Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Saint Patty's Day

Saint Patty’s Day has always been a favorite holiday for my wife Jilda and me but we weren’t sure why. A few years ago when we had an opportunity to travel overseas, we chose Ireland. After spending ten days in that lush green paradise, with some of the kindest, most fun-loving people on the planet, we finally understood.

We flew out of the international terminal of Atlanta Hartsfield Airport one evening and headed east over the Atlantic. I had the window seat and Jilda sat in the middle. A priest sat next to her. After a while, we all struck up a conversation and he gave us pointers on places to visit. He told us some of the funniest Irish jokes and limericks I’ve ever heard. We both fell asleep smiling.

Several people who had visited the island recommended we take one of those planned tours, but both Jilda and I are fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kind of people so we decided to do our own tour.

We got off the plane that morning and rented a car at the airport. I got into the Opel but quickly realized the steering wheel was on the passenger side of the car. I had to shift gears with my left hand, but fortunately the gas, clutch and brakes were all in the right place.

For most people, driving on the wrong side of the road feels strange and unfamiliar, but that’s where growing up in Walker County came in handy. I’d had a great deal of experience driving on the wrong side of the road.

We had a road map but no itinerary, so we simply wandered through the countryside. We were stunned at every turn by the sights, sounds, and colors.

We rambled aimlessly for a few days, eating at small out-of-the way places and sleeping at bed and breakfast inns. The only thing we had on our calendar was to meet up with our old friend Dan Crary who was performing in Kilkenny. He was on his annual tour of Ireland.

Dan Crary is not a household name, but for bluegrass lovers and guitar pickers, he is a star. We met Dan at a Horse Pens 40 festival back in the seventies and we struck up a friendship that has lasted through the years. We felt blessed that he asked us to join him for a couple of gigs.

After we said our goodbyes, we continued our journey though small towns and villages. We played our songs in parks and pubs throughout the country.

We visited old churches, castles and cemeteries that seemed as old as time itself. For a country that is roughly the size of South Carolina, there must be a million miles of rock walls.

One sunny afternoon we sat on a park bench eating our lunch in a small community near Tullamore. All around us, young children played. Jilda made the observation that there was not an adult in sight. Ireland reminded us of the south in the 1950’s.

The sights and sounds of Ireland were spectacular but the truly remarkable thing was the people we met. They love music and telling stories. They are quick to laugh and to tell you a joke. The people we met were thoughtful, intelligent and well read. They seemed to know more about American politics than we did. They made us feel like old friends.

As the airplane departed, we both took one last look at the Emerald Isle. I noticed that Jilda had tears in her eyes. She explained that it felt like we were leaving home. We both understood at that moment why we love St. Patty’s Day.

May the road rise up to meet you, May the wind be at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, May the rain fall soft upon your fields, And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day


  1. With friends like you and Jilda, I feel I am in the hollow of His hand.

  2. Great post Rick!! No tapping the keyboard waiting for inspiration this time.
    Ms Soup


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