Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top of the mornin' to ya! by DL Larson

Yep, it's that time of year again when everyone wants to be Irish. The Chicago River runs green, along with draft beer. Kelly green is the proper shade and seems to look good on everyone and everything, even hair!

No one cares if you're not really Irish; it's nearly spring, so our eyeballs are naturally drawn to that rich, vibrant color and the cadence of bagpipes puts a high kick to our step. And who doesn't want to find a pot of gold? Or catch a leprechaun. It's a national lottery, someone is bound to get lucky.

The Irish are a friendly people, and if you ever get a chance to travel to the old country, go prepared to chat with the locals, guzzle a mug or two at the carveries while waiting for your lunch. The Irish are not in much of a rush to do anything and I've always admired that. When my husband and I visited there a few years back, we quickly got used to being lost for they don't believe in road signs either, but then we had ample opportunity to talk with folks while asking for directions. Their beer wasn't green, but the landscape was the richest, deepest emerald I've ever seen. The forests are so heavy with moisture they twinkle, and I'm pretty sure I spotted a fairy or two.

I've always been told my mother's family was Irish, and during our travels the question often came up whether we had a bit of Irish in us. I mentioned my mother was a McDowell. The response I received wasn't the one I expected. "Oh, you'd be from across the sea, the Scottish Irish. They're the ones that spell your name that way." News to me and my family!

The carveries I mentioned are the pubs with restaurants attached to them. The pubs are always open, not so the carveries. Lunch is served at noon, no sooner, so don't be in a rush to get on down the road. Might as well enjoy the scenery and have a Guiness while you wait. The Irish take their beer consumption seriously. They consume as much beer as they export to other countries! That's quite an accomplishment.

As for cornbeef and cabbage, we were served more lamb and Irish stew than beef. I didn't see a lot of cattle roaming the hills. But sheep with painted butts could be found in every nook and crag along the roads. Sometimes in the roads. They too were never in a hurry to move along.

Please be prepared to talk sports with them. It's on all the TV channels in all the pubs and carveries. We learned a lot, mostly that soccer is really football and football in America is not football in the rest of the world. But hashing over the game is the same world over, and must be done with much hand gestering, just like in American bars. Some things are frightfully the same.

Castles really are everywhere in Ireland! Ruins, too. We rarely missed an opportunity to explore a castle. Some had elaborte grounds and history, others were left open to browse at your own pace and wonder about the past. And the one thing that I found out of place were the palm trees. They were a pleasant surprise.

No wonder everyone pretends to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. It's a celebration to celebrate life, fun, and a good time. I'm all for that. I'll end with the simple but elegant Irish Blessing:

"May the road rise up to meeet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, and until we meet again,
May the God that loves us all hold you in the palm of his hand.

Til next time ~
DL Larson

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