The Proverbial Polo Shirt

In western Ireland nothing screams ‘American’ quite like a polo shirt. Well, jeans and dockers without socks come close. So when a man, wearing all three, and his companions settled into the table next to us there was no mistaking where he was from. Wisconsin, it turned out. He sat in my line of sight and I have to admit his bright orange shirt was something of a distraction.

It was my last day in Ireland and I was enjoying a delicious lunch with Aisling, Felim, and Jack at the Gallery Café in Gort where all the food is locally sourced and exquisitely prepared. We were engrossed in a conversation that included the many encounters and gallery cafeconversations I’d had over the past month related to my book. The book had been enthusiastically received with only one person indicating she would have preferred for my voice to be stronger in the writing. I explained that including many other, and especially Irish, voices was intentional. As an American…at this point Felim said with great exasperation, “But you’re Irish!!”…I wanted to be very careful not to impose my spiritual conclusions or arrive in Ireland with any sense that I had the be-all-end-all answers. And we talked about what it’s like to offer up a spiritual presence and intention in a land not our own. Jack is appreciative of this careful dance. Although he’s lived in Ireland for thirty years, he’s English. As is the founder and director of Brigit’s Garden with whom I had just had dinner. She and I had very much the same conversation and shared the same caution. It’s all about being respectful of what lives within the Irish people, honoring and supporting those who are fostering the ancient traditions and who hold great aspirations for deeper connection with Ireland’s spiritual ancestors. OK. You get the picture.

We were well finished with our lunch when I looked up to see the orange polo shirt arrive at our table. He apologized for interrupting but he and his companions couldn’t help but sense the spiritual energy emanating from our table. “Especially from you,” he said pointing at me. He went on to explain that he and his friends had just arrived from the US, they channelled archangels, and they are offering gatherings (for a modest fee) where it’s possible to receive teachings about how to get what you want in life, all within an energy of love and light of course. Once he found out I was from the States he was less interested in me. They were here to share their truth with the Irish. England was next.

We quickly paid our bill and escaped, barely able to contain our laughter until we got outside the café. A bizarre event made all the more so within the context of our lunch conversation. As if there had been any need for affirmation it arrived in the form of a proselytizing polo shirt from America. We drove to Coole Park and as we walked the forest paths I listened to Aisling, Felim, and Jack discuss the bold arrogance of this man from Wisconsin. It clearly rankled them. It was insulting. It was ugly American. At one point in our walk Felim turned to me and said, “We’re glad you’re Irish.”