A Bone-Deep Affinity with Ireland ... An Inner Knowing

I would have known I am Irish had I been adopted at birth by a family with a different nationality. Sooner or later, I would have woken up to the fact by simply paying attention to the way I am wired. It’s the little things within us that tell us who we are, the things that we are born with, that nobody put there or tried to suggest. It’s a type of self-awareness that has to do with unusual alignment, like acknowledging a deep-seated talent and feeling inextricably compelled to develop it, with no guarantee that doing so will ever amount to a thing.

Pictured: Haycocks in County Galway, Ireland. Courtesy of Jonathan Wilkins / geograph.org.uk, July 2009.

I cannot recall when it started, but its recurrence happened enough to make me wary of falling asleep when I was five, for at the threshold of night’s soft transition to otherness, the half-dream would come and affect me physically. It was the sensation of falling, yet I did not fall alone in my room from my five-year-old bed. I knew I was elsewhere, and I felt softness, and all around me the color of wheat, which I knew was somehow wrapped around me, leaving me in it but not of it, in a reality that felt so familiar to me as to relinquish all fear. And in my mind’s eye, unlimited vastness and wide-open space. Nightly, the vision would come, until I would wait for it without apprehension. But the moment I called it into anticipatory consciousness, the dream disappeared.

I’ve always felt a bone-deep affinity with Ireland. It goes beyond the image of self-identification, and is more an inner-knowing. Knowledge of what, I cannot tell you, except to say we all have our comfort-zone in the world. I suspected mine was in Ireland long before I ever went there. There was something about seeing pictures of the island that made my heart reach out nostalgically, and once I pressed pause on my American life and went there, I’d never felt more at home.

I’d climbed over a gray-stone wall and started walking towards the sea, and there in the distance, mounds of spun gold.

The first time I went to Ireland, I found an ease that quieted my restless heart. It was a presence of mind that kept me anchored in the moment, a perspective so glaringly clear as to have caused a permanent shift in my thinking to this very day. It has something to do with the priority of importance, and I found it by walking the Irish land. One foot after the other in a cadence through the bog in Connemara made my soul remember something during that first visit, and last October I had cause to return.

My cause to return to Ireland involved a book, a camera, and the largess of time to mix business with pleasure. The companionship of a childhood friend and a hired car was all I needed to accomplish my goal. We flew into Shannon and cut a swatch through the west of Ireland in ten action-packed days that included The Burren, The Cliffs of Moher, Galway City, Spiddal, Kylemore Abbey, Clifden and Adare. And all the while, ease, comfort, and a sense of belonging accompanied me.

I was standing in the middle of a field in Inverin when my friend found me. She’d come out of the shops to find me nowhere around. Irritated by my unpredictability and burdened with groceries, she picked the direction that made the least sense and went in search of me.  

I don’t know how I found it, except to say that my feet took the lead. I’d climbed over a gray-stone wall and started walking towards the sea, and there in the distance, mounds of spun gold. They were evenly dispersed, these neatly packed, tall bundles of hay, and once there among them, I looked right and left then selected one and climbed to its top. It was there that time folded into itself, for it was there I remembered my recurring childhood dream. I had no way of knowing which had transpired first: if my dream had been prescient or something far more unusual, but once positioned atop, I felt something in my soul exhale.

This is how I would have known I am Irish without anybody telling me: these unusual occurrences that I take as a matter of course. They defy explanation and keep me attuned to the uncanny, and because I am Irish, I embrace them with willing ascent.

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Tags: Commentary, Genealogy, Identity, Opinion

Comment by John Anthony Brennan on September 19, 2015 at 10:02pm

Ms. Fullerton, Another wonderful trait we possess is of course, our sense of the ridiculous (humor) I think it's called

I'm heartened to see that you have your fair share of it. (humor I mean.)......LOL.

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on September 25, 2015 at 7:13am

My heart belongs in Ireland ; as I am sure most Irish people will also have that connection. I want to be buried at Home .Instructions already given to family. 

Comment by Claire Fullerton on September 25, 2015 at 9:44am

This sounds to me to be a very strong affinity, indeed!

Comment by Claire Fullerton on September 25, 2015 at 9:45am

This sounds to me to be a strong affinity, indeed! Thank you for commenting!

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on October 2, 2015 at 8:34am

Going to Ireland is indeed food for the soul. Every time I go home , I inhale the sense of peace , air, and beauty all around my home town of Bray Co Wicklow , mountains form  backdrop and sea in front of one . Very often wonder why I left; then I am sadly reminded that the economics of the era that I lived  in, forced me like many thousands of others  to seek work farther afield .

Very poignant Clare Fullerton  

Comment by Claire Fullerton on October 2, 2015 at 12:02pm

Thank you to That's Just How it Was. I understand the sentiment behind the juxtaposition here and choose to address the silver lining, which came to me by your use of the word "seek" : If we're not seeking up in life, then we're standing still. It's a brave soul who tries on different hats in life; seems to me you've done just that.

Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on October 25, 2015 at 6:57am

Being in Ireland ; brings a sense of belonging, that I find an overwhelming ache , just to be there . Leaving... boarding a plane that takes me back to my reality ................. is a wrench .

I thought I was the only person who felt like this ; but taking note of the comments above .. I am in good company  .  

Comment by Claire Fullerton on October 25, 2015 at 11:05am

Well said! I identify with your word choice "overwhelming ache!"


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