Hiking the Mountain
By Ramona Flightner/ @ramonaflightner
After my recent trip to Ireland, I have thought a lot about the saying, “You have to know where you come from to know where you’re going.” As readers of my blog, I am sure you know that I am fascinated by history. One of my favorite activities when writing is the historical research I do for my books.
However, when I travel to Ireland, it is my personal history I am discovering and sharing with others. On this most recent trip, I introduced my dad and brother to our Irish relatives. I enjoyed watching as my brother charmed our cousins with his mixture of humor and irreverence. I relished seeing my dad interact with my cousins as he reminisced about my grandparents with them. I watched their connection to Ireland solidify as they spent time with our cousins.
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the home my great-grandfather emigrated from in 1900. The home is in a remote area of County Clare, in the midst of the Burren. It has been in the family for well over 100 years. The view outside the front window is of one of the three main mountains of the Burren, with a portion of the central part still owned by my cousins. My grandmother had told me stories of “hiking the mountain” when she visited Ireland with her family as a girl in 1920.
With my cousin Mary, we set off to hike the mountain. It was rugged in certain parts due to uneven footing from the limestone that makes up the Burren. Because of the late spring, flowers such as gentian and orchids bloomed in late May that usually stopped blooming in late April. As we continued our hike up the mountain, we passed a herd of feral goats resting in a nearby field. Partway up, we paused and my cousin showed us the extent of their farm. The mountain was used for grazing, whereas there was good farmland in the valley below. The views became increasingly beautiful the higher we rose. The stone walls, seemingly cobbled together and yet quite sturdy, fascinated me. As we stood at the top on a beautiful clear day, we could see for miles.
One of the best aspects of the hike was chatting with my cousin. We learned more family history and caught up on family news. The bonds of family knitted tighter together that afternoon.
Throughout my travels, I have found that there is something distinctive about traveling to a place where I have family. I have more of a sense of coming home, rather than passing through as a tourist. I feel a connection to the land, people, culture and history. By knowing my heritage and my family in Ireland, I have a better understanding of what has shaped me and why I believe in what I do. Ireland will always be that special place where I feel at home and at peace. Do you have such a place?