that comes after the initial burst through a doorway and before finding a thread to follow. The first time I came over to Ireland, I was here three weeks, followed by a couple-week sojourn to the next island over, before I settled into my happy place. This time it will be different. I just don’t know how yet.

Not that I’m not happy to be here. I very, very definitely am. And I’m glad for the experience that has taught me that the first few days of something can be the hardest and are worth it for what comes after — not that it’s all that hard now (knock on wood). I’m learning how to get to the places I need to get to, how much bus transportation costs, how I fit into the new household, how the town is laid out, what kind of people are in it, how to type on weird keyboards, and how to lock the front door. I’m even sort of relishing the uncertainty, the slight nausea, the weariness, and the dimness of intensified dislocation. It’s all part of my transition. I’m well cared for and safe, like being in a cocoon. As I put it to a friend earlier today, I’m pleasantly melancholy.

The weather, fittingly, has been overcast with some rain. I didn’t have the energy to venture out today even after I realized I couldn’t register for classes online, so I took a down day to rest and acclimate. (Yesterday the fees-office lady said I could register online, but maybe she mistook me for a native . . . ? Hard to imagine.) I don’t need to rush, anyway, because the head of my program sent an email explaining that the couple of classes that have attendance caps rarely fill up — and even if they do, instructors choose not by first-come-first-serve but by individual selection. Tomorrow I’ll still probably look into registering for the two required classes, and — if I get the all-powerful student-ID card — opening an Irish bank account and registering with Immigration.

The exchange rate is terrible — the worst it’s been since early 2015. When I took out the 300 euros I’ll need to pay Immigration, it came to $393. Still, with my savings, scholarships, and student loan, I’m in good shape for a good long while. Though I’m curious about finding work, I’m resisting the urge to seek it out actively just yet, especially because the job market here, though good, appears on the surface to be full of things I have little interest in. Unless I become desperate, I’m holding out for something I can put my heart into. I have a feeling it’ll come the way all of the best jobs have: by my encountering just the right person who has just the right need at just the right time, as I go about my normal life. Anyway, I can’t legally work until I get that Immigration stamp.

This week is Ireland’s National Heritage Week, with lots of free things that are perfect for a newcomer. For my birthday yesterday, I walked the long causeway to the lighthouse (which is gated off because of industry, except by appointment), and I saw the ruins of the Hall of the Red Earl, which was the center of old Galway. I made a cool little dealybob at a modern Celtic jewelrymaking workshop there and, at the library, learned about the butterflies of County Galway and bought an old book on how to tell fortunes using playing cards (for 50 cents).

I got jeans, an orange towel, and a Katie MacAlister book at a secondhand shop that benefits seniors and survivors of domestic violence. I wandered around “the best cemetery in Galway” (according to a guy I met at a bar the day before) and got two pints of Guinness at the nearest watering hole, in a hotel. (Normally I don’t drink at hotels because I prefer holes-in-the-wall, but I’ll make an exception for proximity.)

The second pint was courtesy of the guy next to me, who hailed from County Waterford, where I stayed last year. He knew one of my friends from Dunmore East. He said Ireland is losing itself again. I said yeah, I could see that, even in the little bit of time I’ve been here. We sat there sadly for a moment, then finished our pints and parted ways.

Coming up in National Heritage Week are a couple of events about organic gardening and sustainability, so maybe there’s hope there. The other night I dreamed I was attacked by a coyote that earlier looked like a mountain lion and later had human fingers. I met it head on and was strangling it in a choke-hold when a friend came over and started skinning it before it was dead. It didn’t struggle — only seemed confused and abject, moving its fingers. I cried, but what could I do? I had to kill it if it tried to kill me, right? I said, “If we have to do this again, can’t we anesthetize it first or something?” But my friend laughed at my foolishness. Anesthetize a coyote before killing it? What kind of idea was that? I think the dream has to do with my fear of and sorrow for the nonhuman world.

Speaking of dreams, last night I cut the heels off my feet on a dare and attached someone else’s heels. They didn’t fit quite right and tingled. I couldn’t really feel them. I wondered if maybe it had been a bad idea . . . but everything is temporary, so if eventually I could no longer walk, that would just be another development in life. It turned out I could still reattach my own heels, though, so I did. I could feel them better than the other heels, but not as well as I could before cutting them off in the first place. I wonder if this means that instead of taking to my heels, I took to someone else’s heels for a while. Or maybe I was well heeled and then wasn’t and now more-or-less am again, with some extra issues.

If nothing else, at least there’s the hurling final a week from Sunday: Galway versus Waterford — my new county versus my old (and perhaps future?). Who am I supposed to cheer for? Maybe I’d better put at least a little maroon in my hair. . . .


I fly out tomorrow, and I just can’t even. I’m about to explode. Aaaaaaaaa! Just started my last half hour of taking care of Grandma, and I can’t seem to focus on anything for more than two seconds: look at the phone, fiddle with the mouse, glance around the house and out the windows, stand up, wander around, do little tasks, sit down, revisit the same thoughts over and over and over again — thoughts, in fact, that kept me up for three hours after I woke up at 2 last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. Same as the night before. Emails have been flying between me and Ireland the past couple of days. I did my exercise routine this morning and still feel wired. Chatted with my parents. Soon I’ll hit town for lunch with a friend, and a couple last errands.

So, Ireland. It’s you and me: on the other side of the weekend, after a two-and-a-half-day journey through SFO, Denver, Providence, and vast expanses of rarefied air.

I’ve barely started packing, because I wanted to do one last load of laundry first (now done). I’m having issues with my new bank card, so I hope I get those sorted out this afternoon. Eep! I’m going to take out a little more cash just in case, but I want to leave at least $13,000 in my account because that looks good when it comes to proving to Customs that I can afford to study and live in Ireland for at least a year (in concert with a whopper of a student loan, two reasonably sized scholarships, and the job I intend to get, whatever that turns out to be).

When I get home, I’ll vacuum the trusty Ford Focus I borrowed while living in the treehouse, and I’ll set to packing in earnest. I wonder how I’m ever going to sleep tonight.

A Week and a Day

As much as I’ve struck out into the wild yonder (of whatever color — green in this case), I still get nervous at this stage. I head out in a week and a day.

I’m a little more relaxed about it than I was before this morning, though, because I just got a big bonus, putting me barely over the official “Cost of Attendance” (CoA) for a foreign postgraduate Writing student at NUI Galway. I had a moment of panic a week or two ago when I realized that the CoA had the total at more than $36,000 because it had calculated the exchange rate at 1.20: .12 over my initial estimate according to information I had at the time. That put me way short: I’d have to charm or luck my way past border control, which only sort of worked last year — and that was for a couple months. This’ll be a year (at least!). But with this bonus, I’ll have upwards of $37,000, all things considered: my savings, the biggest loan I could get, and two scholarships. I’ll still need to be careful, and I’ll still want to find work, but at least now I can breathe easier about Immigration.

So, in a few days, I should once again be running barefoot on Irish soil. (Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!) Maybe I’ll even go for a swim in Galway Bay, before it gets too cold.

I have the traditional consternation about what to take, but even moreso than usual, because whatever I can carry will be the seeds for starting a new life. Before, I’ve traveled. This time, I’m moving. It’s a fun process, once I get going on it. It whittles everything I own down to the very most essential and precious of what I can take. Funny how I have few enough things that they fit comfortably in a treehouse, and they still seem like a lot.

When I went to Ireland last year, I thought I might stay (and desperately wanted to), but things felt unfinished on both coasts of the U.S., as well as a bit in eastern Canada. Now it’s all about as resolved as can be. I’ve spent time with all but one of the friends and family I most wanted to see (and that one is a special case). Serendipity the unicorn and Spider-Planty (the spider plant) are now fostered in Washington, and most of the last bits of my other stuff have been collected and suitably reassigned. The half-dozen boxes of keepsakes and memories that aren’t coming with me are either at my parents’ place or slated to go there in the fall. All that will remain of me in California, other than the impressions I’ve left, will be my bank account.

I’m down to just a box and half of copies of my book left to distribute, having given an entire box to a delighted goddess in Oregon (who, incidentally, was the book’s interior layout designer), and spread other copies far and wide . . . at least around northern California and middle Oregon. I’ve gotten a couple emails from people who have found them, including one that came while I’ve been writing this post. Fun!

I feel scattered and excited. Books to read, knitting to finish, people to see and things to do one last time . . . ! Hey, is anybody heading from Sonoma County to SFO next Saturday?! I could take the bus, but a friend would be more fun. Wheeeeeeeeeee!

Inklings of Ireland: Brody, Snow, Fish, and Bull

With less than three weeks to go until I’ll have moved to Ireland (!!!!!), dreams of it are coming thick and strong. (I’ve hardly dreamed about it since I left, I think because it hardly seemed real even when I was there and I hardly dared hope that I might live there. But now that I’m getting close, its spirit-tendrils are reaching out.)

Last night, I was traveling in England or Wales, I think, and hanging out with some people who were all well and good, but I was ready to go to my host somewhere on an Irish coast. (His location felt northeast in the dream, but it wasn’t in Ireland’s actual northeast — dream landscapes being weird, as you know.) I had never met the guy before or even talked to him on the phone, but I had his number and thought to call him before I headed out. It would be at least a three-hour journey to get there and somehow it had already gotten to be 9 p.m., so I would be late and might need to find other accommodation.

His name as given wherever I’d found the listing was Brodwick. When his voicemail picked up, he sounded like a jovial old lad: “Oi, this is Brody!” He went on like that a moment and then switched to speaking Irish, saying a lot more in that language than in English. I found myself grinning and crying a little. Hearing such good cheer in so beautiful a language was food for my starving soul.

In the middle of it all, a woman picked up: “Hello?”

I explained that I was the American girl who was scheduled to stay with Brody that night.

“Oh! Right.” She sounded quiet and distracted and said some things I didn’t catch.

I inquired further. She responded with something else I didn’t understand.

This went back and forth a couple times until I heard her clearly: “He died.”

Oh, no.

All I’d heard was Brody’s voicemail, and already I’d felt him a dear friend, and lost him. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll make other arrangements, then.”

“Yes, well.”

I awoke still mourning the loss of Brody, a man of whom I’d only dreamed . . . and only heard a recording of, at that. Godspeed, Brody.

My other dreams of Ireland have been just as vivifying. In one, it snowed! Peaceful white wondrous flakes. And I got asked on a date by a car salesman at a dealership where I was getting free goldfish. (I gracefully declined.) At first I thought I couldn’t have goldfish, because I was about to move to Ire– but wait! I was in Ireland! So I took them and bought goldfish accessories, too.

And I outwitted and outmaneuvered a charging bull in a grove of trees, in part by grabbing it by one leg or horn and holding on until I could escape into the ocean. And there was a sort of mermaid on the rocks — actually a girl in a mermaid costume — and an Irish male co-narrator of the whole thing who relished the idea that she might drop something down her costume and have to retrieve it.

Anyway, back to so-called reality, for now: it’s a foggy, almost Irish morning, but for the golden hills. Grandma is quiet. I have a warming cup of tea and a bursting schedule. I’m scaling back on survey-taking and sweepstakes entries and just doing as I wish. There’ll be time enough to make more money, and my finances are more-or-less settled for now.

I’m not so much excited as contemplative and filled with peaceful anticipation. It’s all comin’ around the bend, but there are a few things for me to do here yet: passages to honor, books to distribute, and friends to see one last time.

Squinting to See the Green Light

Sometimes when I sit down here to share some of the eureka moments that burst open in my head like fast-forward flowers, the inspiration fizzles. It’s almost as though they’re just for me, or at least for a to-be-determined few.

Part of it, I think, is that I’m just not inspired in this town anymore, or at least not enough to push the “whoa!” of a momentary realization out from my heart and head through my arms and into typing hands. At least not very often. Why is that? I don’t know. I used to be so eager to put pen to paper or fingers to keys. I guess it’s that even though I’m doing completely different things and living in a different abode than when I left “forever” a year and two months ago, it’s the same place with the same stultifying force that slowed this Superball almost to a stop. I become animated in conversation sometimes, especially if it pertains to animals or Ireland or love, but in black and white, I’m just about spent. Good thing I’m leaving “forever” again in a month and a day.

I had the Feeling not long after I first moved here, almost seven years ago, and for a good span after that: an overwhelming strength in knowing what I was doing, even if it didn’t make any sense. I was where I belonged. The certainty welled up as an exultant YESSSSSSS that swept away everything else like a flash flood — or sometimes as a forceful “this will not stand, man!” Or both.

But now it’s like things are dying a little bit at a time, not least of all my old, old grandma. Maybe when her spirit breaks free, so will mine (in a different way, of course — I intend to stay in this body a good long time yet . . . though one never knows, does one?).

It’s almost hard to write about the magic, even though it’s obviously still happening behind and under the scenes, because I remember its full force only from before, when I felt it last. Remembering is not experiencing.

Self-expression is borderline exhausting. I’m weary. But a spark keeps me trudging, keeps these words smoldering out onto the screen for some reason . . . until one fine morning . . . .

This Is That

I have two days off coming up again after my day shift tomorrow. I think I’ll use them to drive around and leave copies of my book everywhere. Anybody want a Superball drop-in? I could put a couple visits into the itinerary.

I’m getting a full refund from the airline booking site ( Hallelujah! At least I can start from scratch and they don’t get any extra benefit from me for their lackluster customer service. I’m now waiting on Aer Lingus after I submitted a form today requesting their special student rates. However that pans out, I can now fly to Ireland sooner — probably leaving August 21 at the latest, at least a full week earlier than I originally planned! That is working out amazingly.

I doctored the broken tail and cracked leg of my unicorn, Serendipity, with rainbow tie-dye “Duck Tape” in anticipation of journeying north for a handoff in three weeks. Also going along will be my plant, Spider-Planty (for the second time — a well-traveled plant), and my magicalest little box of magical things. They will be looked after until a day when we might all come together again — once I become a rich novelist resident in Ireland and can afford to ship everything. Or something like that.

Even though all this is happening and I feel better than I did for a while, I still feel a bit glum. I guess it just doesn’t seem real yet, and it still feels like I have so far to go, with so many complete unknowns.

My selves keep having conversations about it:

“Of course I’m moving to Ireland. That’s just the sort of thing I would do.”

“Wait . . . but what am I doing? I don’t know what I’m doing!”

“Yes, you do. You know exactly what you’re doing: following your heart, same as always. What is this concern? You’re an adventurer! And you know you can’t very well stay here.”

“No, that’s true. There’s nothing for me here.”

“So . . . okay. It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The question is what we’re going to do in the meantime.”

“Isn’t it always.”

“We could do a blog post.”

“Sure, let’s do that.”

“What do we have to write about, though?”

“Oh, all the things. Thises and thats.”

“This is that.”