There’s a giant butterscotch cat sitting on my lap as I peck away at the keyboard, one hand kept behind his battle-scarred ears–he’s a lover and a fighter–his claws digging into my thigh each time I stop petting. Beast. It’s okay though, he and the peat fire are keeping me warm in a drafty, weird, rambling hostel that was converted from a monastery and is now filled with miscellaneous stuffed chairs, art, junk, and young French backpackers. Tomorrow will be one week since I’ve left, and in that time I’ve made it about 3/4 of the way around the coast of Ireland.
One of my favorite days was spent in Belfast, taking in the murals generated by the conflicts between the Protestants and Catholics. I don’t really see Ireland as my home country and when people ask me if I’m here to trace my genealogy (the first thing they do after they hear my name), I just smile and shrug. But seeing the murals was sad and powerful and frustrating in a way that felt strangely close to home. It could be that it was seeing my family names all over the tombstones and memorials that was upsetting, but I think what really caught me was the ever-present government housing in the major conflict areas and the futility of it all.
I managed to chase a lot of that away while scrambling over the amazing geometrical basalt formations at the Giant’s Causeway. The hexagonal columns seem to break away from the black cliffs surrounding them and march into the sea. The waves crash around them and form little pools where huge, hair-like strands of seaweed wind around the angular rocks. It was all I could do to keep myself from chipping the basalt–it makes lovely bifaces in the right hands.
It’s hard to recap during trips; a lot of my time has been spent wandering around small country lanes in the rain, checking out obscure ruins, and talking with random people over pints of Smithix in pubs, but that doesn’t translate well to a travel narrative. Over my laptop I can see that the sun is just now going down over the little tangle of green and trees outside the window–strange to be so far north. The cat in my lap is so solidly asleep that he’s no longer purring and I’ve got a nice little mountain to climb tomorrow, so it’s probably time to finish this up and wander away to my bunk. ‘Night.