All too quickly I am back at my desk, drinking my first real coffee in almost two weeks, pondering. I have been doing a lot of that over the last little while. Perhaps, I should continue the story before I get to the pondering.
After the day in Derry / Londonderry, our group headed back to Corrymeela to unpack some of what we saw, what we heard and what we discussed. Both in the terms of the Troubles, but also our group dynamic. That discussion got me to thinking. About me and how I handle conflict or avoid conflict and how that has in some ways shaped my life. Who knew I would be so reflective? I certainly didn’t. Perhaps it was naive of me to think this week at Corrymeela and in Northern Ireland would be more of an academic experience.
On Thursday afternoon, I hopped in a cab and drove about 20 minutes west along the Antrim coast to explore the Giant’s Causeway. They say that Fionn McCool, the Irish giant, built the causeway to get across the channel to Scotland to fight Brenandonner, the Scottish giant. There is also a theory that volcanic activity over a few million years created the basalt columns. I guess it’s up to you to decide which suits your needs. In any event, it is a place of wonder. The Atlantic Ocean crashes up against honeycomb shaped pillars and creates the most magical place. Dense green grass grows up the cliffs and almost looks like carpet. Dense green carpet. Made me want to take off my shoes and walk through it.
Given that I was in The North, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to geek out and poke around Tollymore Forest (on the southeast coast of Northern Ireland) and try to find some dire wolf pups. Yes, I am a Game of Thrones nerd. Didn’t find any pups there but I found an amazing 1,600 acres of pine forest, streams, folleys and peace. I found the dire wolfs in Strangford Lough, which is just north of Tollymore Forest and also home to a Dothraki slave master. Summer and Grey Wind, Bran and Robb’s dire wolves, are Northern Inuit dogs and first generation born in Ireland, with Canadian parentage.
So back to my pondering. I have come to realize that peace and reconciliation do not mean living happily ever after without disagreements. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of that. Reconciliation is about learning to live with differences and disagreements. To make accommodations and to receive accommodations from those you disagree with. Slightly more nuanced than compromise. It’s not a definitive action, it is a continuous conscious effort to live together and to address conflict. It is to recognize that someone else has a story and it is just as complex and, perhaps as painful, as yours.
So, the things I will miss about Ireland (in no particular order):
- The sun. I am ruined for Ireland. I have used up all of my good weather juju with 11 of 12 sunny days.
- The Guinness. I am ruined for Guinness. It doesn’t taste the same at home. I had one last night on my patio and somehow, it’s just not as good. Still good, don’t misunderstand me, but not the same.
- The coast line. I am ruined for coastlines. Spectacular doesn’t quite cover it.
- The people. I am ruined for people. OK, not even remotely true, but I kinda like the symmetry. Despite years and years of conflict, the people of Ireland, both North and South, have a way about them. Friendly, chatty, witty, funny, charming, and a little blue. Just the way I like it.
The thing I will not miss about Ireland:
- Potatoes. As much as I love potatoes, I think I’m going to stick to salad for the next wee while.