When the weather turns cold in January I dream of beaches. It helps sustain me through the dark freeze of winter. I do not dream of sun drenched coasts, lined with high rise apartments reaching towards the sky. When I dream of beaches, I dream of Ireland’s shoreline.
My homeland boasts the most beautiful beaches in the world. Not Riviera beautiful, with dotted umbrellas and sun bathers smothering the sands. No, Ireland’s beaches are simply majestic.
A sunny day is never guaranteed during an Irish summer. A trip to the beach often involves a sweater, jeans, socks and closed toe shoes. Sandals can be just too breezy for exposed toes on an Irish summer’s day.
But occasionally, the summer weather cooperates. The barometer passes 70 degrees. The lure of golden sands, and rocky shoreline, takes hold of the spirit. I have such fond memories of packing my bathing suit, sunscreen, and flip flops in the hope “the day will last.”
The Irish know that golden summer days are numbered, and can never be taken for granted. What starts out as a glorious day, can change with astounding speed, especially on the west coast, where Atlantic breezes stir the clouds and the waves, with relentless passion.
Summer swims in the frigid waters of the Atlantic ocean are breath taking, quite literally. The water is so cold, that on first dipping a big toe in at water’s edge, the heart shudders.
I remember one such heart stopping, digit-numbing swim one summer, near Castlehaven, Co. Cork. Slowly, I waded out, inch by inch, first submerging my knees, then gingerly covering my thighs, my hips, and finally taking a deep, shivering breath, to let my shoulders feel the sting.
I swam out a little, then turned towards shore to take in the big picture. Oh, I remember it like it was yesterday.
Waves, sand, cliffs, mountain, sky and clouds surrounded me, one small, insignificant human in the midst of such beauty. Standing there, embraced by the surging waters, I offered a humble prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing of such raw, natural beauty.
Out of nowhere, I felt soft raindrops on my shoulders. The ocean surface grew speckled with dancing rain drops. Not big, fat, skin-piercing drops, but the gentle, misty, veil of Irish rain; the kind that causes old men and women to thank the heavens for a soft day.
I didn’t purposefully go swimming in the rain, but in Ireland the rain often takes you by surprise. I floated there, suspended in a rain-dappled ocean, and felt such peace with the universe.
Nowadays, when I feel overwhelmed by life, I journey back to that day in my mind. It is not easy to feel calm and still, when lost in the uproar of a Mommy’s life, suffering from cabin fever in the middle of a North American winter.
And so, I simply remember to breathe, as I did that day, drinking in the magnificence of my little Irish world. Recalling that rainy swim has helped me quiet my mind many, many years later. Mother nature is a profound teacher, if you stop, open your heart, and let her in.
Slán agus beannacht!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom