This will be the first of a series of blog posts on health + wellness: the Irish way. If you would enjoy following along, ( which I hope you will;)) please subscribe here and get these posts and some recent personal photographs sent right into your inbox.
Ireland, a green wonderland of rolling hills; ferns, wispy grasses, and heather; ancient trees, with high mountain glens that plunge into the vast expanse of the sea. There is no shortage of it's magic that captivates your imagination, and it's ancient pasts.
My father grew up in Portstewart, a little coastal town on the border of Londonderry and Antrim, counties residing in the north coast (the causeway coast) of Ireland. During childhood, many summer holiday trips took me over there for visits to see family. I'm captivated by this land, my heritage, the history, stories, delicious food and hospitality; that only the Irish can proudly grow and serve up as only Irish do in there jolly fashion. There are miles of coastland and ocean air that meets and mingles with its most robust industry; farming and agriculture. There is no shortage of sheep and cows. You'll find them in some of the strangest places; the side of cliffs, or amongst stone friars, graveyards and ancient stone walls, clues left of its spiritual past.
It's not hard to love and fall in love all over again with the beauty of Ireland. I was reminded by my recent trip that Ireland, as wondrously beautiful as it is, has had its threads with conflict. It's hard for this outsider to imagine how conflicts exist still to this day within such vast beauty.
Our most recent trip coincided with July 12th. A holiday that's connected to past troubles. These troubles I know little about. The Irish conflict is wrapped in its political past. While it's eased up considerably, you'll see or hear bits of it around July 12th. Its connected, in part, to religious divides from years gone by. Religion and politics. They're no two topics trickier and potentially combustible when mixed.
When it comes to the past and the future, we all get to choose where we'll "camp out", what we'll invest ourselves in; and how we'll forge ahead. We all set priorities based on deeply held internalize values.
I have a long history in Ireland visiting many times from an age I cannot even remember. Though the ones I do remember are the experiences that are joyous, life-giving and fun-filled. The "troubles" were never something that was talked about, or that I ever witnessed causing conflict with family. Rather they took to enjoying good banter and their "criac", an Irish term for fun. They love to dish up humour. Self-deprecating and witty; it keeps you "light-footed" and on your toes.
Yet there are parts in this story that aren't perfect. Struggle, hardships did exist. There are threads of mental illness woven into the genetic code of my past. But there is also, kindness, tenderness and care and good, pure fun.
Much of my heritage is attributed to a tender and loving grandmother. A woman who not only reared her family but ran a guest house. My gran cooked, cleaned and provided a warming environment for those she cared for; her family and guests. She built up a good reputation with her visitors. She didn't have it all easy mind you. Her husband and father of their 5 children struggled with mental illness. As the family grew in size, the less he could cope. He kept away and did his own thing to manage. So, my gran ran a guest house, making ends meet.
There is a saying that "people remember you for how you made them feel." Even with my gran's hardships, she was tenderhearted, compassionate, fun-loving a good cook and lighthearted.
How did a woman like her come to be so cherished in those hard years? Less money, amenities and other modern life conveniences.
She, like many Irish folks, found joy and connection in the more simpler things.
Food, family, faith, good laughs and tea. Yes, even tea.
Next post, I will look at the food that the Irish serve up with a dash of Irish passion.