Ireland: Land of a Hundred Thousand Welcomes. This lrish saying is something I’ve seen and heard countless times since I was four years old. That’s when I made my first visit to Counties Mayo and Cork with my parents. Over the years I’ve traveled to Ireland many times and have had an opportunity to experience the warmth and welcoming spirit of the Emerald Isle.
For me this saying has a deeper meaning. My mother left Ireland when she was sixteen years old. Fortunately, she’s had an opportunity to return many times. She and my father even lived there for a few years after they bought a cottage. But my mom was the only one of her siblings who left Ireland. So, for me and my two brothers growing up in New York and New Jersey, it was a special treat to go to Ireland. What a welcome! The excitement of meeting aunts, uncles, and cousins. It didn’t matter how many times I went to Ireland; the welcome was always there, always fresh.
People here in the US would often ask “Aren’t you afraid to travel alone?” Me, “no”. Not when my trip took me to French Hill, Castlebar, County Mayo. There was family to see. Tea to be brewed. (Oh, as much as they love me, they wouldn’t want me to brew the tea…too weak), brown bread and butter to eat. It doesn’t matter where you go in Ireland…someone will always welcome you. There will always be a cup of tea (cupán tae) if you need it.
In September I will be in Castlebar for the launch of my book Death on Clare Island. I will be interviewed on Midwest Radio and hold a book reading at the Castle Book Shop on Castle Street. I’m excited about all of this but the most amazing part of it all: how welcoming and hospitable the radio station and book store owner is. I called and explained who I am and what I’d like to do. And they said “Yes.” They welcomed me and will accommodate my schedule and wishes. This is the sense of openness and community I’ve witnessed in this land of a hundred thousand welcomes throughout my life.
Several years ago, I published a journal article about how to create and live in community. It takes trust, respect, love, and the idea of liability for each other. Yes, we are all individuals but I believe our sense of being also comes from our relationships with others. Those relationships often shape who we are, our spirit, and our mind.
I guess for me all the welcomes, the cups of tea, the love, the support, and understanding for someone who pops into the country once in a while has been a core part of who I have become.
Star O’Brien, the main character in the Star O’Brien mystery series also experiences this welcoming spirit when she arrives in Ireland. I hope that as time goes on, Star will also find that she is part of an amazing community.
Keep the love going, Martha