An Irish Rain


It’s a dreary day. The kind of rain you can barely hear because it’s heading straight to the ground, no courteous play against the window panes, a rude rain. Or maybe it’s trying to be polite, not to make any fuss, just getting the job done. Whatever the motive, its effect is blah. Spring Break Day Two for the kids. Looks like we’re decorating eggs and a lot of them.

I’m reminded of my trip to Ireland years back. While there, I read a funny article comparing the many types of rains to wine variants: a light crisp one, one somewhat sparkling, a precipitation blend. This one today is a full-bodied red: a deluge of Shiraz.

When I was in Ireland, though, I didn’t mind the weather.  I was there for eight weeks and it rained constantly. I guess it was the being somewhere else, a place I’d never been but felt I had: somehow innately familiar, perhaps through family stories, through distant bloodlines. I thought the Emerald Isle was aptly dressed in a grey that allowed the green to pop. Ireland could carry it off, the dark tone, and from what I’d read of Yeats, Joyce, Synge, the tone befit the stories and history. What would a ferry ride to the Aran Islands be without a little tumult, without the lift of some jarring swells? To arrive on those islands, to witness sun fighting through clouds–it’s as it was for the mothers of Synge’s fishermen, surrounded by ghosts; it’s as it was for those enclosed by Dun Aengus, the fort on the cliff, 300 feet up from the Atlantic, thick walls of stone circling, circling from the Bronze Age all the way to where I stood when I stood there. And circling still.

It’s what the Irish do with their weather, their tumult, their loads of rain–the making light of it, whatever the weight, turning the tragic into good solid storytelling–that’s what I love. I search for that quality in myself, like we American Irish search with an edge of desperation for our lineage, some connection to the beautiful place, a branch on that tree that puts us right there in County Sligo, County Clare, Kilkenny or Limerick, singing the old songs, gathering secretly at night on the edge of the pale, teaching our children Gaelic phrases, keeping our language alive, our history alive, keeping ourselves alive.

The modern Irish may scoff at the romanticizing, but I want to align myself with those who trump life’s sadness with laughter. I want to endure in just this way.

And I want my children to do the same.


I drum up a batch of pancakes for the girls and their friend who spent the night. We’re in jammies, still, as the rain continues soundlessly. The water on the stove boiling and popping with eggs makes a noise like rain. I add soft music, not much tannin, for a round, rich, late-morning, early-spring feel and sit down with the girls to eat. I feel the tug of the Cosmos, reminding me to immerse myself in whatever makes me happy, in the everyday, inarguable details: winter is over, my girls are tearing pancakes into pieces, fingers smothered in sloppily lapped-up syrup. Despite any mystical connections I may have to past and other places, this is the place. This is the time.

Before I can stop myself, though, as I’m sitting with the girls, I act the adult and pull in the weather as dreary conversation. I had just lived a moment graciously but then knee-jerked into negativity: “Oh, it’s a rainy, yucky day.”

“And a giggly one,” my youngest said.

She didn’t even look up as she lifted a sticky finger from her sticky plate, as she licked and dripped. Sweet, sweet wisdom of the ages spewing from the mouth of the map of Ireland herself: face filled with freckles, big, blue eyes, still staring downwards, taking in the magic of the circling, circling spirals of maple syrup.