A North Atlantic Memory—An Exercise in Descriptions

A quick exercise in describing — in preparation of starting writing back up after the distractions of the holidays.

My memory of the Cliffs of Moher is as sharp and crisp as Irish winter weather. In times I am overwhelmed, I let my mind wander back to that place and imagine myself on the edge of where beauty meets beauty; where the lush, green Irish landscape meets a bitter metallic sea.

If only I could live in that slim line where beauty meets beauty, let it keep me in it’s folds of light and grace, and travel though life as a bright star that has been lit up by the simple happiness of experiencing God’s creation to the fullest.

I stood at the edge of the cliff, overlooking the silver, crisp Atlantic ocean, allowing the sea breeze to whip my long hair this way and that. There was no need to tie my hair back and restrain it; I wanted to feel everything, to remember this scene for the extent of my life.

I was sheltered from the bitter chill of the wind by my waterproof winter coat; the kind of coat with several removable layers and countless hidden pockets, and of course a hood. My husband stood at my side quietly, wearing the same sort of coat that equally protected him from the wind. I glanced down at my feet, the sturdy hiking boots kept my feet warm and secure and were happily covered in mud. I smiled, both an inward and outward smile, and took in a breath of the beautiful scenery.

The ocean met up with the bottom of the cliffs in a smooth rhythm, each meeting a kiss between land and water. These kisses between the two bodies toiled over hundreds and hundreds of years to cut away at the rock and make room for a landscape that would captivate humans with its depth and strength for all time. My heart leapt within my breast, my spirit quickened within me. The Atlantic spread in front of me for what seemed for years, and the seasoned smell of salt and soil filled me up to the full.

There is nothing quite like feeling so small and insignificant that makes you feel so very loved and important. As Mary Bennet of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice exclaims, “Oh! What are men compared to rocks and mountains?” The endless wonder we feel towards creation fills us with humility—how could I ever be that big? That majestic? That beautiful? Fill that many with pleasure and amazement? We cannot. We are not majestic nor are we powerful. Yet, we are God’s prized creation, no matter how ugly and dirty and small we can be. This moves me to tears and delight all at once.

The other individuals touring the cliffs alongside of myself and my husband were as quiet as we were. It is as if someone spoke too loudly or was too rambunctious, this scene could break apart into a million tiny pieces like delicate glass falling to the floor. We were all walking tenderly, speaking in whispers, and taking very few pictures with our cameras out of respect for what was before us. Sure, we were out of doors and could talk as loudly as we wanted, and photos were encouraged, but who would want to be the person that breaks the scene, that shatters the moment?

If no one else was there at the Cliffs of Moher, including my husband, and I was standing on the edge overlooking the ocean in a solitary visit, I would yell so many things.

“North Atlantic! Where all all the places you have been? I fancy I was a fish, that I could swim through you and feel your icy cold current against my skin! Take me with you!” The foamy white crest of the blue-grey waves make little patterns that I capture in my memory.

“North Atlantic! What is your color? I cannot tell! I want to be your color, North Atlantic!” The swirls and currents of silver grey are hit by the sunlight and icy blue happens. The ocean glitters and foams, and the rhythm of the waves give the impression that maybe there is a giant monster underneath the water, breathing slowly, creating the rhythm. I feel as if my eyes are the color of the Atlantic ocean, that I was destined to be a sailor who stationed in the ports of Galway. Although American born and of distinctly French decent, I feel as if I should be of Ireland. Maybe everyone feels this way when they visit this island.

I reached out to the edge of the cliff with my hands and grasped the tall grass that was protected by a slender stone wall; no man could tread here, nor would a man want to, as the wind would knock him straight off the side and into the unwelcoming breast of the ocean. My hand curled around the stuff, I felt the weight of it in my palm. This grass, untraversed, had the opportunity to grow as thick and lush as the mane of a male lion, or what I would imagine a lion’s mane to be like. It was so thick I could not find the end of it to touch the soil. It, much like my unruly hair, whipped back and forth with the wind.

I looked out over the cliffs and watched as an array of sea birds flew between crags in the side of the cliff; it was as if it took no effort at all for them to dive the hundreds of feet towards the sea and pull themselves back up to the edge of the land. Was the wind not an obstacle for them? Or did they ride it and flow with it freely? I could hear them call to one another, but I was unable to decipher their code. I imagined they were squawking about food, and I was probably right. Or maybe, they were being noisy just to make noise.

“I am here! I am here!” The sea bird called out to the rest of its party, relishing in the gift of flight. “Look at all the silly people at the edge of the cliffs! They are pummeled and made uncomfortable by the wind, yet we enjoy it like a fallen leaf!”

It was difficult not to grow jealous of the little creatures that live in the line where beauty meets beauty, able to reach that sandy bottom of the cliffs and stand in the brief kisses between the ocean and the land. I wanted to scream back at them, waiving my fist in the air at them, “You have no idea! You have no idea how lucky you are!” I held back—not only out of respect for the reverent landscape—but I recognized they probably do not experience the joy and understand the beauty of what is before them. Therefore, I am the most fortunate between the two of our species, for I feel all of this wonder and joy and stirring and I get to keep it with me the whole of my life.

**********
The Emerald Isle is enchanted—those who are fortunate enough to experience it’s beauty, even just once, carry the longing for it with them. It calls to me in my day dreams, and I wonder how it’s residents get any work done. If I lived there, I would only be filled with poems. Most likely, I would not be able to converse anymore, as I would only speak in arbitrary lines of words strung together in attempt to emulate or express the overwhelming joy I feel from being around so much green, so much sea, so much color.

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