A Sense of Place
Everyone has memorable big-letter days in their lives – weddings, births, graduations – such days are too few, but are also somewhat artificial in that they are so unique, and so unlike daily life that they have an almost detached feeling to them. Then there are those remarkable days that happen within the relatively normal ebb and flow of our lives that stand out and never fade away. They stay with you not because they are easy to remember, but rather because they are inescapable and cannot be forgotten, like they are part of your identity.
June 8, 2001 was such a day. The setting of it was by no means my regular or ordinary daily life. Quite to the contrary, it was extraordinary in that Marna and I, before we were married, traveled to Ireland for two weeks. However, it was ordinary in the sense that we were travelling on our own, making provisions on our own, and spending our time together. Every day, Ireland presented something remarkable for our pleasure. Quickly, notions of deadlines, projects, bills, and the daily grind were forgotten. But June 8, 2001, stands out above every other day.
Ireland had a very special feeling. Not to sound trite or cliched, but Ireland felt like home to such an extent that home has never felt quite the same since I returned. To this day, I find myself constantly questioning the speed, modernity, and hassle of our lives. In Ireland, I felt so much more in focus and within myself in the moment, instead of thinking about later that day, or tomorrow, or next week. So with this sense of place, I revisit June 8, 2001 every day of my life.
Marna and I drove into the Dingle Peninsula, located on the very southwest corner of the island. It is a small peninsula that jets out into the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean. I say we drove, but Marna had done all of the driving. My skill was keeping us on the map, and her skill was keeping us on the road. We complimented each other perfectly as we never really found ourselves lost or in a ditch. As the day progressed, we stopped in Anascaul – the home of the great Irish antarctic explorer Tom Crean, and where you can still see The South Pole Inn, the pub he operated later in his life – and Dingle – a beautiful town with brightly painted homes and businesses. The day was near perfect, low 70’s, mostly sunny, and no humidity. As beautiful and scenic as Dingle and Anascaul were, it was our drive into the peninsula that stays with me.
It was the town of Inch, and its beach, that is locked into my memory. Inch sits near the base of the Dingle Peninsula and looks out onto Dingle Bay. The bay view further looks out to the confluence of the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The Inch beach, or strand, is beautiful – it is where parts of Ryan’s Daughter were filmed. And you can drive right down onto it. On this particular day, at this particular hour, at this particular moment, there was no one there but the seagulls and us. It was windy, and the rising hills above the beach acted to funnel the sound of the waves and wind right down onto you. At times it was a near deafening sound, not in a painful way but totally natural. There were enough clouds to give the pure blue sky some context, some comparison. The sun was bright, but the winds kept the air cool. We parked the car, on the beach, and walked around – picking up some shells and stones. Marna and I could hardly not laugh, it was all so perfect and beautiful it almost had to be a joke. While we did very little – no hiking, tanning, or swimming – we were there for quite a while in a stunned state of sensory attachment. Finally, and regrettably, it was time to go.
It easily is the single most idyllic and pure moment I have experienced. There is not a day that passes in which I do not close my eyes and imagine Marna and myself standing barefoot on the sands of the the Inch strand staring out at the waters, sun in our eyes, wind in our hair, crashing waves in our ears. I can still see, feel, and hear it as if it were yesterday.
By Boo Radley