Fair Weather Friend

07 Sep 2009

We are just back from a glorious week’s holidays on Martha’s Vineyard and I must admit, it was disappointing to arrive home to a rainy, gray Ireland. Not that this would be abnormal, the weather here is generally dull, but it probably seems worse after you’ve come home from a beautiful vacation under mostly sunny skies.
And with that, I am going to write about the weather. I cannot avoid it, it must be discussed and described in full detail in order to really set the scene and understand the Irish way of life. The weather here is as significant as being a part of a family or a supporting actor in a film…kind of like that entity who is always in the background somehow influencing your life—indeed, a very important ingredient in the recipe of Irish life. And if you are anything like me, you’d be affected by its force in the same way one might experience a rollercoaster ride: one minute things are one way and the next minute things have changed. Repeat this cycle over and over and then just throw in the towel and go with it. The weather literally changes so often that you cannot settle into one mode before being whipped into another mode and its accompanying state of mind. We have a 16-foot window in our family room that looks out onto the horizon where you see acres of majestic green hills and the ancient Shanid castle ruin. I often find myself sitting in an armchair in front of that window entranced by the ebb and flow of the weather; witnessing the tumultuous skies flying by, always in flux–heavy and dark one minute, then fluffy and gray the next, followed by the purest cornflower blue before the rain suddenly starts lashing down. Circus clouds, changing from bears to rabbits to torpedoes in an instant. Rainbows, rainbows and more beautiful rainbows. All so alive and gorgeous really, but somewhat unsettling just the same.
The Irish embrace this weather in a humorous way. They tirelessly chat about it, always acknowledging-even damning the rain and gray, but if it’s sunny for more than 3 days, the fear sets in and the grave grumbling of too much heat commences. You will hear weather discussion no matter where you go, it is more than just small talk; it is embedded in the culture–in the very fabric of Irish life. I personally believe it is a clever coping mechanism…a form of therapy if you will. You know, “talk it out” though I doubt any Irish person would agree. There is also a native weather language–for instance, when it is humid, it is described as being “close” and when it is cool it may be referred to as “fresh”. The term “close” initially seemed quite strange to me, but you’d have to admit that our “muggy” is pretty odd itself. The truth is, if it didn’t rain all the time Ireland wouldn’t be as magnificent and lush as it is. And it would also not leave much to complain about. Two things that this country cannot live without.
When I first came for a visit to Ireland it rained nearly every day. Hard. Richard took me to Lahinch in County Clare where we went to the beach and it downpoured and where surfers just kept on surfing. Then we went to the Ring of Kerry. And it downpoured. Bunratty. And it downpoured. Of course, I didn’t bring the proper attire with and became soaked each time we went on an adventure. Hair looking worse than a messy Osprey’s nest and my colorful dainty skirts with little fitted cotton jackets became a second skin. Richard loved it. My next trip I came prepared with beautiful striped new Wellies from Smith & Hawken and a cute raincoat which was, well, more cute than rainproof. My favorite thing became sitting inside charming old pubs and restaurants alongside a turf fire sipping Irish coffees and looking at the beautiful landscapes with my handsome Irishman from the inside out. Still, being the optimist that I am (was?) I never assumed that the weather was always so wet, after all, it was either Autumn or Spring when I visited so bad weather was to be expected, right?
When I moved to Ireland I literally became chilled to the bone for at least 2 years. I moved over on June 1st, the beginning of summer in the USA. In Ireland, it had already been summer for a month because the seasons were on a different timeline (until this year actually) so summer was May, June, July; Autumn August, September, October and so on. I fully expected it to be sunny and gorgeous. Wrong. It rained every day for a month. No matter how warm I dressed I still felt cold. The heat was on in our house, but the air felt damp to me. It was the strangest sensation that I just could not shake. I noticed about a year and a half ago that I was finally warming up. I thought to myself ‘finally, my body has adjusted to Ireland’ but in reflection, it was more likely due to our underfloor heating in our new home.
Over this past weekend it was gray and misty at times, but not rainy. Whilst playing in the garden (yard) with Geoffrey and the doggies, we spotted Richard in a field seemingly admiring the weather….sort of looking up into the sky and taking it all in with a smile on his face. We hiked over and asked him what he was doing to which he replied, “it’s a beautiful day isn’t it?”. He always says this when it’s gray and not rainy with a tiny bit of a breeze. It’s his absolute favorite weather. Of course, I think it’s awful. Call me a fair weather friend, but I think we need a little sun each day to be happy. (Not too much, I remember feeling stifled by the sun when I briefly lived in Los Angeles…sunny every day, too much light, too exposed, it was just too, too, too everything actually.) But for Richard, the overcast days feel calming and comfortable. Probably easier for him and his crew to work as well so I can’t knock him. And, as he says, you must decide that you are doing something outside no matter if it rains or not and just do it. Needless to say, our home is now stocked with every type of waterproof item in existence. And in every color too, of course.

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