I was on the phone with Kevin. He was giving me directions to look at stones for an installation at the cottage. “Now. You know Kinvara?” “I do.” “And you know Ballyvaughan?” “I do.” “Grand. So from Kinvara take the Ballyvaughan road about a mile and a half and turn left just after the field of bright yellow flowers.”
Yep. There was the field of flowers. I wondered what directions he gave in other seasons.
The next day Kevin came to the cottage to look at the installation site. I gave him directions with all the road numbers. He got lost and rang me. “I’m just at a blue building with a metal roof. Do you know it?” I drove to meet him at McCarthy’s Bar so he could follow me to the cottage.
Yesterday I booked a B&B near the Hill of Tara for the night before the Gathering there next Saturday. It had dawned on me that driving three hours the morning I was facilitating an all-day workshop made no sense at all. While on the phone with Mick to make the booking, he gave me directions. “Ah, so your coming that way. Sure, grand. When you get to Trim take the Dunshaughlin road and when you get to Dunshaughlin take the Ratoah road.” Lovely. I got out my map. Of course all the roads had numbers. But he didn’t use them.
OK. It’s perhaps a subtle distinction. But it’s my experience that way-finding directions in Ireland are very much about a relationship to place. A relationship with the landscape, like a field of flowers, and with destination. If you are headed to Kinvara, you take the Kinvara road. Which can be a bit confusing as there are a few. If you are headed to the cottage you take the Portumna road even though you turn off well before Portumna.
People who travel to Ireland comment on how connected the Irish are with the land. It’s a relationship with place that has been in place long before anyone thought to assign numbers to the roads. It’s a relationship with the land and landscape that has thrived for thousands of years. It’s a relationship of respect.
It’s a relationship I wish was more present in this country.
Judith – firstname.lastname@example.org