Monday, June 27, 2016

The Third Letter

Off to the match with new friends

Tipp v Limerick (Tipp won)
Dearest Ireland,

As you will fondly recall, we first met in person last summer when I discovered a "Fiddler's Retreat" online. That sounded like the perfect way for us to get acquainted.... fiddle lessons by morning, sight seeing by afternoon, and playing along in a pub in the late evening (pub music generally starts in Ireland around 10).

The retreat was located in county Tipperary. I pulled out a map. What's this??!! Totally land locked! No famous cliffs, few attractions in the travel guides, mostly rolling hills and pasture land. Weeelll....I did want to see the REAL you so maybe this would be okay. And honestly, I couldn't find any better options, considering I wasn't going to risk renting a car and driving on the wrong side.  And I didn't want to have to share you with a tour bus load of blarney-eyed Americans.

I had no idea how my life was about to change. Your's too. During that short week, I learned that Tipperary is not located in the heart of Ireland by chance. It IS your heart! Well that's my opinion anyway. Medieval wonders, breathtaking landscapes, music sessions that you, yourself, seem to be conducting and people who are charming, passionate and hospitable. In the heart of Tipperary is Thurles Town, where I'm spending my summer with Doc (You'll have to hear more about him later).

Thurles is home to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) that fuels your fiery spirit by sponsoring and nurturing your beloved progeny: Hurling!  It's a 3000 year old Gaelic game (not what Americans usually associate with "hurling"), played on a field between two teams, something like soccer or football, but with sticks. It's your national sport and your people love it. Each county has a team... and heroes... and stories about conquests and defeats that may rival those of 9th century Viking warriors. Children learn it early and old men fly team flags from their windows and chat about it on the streets. Everyone seems to be at the games, flashing their county colors.

So I shouldn't have been surprised last week in Killarney when Doc and I were in a pub, chatting with a cute 30-something couple from Illinois.  Doc asks the guy if he liked sports and when the answer was an unconditional absolutely, Doc suggested they come to the game in Thurles on Sunday. We got them tickets, had them over for lunch and took them to the family gathering afterwards. Hot tea and freshly baked scones for all.  They said it was the best day of their 10 day Ireland vacation. And their later facebook post confirmed it.

Doc, and others, are teaching me by example what it means to reach out to people, to show kindness to strangers, and to share our time and hearts with others. Tomorrow we're expecting guests from Arizona whom Doc contacted a few years ago when he discovered they are descendants of his great, great aunt who emigrated during the famine years. He arranged a big reunion here in 2004 of distant, long lost cousins that inspired as much enthusiasm as a hurling match final.  He is still in touch with many of them and extending the invitation.

I knew there were going to be things to learn this summer beyond the origins of the Cistercians and configurations of court tombs.  I've become much more private over the last few years and in doing so, I know I've missed opportunities... to show gratitude for all I have, to share God's love with the people I meet and to enrich my own life by discovering and accepting what others have to offer.

So I'm airing out my extrovert overcoat this summer, because it looks like I'm going to be needing it.


  1. Another adventure for me to enjoy following and live through your wonderfully curious nature and eagerness to learn. If you run across any McFarland's around there, I'm sure we're related ;)

    1. I've been looking for McFarlands everywhere....tombstones, shop fronts, etc. Doc tells me they are predominantly from Northern Ireland (Counties Tyrone and Armagh) and Scotland. btw, We'll have to talk when you really do retire. It's very disconcerting.