One of the first things I noticed about the Irish when I first came was how many of them walk. Every day, rain or shine, many of the Irish get out. Walking down town you will see little old ladies shuffling along, with their handbags or walkers, heading to the shops or to mass. Young people go for runs and school moms meet at schools after dropping their kids off. I’ve noticed that the men generally walk alone wearing bright neon vests, whereas the women tend to walk in small congregations of three or more; often pushing a buggy or two filled with youngsters.
My husband and I love living in the Irish countryside where the fields are green and the air fresh. Surrounded by farms, the air is actually sometimes a bit too fresh! Farmers spread slurry (manure) on the fields for fertilization a few times each year and sheep wandering along the road leave their fresh droppings. Walkers pass by our garden daily from as early as half eight up until dark. I watch them from my kitchen window as I do the dishes, admiring their tenacity but not quite enough to dawn my coat and join them most of the time.
Our baby girl, 17 months now, is Irish to the core with her red hair, blue eyes and love for the out-doors. She often looks out the window and then comes to me saying “walk.” The other day my husband and I dawned our jackets and took her out for a stroll. As Noel carried her along the surprisingly busy road, Jewel insisted, “walk,” in other words, ‘put me down, I want to walk by myself!’ On one side of the road we passed a barnyard filled with large straw circular bales of hay stacked high, with the Rock of Dunamase sitting dreamily on a hill in the distance. On the other side we came to the little fishing lake following a herd of sheep that were enjoying the grass along the road. A few cars whizzed by but had to come to nearly a stop as they waited for sheep to move aside. Jewel watched everything with the eagerness of a child and then decided it was time to go home. She pointed at the sheep and then began to wave saying “bye bye.” As her daddy carried her home, I enjoyed the fresh air and wondered, as I often do, “why in the world don’t I get out to walk more often?”
When the sun shines Ireland is paradise. When it rains, put on your hood and grit your teeth, forget about an umbrella, the wind will take it from you in a matter of moments anyway. There is so much beauty and joy to be found in this amazing country that one can only truly discover by getting out and taking a walk. Go on, take a walk in Ireland.