We arrived in the dark after a very long drive. We knew when we left the previous town, Sligo, that it would be so, driving on strange opposite-side roads with reverse order roundabouts in a country that spoke English but still felt so foreign in some ways, and so same in others. The rockabilly diner after the Dublin airport: Same. The high speed major roads the width of an ungenerous American driveway: Foreign.
Dark stacked on top of dark as we wound our way up some hill without knowing what depth existed just outside of our car, pulled into a driveway hemmed by trees we could not see but felt punching the side mirrors, and then we were in a clearing. Feeling blind and lost, we arrived at the Green Gate. And Paula was upon us.
She hugged us as if we were truly known to her, and we realized later that not much was not known to her. Not through the left brain, but the right brain. Not through thought or certainty, but through love. And not through the intangible professed kind, but through her hands in the dark wrapping themselves around us. Through the pulling of us into the old, old kitchen in one of the white, low thatched huts that used to house nuns over a hundred years ago. Through the offering of tea; through the stoking of burning peat bricks in the fireplace; and through the bright, thick, warm storytelling of a childhood in Belfast digging peat with her father and eight or nine siblings, of teaching Tibetan children English in India, and of the teaching of Irish children in her present home in Ardara, Donegal.
We sat there with Paula, still feeling as if our bodies and minds were rolling through the dark, and then seeing light, fire, for the very first time.
I'm a writer in Richmond who, until almost a month ago, almost never went anywhere more than 300 miles away. And I'm now the proud owner of a couple new stamps in my passport and Euro and Pound coins that I can't seem to convert back to American currency.