October 23rd, 2002 … I was traveling west of Galway, heading out to a small village in the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking area) call Carraroe.
It may be 18 years ago but the memory is fresh in my mind, as if I had just been there.
Yesterday while looking for some images on an archive drive I came across several that I had taken and the road to Carraroe became a true trip down memory lane.
It is a beautiful little corner of Ireland … the coastal roads of West Galway. And on a nice day, it is likely one of the prettiest places in the world.
I remember stopping into a little shop as I entered the village to get a bar of chocolate and a can of coke before I headed into my meeting. Yes, I was a really healthy eater back then too.
As I stepped in and waited behind a local who was at the counter ahead of me, their conversation being completely in Irish, it felt like I had stepped back in time a hundred years or more.
The West Galway dialect is different to the southern Limerick dialect that I had learned and all of a sudden I felt inadequate whereas moments beforehand I characterized myself as fluent. But truth be told, I was able to be understood when it came to my turn and I walked out head held high and returned to the car.
Driving out the coast road with the Atlantic ocean on your left and the wild Irish countryside on your right is genuinely a moment to breathe in. I apparently did, because these images show that I stopped the car and got out early morning on at least two or three occasions.
Anyway, firstly, here is the panoramic shot as you suddenly start to enter Carraroe and at the end of the blog are a small few shots that still mean something to me, these many years later. I hope you enjoy.
So apart from just being a vehicle to talk about Ireland, the real thought in today’s blog was more about how our trains of thought can stop us dead in our tracks sometimes.
I was looking for some images for a friend from 2006 yesterday and before I sent my archive drive to the floor, ruining 8TB of backups (that’s another story), I was scouring from folder to folder and opening up one memory after another.
Some of the memories were trivial inasmuch as I would think “I don’t even remember this person, not to mind shooting them”. But other memories such as the road to Carraroe were show-stoppers for me, my mind, and my heart.
Some of these memories can be so very vivid. For example, I can honestly remember the moment when I stepped out of the car to take that panoramic shot. I remember the chill in the morning air. The freshness as my lungs filled with a wonderful supply of unpolluted oxygen.
I remember the sounds, or perhaps more relevant, the absence of sounds. There wasn’t another car within hearing distance and if a human was stirring somewhere they were wearing slippers.
It was one of those peaceful moments where you realize how perfect the moment is, right there and then. And you acknowledge it to your soul.
Then 18 years later, as you stumble on an old photograph, your brain recalls and your soul reminds you!
It’s like that moment you get a smell of something in passing and it brings your heart back to your childhood standing in your mother’s kitchen. Or you hear a song’s refrain and you remember the soft embrace that came with the first time you shared it with someone special.
So, yesterday I sat in silence, unaware that I was about to drop my hard drive onto the concrete floor in about ten minutes … and the world was perfect once again.
Recall can be one of the most amazing aspects of our brains. Yes, we can analyze, process, communicate, and understand. But nothing gives as much joy as a good memory. Particularly one that has made it all the way up from the distant recesses of mental obscurity.
Emigrants carry with them a cross that most other people don’t understand. It is the memory of a time and place where they are no more and where they are so far removed from it that they have a sense of displacement.
We may gloss over and enamor the memories to where we remember them to be better than they were. Our minds enhance the good parts and downplay the negatives.
Whatever the circumstance that takes us to a new land, a part of us always stays behind. Nobody emerges from such a journey intact. No matter what they say.
It is one of the reason’s why I heartily disagree with the whole oath of allegiance process that places like America put on us. Not the allegiance part, but the part where they make you take an oath that you disavow all foreign countries as you become a new citizen.
Regardless of the words, none of us immigrants here ever disavow our place of birth. Nor should we.
Unfortunately, there is a very real price associated with memories of our past, our home, our people. They remind us sadly that the truth is we can never go home. Because home is no longer just a place or people. It also is a time.
And times change.
The Irish race is often associated with being drinkers and I always smirk at the association when I hear it. It displays a certain ignorance that extends beyond anything racist. It shows us that the people who adhere to that notion just don’t understand the plight of the reluctant emigrant and why generations might turn to drink to drown the sorrow and dull the memory.
I don’t drink. Or at least I should say that Coke Zero doesn’t really dull any memories.
So, yesterday’s flood of memories from a time and place that was special to me … well it just comes through loud and clear. And very vivid.
Memories are often the source of dreams and they feed our imagination and fantasy world while we sleep.
But memories deserve their moment in daylight too.
Well-balanced people live their lives with a healthy blend of who they were, who they are, and who they hope to be.
Out past becomes the platform in which our present exists and our future can build on. Recalling the past is an important part of understanding who we were and are.
So I guess what I am trying to say here is that recalling should be an active part of our lives and not just relegated to an accidental occurrence that happens just before your hard drive drops the floor.
Apart from giving us a chance to revisit with those we have lost (people and places), they are an excellent way of characterizing how we arrived at where we are in life.
If you don’t know where you came from, how on earth will we ever know where we are going?
… just a thought.