In 2006 I was in Ireland.
Usually when I’m in Ireland I don’t feel a strong pull to the bigger cities. I’m drawn to the hills and mountains.
The stone walls.
The castles of old. Not the castles of new…new being less than 400 years old.
I love the ‘ruins’ and the investigating. And by investigating I mean standing in a place and trying to capture a moment from 1000 years prior. Trying to see the monks as they worked their lives through, building and praying and chanting and creating.
The churches…imagining how they were magnificent in their wholeness.
Finding old homes I try to see the lives of the families that lived within the fallen walls, and I try to picture those walls being built and the fires within that warmed and fed them.
And looking in the faces, to see me, looking back.
I love the grey stone of Ireland. To me it is beautiful. Strong. Fascinating. Comforting.
I love the old pubs where for hundreds of years men have sat and smoked and drank, talking with that sound that only the Irish can make….where the spoken word is a tune to a plodding speaker like me. I smell the turf fire. I touch the doorways often two feet thick as I step in to another time and back out, pretending to have stepped back in time, and then back again to my world. Ah! Thank you God for my imagination!
But this was 2006. We found ourselves so close to Dublin, how could I not go? There was only one place I wanted to see. Kilmainham Gaol. I was there for the 90th anniversary of the Easter Uprising, I had to go. I have read the stories, the histories, the biographies of so many moments and lives in Ireland. This isn’t about the politics of Ireland. This is about the history, the people, the land. You have to know it all: the parts you agree with, the parts you disagree with, the parts that you don’t understand. The story is oft told and the battle continues yet. I wanted to see Kilmainham Gaol to be where moments were lived, and where some moments were the end, and where other moments were created and live on.
There is much history to Dublin “the black pool”. And if ever I had the chance to be in the place, with the history of it, without the “city life” of it… I would grab it and explore it to no end.
But on this day which was not planned, but by chance, it was a chance we recognized. We went in to Dublin with only one purpose…. to see Kilmainham Gaol. We made our way in to the city and parked as close as we could without having any idea how to drive about Dublin. We got out of the car and walked just a block or two and ran into a Garda. Husband asked where the Gaol was and the Garda in his beautiful native lilt pointed and we were right there. We asked if we could go up to it and he said yes. He also said that it was closed today. My heart sank. I could actually feel it plummet to my feet. But he told us to go on up and look around. He was very nice.
We walked right up. We wondered why there were Garda standing about. But they only nodded and smiled at us. Generally ignoring us. We walked up to the Gaol. I stood there to look. Here was history. I’ve read it. I could look at that building and in my head I heard the noise on the streets. Though quiet today I could hear the 90 year old battle. I could feel the press of people who first condemned the ‘rebels’ and then I could feel the emotions sway. I stood there and wondered if the people stood here, right out here, horrified by what was going on inside. Could they hear anything inside? Did they know the poets, the school teachers, the cobblers, the laborers, the educated, the loved ones who were inside. Did they hear the shots that turned the tide of condemnation to that of heroes accepted. For me…I pictured the men. The families. The person on the street not even sure of what happened, why anything was happening, and the changing world of this place at that time.
Were mother’s standing here fearing what was happening to their sons?
Were girlfriends and wives standing here not knowing if their loved one was inside or somewhere yet unfound but gone?
Were fathers here wishing they could trade places with, or stand beside, their son inside?
Was there anyone outside, wondering or realizing that inside, were women who fought by the men?
I tried to see the clothing they wore. The smell of days of battle. The smell of blasted stone. The dust. The destructions.
A van pulled up. The President of Ireland…. she got out of the van and walked right by us. President Mary McAleese.
Why did she get to go in I wondered as she walked right up to the door with her entourage. Seems unfair. To me. Whatever. Husband steps across the street to get a picture. A female Garda asks him if we are with them. Them being the politicos. He said no. She told him we couldn’t be there. She told him we had to leave.
He came back across to tell me what she said. We had a Garda tell us how to get here, we had Garda tell us to come on up, we had Garda nod at us as we walked past them, we had Garda observe us standing there. And one all powerful lone Garda decides we can not be there.
I was none too happy.
I was not done history dreaming. I was not done letting my wondering history thoughts and moments settle. I needed to be there. For a little while. I wanted to go inside. I wanted to touch the walls. I wanted to see what was seen 90 years ago. I wanted to feel the history.
I wanted to be respectful to the men and women and the history of 90 years ago. I stood where they lived out history.
I just wanted to stand there a little longer.
It was Easter Day. I was sad that I was so close but couldn’t go in and feel the power of that history.
So we left the modern day intruders on my quest for a moment in history. And we returned to the seat of the High Kings.
We spent Easter with President and Kings alike on the day of Our Own King’s Rising.
It was a very powerful day.