I am halfway through my fifth day in Ireland and each new moment seems to build upon the last. In every city I’ve lived, there have always been certain places where I seek comfort before finding it…specific locations where I sow emotional and creative seeds to cultivate and grow. Even though my original garden is a thousand miles away, I can till the Irish earth each day and eventually, I will have vibrant soil I can call my own. I’ve found one of those spots to plant a seed: the upstairs corner of a coffee house named McCambridge’s in the popular Latin Quarter of Galway. I have a cozy, one-person seat overlooking the bustling pedestrian street below. If I could open the window, I would be instantly kissed by both the rain and the sweet sound of street musicians, known here as buskers. Earbuds become obsolete the moment I walk down the cobblestone lane; a favorite song I’ve heard hundreds of times instantly becomes insipid as a teenager with acoustic guitar makes me feel as if the sun has just come out. And I haven’t seen the sun since Friday. It’s Tuesday afternoon…this Irish rain is no joke.
Since the day I decided to move to Ireland, I wondered what life would be like here; how the culture would look, feel and sound. There is plenty more to observe and take in, as my Irish journey is still young. And yet, I am struck by the reassurance of knowing that the core of life is similar everywhere. Children still giggle as they feed the birds and adults still bond over the shared intimacy of conversation. We are all more connected than we think. Life remains a beautifully joyful, universal existence. There is splendor to be found in each direction we choose to look.
In searching for joy, especially in a fresh setting, I’ve always struggled with looking a little too intensely and then holding on a little too tightly. I keep reminding myself to stay in the present moment here in Ireland, specifically that no photograph can capture the authentic details of a moment as well as uninterrupted, genuine experience can. Yesterday, I was walking along the canal that runs through Galway. My feet were tired from all the walking (I’m averaging about 10 miles a day) and it was raining again. I looked into the River Corrib and saw a solitary leaf a few feet below the surface. The leaf was spinning, churning and dancing, gracefully hovering its way through the flow. It looked as if it was laughing as it surrendered to the mercy of the riverbed. It was my own American Beauty moment, where I became transfixed and overwhelmed by the magnificence of something so simple. To capture the moment with my camera would have meant shortening its duration and diluting its impact. It is a detail of life in Ireland I won’t soon forget.
Let us keep digging our hands into the soil of life, savoring every detail as the damp earth darkens our fingernails. And the leaves just might be dancing if we look for them.
(Copyright 2017 – Jason Natzke)