Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 27, 2009

A Memory of Ireland

I've found when I travel that things that come to mean the most to me aren't the iconic sites that drew me there in the first place, but the instances of serendipity that expose me to something completely unexpected.

On our first trip to London, husband Art and I were walking through a park on our way from White Hall to Buckingham Palace when I noticed a man feeding birds from his hand. He saw me watching and motioned for me to come over. A few seconds later, small feathered creatures were landing in my hand, fetching the seeds the man had poured into it.

On our trip to Ireland last June, the famous Cliffs of Moher were the focus for a one-day trip. They were breathtaking with the deep blue-green waves of the Atlantic crashing into the rocks hundreds of feet below and the seagulls riding the updrafts.

But over time, something else we experienced that day has come to mind again and again. Near the walkway along the edge of the cliffs, a woman played a harp and sang. The cool Atlantic breeze dictated she dress warmly. A hat with a substantial brim protected her from the June sunlight, but also made it hard to see her face.

"Buskers" - street performers - are a common sight in the subways and streets of the world's larger cities, and most people give them a wide berth. A passerby may drop a coin, usually without even stopping to listen. There is a sense that these are people with problems and they are invading the space of the city's reputable citizens.

But that was not the case with this woman. She seemed to fit in perfectly with the scene and we tourists were the outsiders. Although we knew she was there to sell her CDs, her clear soft voice seemed to be a perfect companion to the green hillsides. There was a sense, whether true or not, that she might be there even if we weren't.

Art, our two daughters and I listened awhile and then we left. But we detoured to one of the nearby shops where I bought her CD, "A Memory of Ireland."

I thought it was just me who was struck by this woman. But we had barely returned home when Art checked her out on the Internet. He discovered that she is far from being some itinerant musician. She comes from a musical family and one Web site mentioned her performing at a benefit for the victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing. He had to check that out, too, as we had stopped in Omagh.

In the eight months since our trip, the CD has become one of Art's and my favorites. We often think of the unexpected pleasant encounter with the woman at the Cliffs of Moher.

But that isn't quite the end of the story. Art has been looking for a new car for some time and last week he located one at a Topeka dealership. While visiting with the salesman, we noticed a sign on the wall that said something like "Parking for Irish policemen only."

Art asked whether he had ever been to Ireland. Indeed he had. Out from the drawer came a photo album. And soon it was established that we had been to many of the same places - including the Cliffs of Moher.

"When I was there in 1999, there was a young woman with a harp," he said. "Did you see her? I have always regretted not getting one of her CDs and I cannot recall her name."

"Her name is Tina Morrissey and you can buy her CDs on the Web," Art answered.

So, we weren't the only ones who had an unanticipated experience at the cliffs - one that gave us a special memory of Ireland.

2009 Index