She looked very sad, this young girl. Bored, despondent, restless, all exuding from the language of how she sat next to that old boat. All pent up next to that curragh.
And I thought to myself, "Does she feel imprisoned here? She can see the mainland of Ireland right from where she's sitting. And she can probably follow everything of the world on the web. Is she at peace here? Or does she simply want out?"
Inisheer is very near to the Irish coastline: from the front yard of the B&B where we stayed, you could see the Cliffs of Moher – the way the Atlantic Ocean sees them. You could also see the shores of Galway Bay, most especially Barna, and Galway, and Spiddal, places where the Folk Choir has often sung.
But the sea separates you from the rest of the world. The sea – tempestuous, dangerous, unpredictable.
The shores of Ireland are near, but they are so far away! For even though just a few miles of choppy seas separate the islands from the rest of their nation, their language and their way of life have stayed locked in older ways.
A little later, I happen upon a young woman who was tending to our B&B, and I asked her what she thought of life on the island as a teenager.
"There are twenty teenagers on Inisheer," she said, "and if you talk to the girls, half of them simply want to leave. But," and here she continued thoughtfully, "there would be the girls who would love to find a man to marry from Galway, and come back here to raise a family, away from the tumult of all that." And here she waved her hand toward the mainland, in a dismissive fashion.
"The water is wide, I cannot cross o'er,
Neither have I the wings to fly.
Give me a boat that can carry two,
Then both may go, my love and I."
So goes the old song. And the song has lasted because the lyrics are true. Young people, like all of us, are looking for love, looking for safe places to bring their dreams. Some of them look at the sea as a curse.
And others view these waters differently, as protection from the craziness of the world, as the hopeful realization of a dream.
The waters are, indeed, wide. As are the stances of those whose lives are touched by the sea.
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Location:Baile Na Gleanna, Inisheer, Ireland