We all remember, in vivid detail, defining moments of life. Those times, tragically and joyfully, when circumstance has evoked our deepest emotions. We recall where we were and how we felt. I distinctly remember the day, decades ago, when Aran came to me.
A Spring breeze rustled the curtains and beyond, birds were singing from the branches of magnolia trees. My babies were napping and dinner simmered on the oven-the aroma wafting up the staircase. I’d plopped down, cross-legged on the floor and I’d randomly opened a National Geographic that my mother had passed along after her annual Spring cleaning.
Within moments, my heart was racing and strange, unexplainable tears were rolling down my cheeks. “Tears are telling,” I’d say to my children. “Pay attention. They reveal our hearts.” Though my love affair with Ireland had begun in my own childhood, this feeling was different and I knew I’d be restless until I set foot on Aran’s shores.
For many years, I’d teased the branches of our family tree, searching for an explanation for my Irish longings. As a little girl, when my brothers were cruel, I’d pack my Disney suitcase and run away to Ireland, my safe place, which was, then, an oak tree on my street corner.
As I grew, I was sure that some ancient ancestor was yearning to cross the threshold and had instilled this passion inside me. Perhaps, she had a story she needed me to tell. She seemed to be pulling some ancient cord to bring me “home” to Ireland.
I do not like that ancestry site. I sent my spit in a little tube, held my breath while waiting for results and, because I was in Aran when the reveal came through, I was sure it was a Divine orchestration. No! These DNA experts had the audacity to report the undeniable truth that I’ve only 9% Irishness coursing my arteries. That barely covers my corny jokes and the penchant for a pint every now and again.
Yet, despite my “weak” bloodline, I, like many of you, do feel a sense of “homecoming” at the thought of Ireland and when I land there. Pieces of my heart are all over the West and it is Aran- beautiful Aran-that has woven her magic, like her lovely knits, into every fiber of my being.
As time goes by, with thanks to this site, you will know my Aran stories and I hope to know your own. Truth to tell, I could write endlessly and never have enough time, nor words beautiful enough, to express my gratitude, awe, and affection for the islands and her gracious inhabitants. This place, these people-the landscape, light, lore, lyrics and deep laughter-have affected my life in powerful ways. And that’s what I desire to share with you. Aran is a metaphorical lighthouse of my life.
For this opportunity, I humbly bow to Conor Meehan, who worked his own brand of magic and bestowed a deep sense of belonging before I ever settled in to the stones and stories. Like many of you, I was curious to learn more, googled around, and stumbled upon this page. Not only was my awareness deepened, but by Conor’s genuine sharing of everyday life, I felt a spirit of hospitality, welcome, and nurture. By his accounts of life on his “beloved island” a cyber-community grew, and out of that, some of my most treasured friendships and experiences were born.
So, here we are again. Conor has boiled the figurative kettle for us, and he’s invited me to write alongside him. Though my submissions will come from a full life in the hills of Tennessee, I feel as if we’ll all be together at the table. Imagine, if you will, that there’s a tart in the oven, a fire forour comfort, and we are eagerly waiting for every one of you-native and otherwise-to come home to Aran. Her winds are calling us.
#NationalGeographic #AranIslands #Ireland #WildAtlanticWay
- Vivienne Nichols writes from her home in Tennessee. She contributes to her local newspaper and has honed her craft in creative writing workshops on Inis Mór. Vivienne spends summers in Aran and loves to write there and of her unique experiences and relationships with the landscape and Aran friends.