Transported to Ireland by a Central Park vista
Days of incessant rain have turned the meadows of Central Park as green as any found in Ireland. The meadows evoke memories of that country as I walk through the park each morning.
On Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, the Atlantic Ocean pounds the 300-foot cliffs on the seaward side of the island, producing white spray from the impact of sea against stone. The cliff tops are carpeted with green grass as soft to the touch as moss, gaily decorated with yellow and blue wildflowers and white mushrooms.
Of the three Aran islands, Inishmaan, where Gaelic is spoken, is most closely linked with the Irish playwright John Millington Synge. Yeats advised Synge, "Go to the Aran Islands. Live there as if you were one of the people themselves; express a life that has never found expression."
From 1898 to 1902, Synge spent a part of each year living on Inishmaan, in the thatch-roofed, whitewashed stone house of the McDonagh family. From the people of Inishmaan he heard stories that formed the basis for his two best-known works, "The Playboy of the Western World" and "Riders to the Sea."
On the mainland I hiked along the Sky Road in Connemara. Hay fields extended to the water's edge. Each haystack drying in the sun wore a bonnet of waterproof cloth. The region is famed for its hospitality to strangers. A farmer once offered me a glass of milk. I conversed with herdsmen.
And who had traveled this road before me? Perhaps survivors of the Spanish Armada. Their ships, after receiving a terrible battering in the English Channel from both the sea and the English fleet, sailed north around Scotland, then down the west coast of Ireland. Lacking masts and sails, some vessels foundered or were wrecked along the treacherous coast.
Perhaps Irish citizens had walked here before me - forced by Cromwell to remove themselves to Connemara from their houses east of the Shannon River during the English conquest.
Perhaps families caught up in the Great Famine, many of whom fled Ireland, arriving in Boston and New York where their presence changed the history of both cities. Indeed, Irish laborers helped build Central Park.
I pass green meadows. From the sea comes the fog. The sun vanishes. Fog and sea and sky are one. The fog lifts. The sun reappears. The sun and fog are timeless rivals in the Western world.