I never stop being fascinated by the clouds in that half hour before the plane descends.
My brother and I grew up on PBS. The reality was that for most of our childhood we only had access to the few channels that were publicly accessible. There were a few entertainment channels and there was always space for the news, but once my mother returned home from work, the channel stayed on PBS. Mystery shows, I, Claudius, Dr. Who, and all the documentaries.
I don’t know if I ever saw a documentary on Antarctica then, but I have since, and the clouds in those last few minutes of height sometimes remind me of the glaciers, the jagged incisions in the ice where blue-tinged canyons slice down from the slick surface. Of course, the clouds appear soft, much like snow, and there are those ragged edges as well where the white parts into a grayed canyon. The clouds fascinate me more deeply than Antarctic, because they are a changing landscape, a wonder in transformation that occurs not in millennia, but in the minutiae of seconds and milliseconds. In my witness, just as how imagine the sun to glare off packed snow, the sun can work magic in the glimmering, as if to invite a passenger to step out onto what can seem so solid to crunch on the interconnectedness of light. From below, I sometimes think how easy it is to imagine that spirit beings or angels live in cloud lands, where an open patch of sky might be a crystal clear pool that shifts into a cliffside, beaten by ocean waves, within moments.
In descending, I focus on the natural cools and the rising steel marks of humanity. As I descended into Shannon, Ireland, it was mostly green I saw. Hedge rows marked in close-to-square plots of land, house enclaves or the lone cottage with some sheep or cows at their pasturing. I imagine myself a painter extracting the color palette from the world: what do you call that green there, not spring or evergreen? There’s a bit of brown in it. Mossy, I think.
Travel always jumpstarts my energy. I left the warmth of my partner’s arms at 7 am in San Francisco. Parting kisses at the airport. The love-longing and the excitement of travel all mixed in one. By the time I arrived in Shannon at 8:30 am (12:30am SF time), I was still thrumming. I had taken a short nap of an hour before we landed, but I intended on staying up as long as possible before sleeping. I was trying to adjust to the time as soon as possible.
From Shannon, I took the bus to where I’ll be spending the majority of my time. For those interested in travel to Ennistymon, it’s the 51 (towards Galway) and the 350. It’s about 14 Euro one way, which is not bad at all, considering the taxi is 60 Euro minimum. In addition, Shannon airport has wifi as do all of the Bus Éireann buses, which is AMAZING! All those check-ins with my people? Done. Some beginning research on some of the topics I want to explore while I’m here? Also done. I hit the timing just right, too, as I had only a 5 minute transfer and a really easy transition at the Ennis bus station from the 51 to the 350. All in all, from the time I picked up the bus at 9:55am to 11:05 arrival, but bad of a go. It was REALLY perfect, in that I arrived at about 8:30 and was through customs with my luggage by 9:30. Just a short wait and I was on my way. If I ever have the great fortune of doing this again, I’ll try and do the red-eye flight again to make that bus, but easily an hour or two later would have also worked just fine.
At Ennistymon, Siobhán and her lovely daughter met me at the bus station. I was a bit of a surprise with my cute, short rimmed hat and very small (20 inch) roller and backpack. I always travel light, but I think that most people are surprised at how little I carry when I travel. I brought a small inventory of about 10 books, which honestly took most of the room in my suitcase.
It was a quick drive to the bookstore – short enough to walk, but it had been sprinkling in the morning and Siobhán was thinking of my luggage and such – and then Siobhán and E. gave me a tour of the building.
The Salmon Bookshop is beautiful. The shop is across the street from the historic courthouse and police barracks. The building itself is over 100 years old and was built with several additions over the years. In the back is a sheltered garden with newly placed plantings and newly done stone work, which will be a remarkable place for a reading or just an inspired place to sit and read. I’ll be taking pictures and posting them soon. Above the two rooms of books, there is a second floor with Jessie Lendennie’s office space, a research room, two bathrooms (with bath tubs!!!), and a kitchen. Above that, on the third floor, there is a workshop space set up with chairs for 7 as well as a podium and a little bedroom. This is where I am writing this entry now.
Outside, there is the sound of running water or insects chirping or horse carriages going over cobblestone (that I don’t remember seeing) or … I can’t pinpoint it, but when I did finally crash, it was a lullaby that offered me the best sleep that I’ve had in ages.
Before I took that “nap” of four hours, I set my baggage down and headed straight to the grocery, just two minutes away on Main Street. For about 22 Euro, I bought 4 seasoned (ginger and lemon) chicken breasts, gluten free pasta, a bottle of wine, and vegetables for ratatouille. When I returned, I chopped up the chicken and cooked them in a wok with an onion and red pepper. Once they were nearly done, I through in some of the red wine to create some steam and add a little something to the juices at the bottom. I made the gluten free (corn-based) pasta, strained the liquid, and then tossed in the finished chicken dish. It ended up being lunch and dinner tonight. I think I’ll finish the dish tomorrow for lunch and head out to a local gastropub for dinner and a cider tomorrow night.
After lunch, I attempted to call my partner, but FaceTime did not want to cooperate. He was on the train to work in Fremont, California, and I am here in Shannon, Ireland. We resolved to try again at his lunch time, and I resigned myself to a nap.
I usually have vivid dreams, dreams that do not allow me to sleep a whole night through. I am aware of the world around me, and it intrudes on my sleep. A slight sound in reality becomes the sound of rivers in my dreams. Sometimes, I find myself hinged between worlds; I have awoken several times, in mid-conversation with those in my dreams. Luckily for others or perhaps even more potentially unsettling to one overhearing me, I dream-speak in whispers … but in this nap, there were no clouds, green pastures, clouds, cityscapes, or conversations. There was darkness, which was a bliss. I struggled to wake up in time for my conversation with my boyfriend.
It was interesting watching my face in FaceTime (failed attempts) and later in Google Hangout (which is what we will probably use whenever we have our laptops). If my face could be compared to a bud, it blossomed in seeing Matteo on the screen. To be witness and also in the present moment of living the joy of seeing him was definitely a technological wonder … and now I am writing, and it’s Antarctica, and food, blues and jazz songs. It’s church bells and the silence of a sleepy town at dusk.
This is the beginning of the book tour. The simplicity is grand.