Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wish You Were Here

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see."
-Henry David Thoreau

My Spouse and I visited the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland a couple of years ago. It was a first for both of us. We climbed a long and jagged path to reach the top- the sheer drop of 700 feet from the cliff into the grey and tumbling Atlantic Ocean filled me with a heartsick dread and I kept a reasonable distance away from the crumbly edge.
The wind up there would have frightened the most hardy of souls. We were there in March, a fierce and unpredictable season to be standing on the lip of the country. The few tourists roaming around were as astonished as Spouse and I: we had to bend down at intervals and grab the very grass we walked upon in order to save our bodies from being plucked by the sudden, determined wind and sent sailing into the salty air. I thought at times that my feet would not stay on the ground, such was the power and fury.
It was as alarming as that. From time to time the wind would shriek and howl and pull and grasp at us all, furious and impatient. I felt certain that the wind would not calm down until it had lifted somebody off their feet and spun them into terror.
If ever a force of nature seemed personified and to have intentions, it was there on the Cliffs of Moher.
Yet, here is the strange truth: it was exhilarating and I would not change a thing. I am grateful to have had the chance to visit the rocks so high above Ireland as the wind raged and seethed. It was humbling to be made to feel so tiny and useless against nature.
Stunned and wordless, Spouse and I descended the mountain to return to our car. As we were climbing into our vehicle we noticed a small van pull into the parking space next to us. Four or five tourists got out and began to take photographs of the sign which declared that they were officially at the Cliffs of Moher.
Each one posed beside the sign. Spouse and I thought that mildly amusing and rather quaint. So excited were they to be there that even the signpost was exotic.
And then those tourists did the most startling and puzzling thing: with photographs taken and proof of their visit gathered, they climbed back into their vehicle, paid the parking fee and left the Cliffs of Moher.
They went home, I imagine, and told their families and friends that they saw the Cliffs of Moher; or sent postcards declaring the same.
Until a person has the breath momentarily knocked out of them, both by the staggering beauty and by the force of the unyielding and mighty wind, they ought not to say they have seen the Cliffs of Moher.
It is to be felt and seen, up close and with hands firmly embedded in the jagged grass.


Beth said...

I love that story--I never understand how people can do that--I have to experience something with at least three senses before I feel that I've been there.

I tagged you with a task from my blog--don't feel obligated, but if you want to play I'm sure you would excel!

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Well, at least the tourists made it part way there. I know people whose idea of visiting a new place is locating their mall and shopping at the same dumb chain stores they have back home!

Your experience on the cliffs reminds me of my own on Cadillac Mountain in Arcadia, on the coast of Maine. The wind blew so hard across that glacier-scraped mountain by the sea that there were times I had to crouch down and hold on or else be blown off the mountain!

Totally worth the experience, but guess what I found at the top of the mountain? A gift shop where tour buses stopped! (Okay, okay, not everyone is fit enough to climb a mountain, but still...)

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Beth, thanks for tagging me! I'm working on it.
Three senses- I like that. It's the only way to live, I think.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Thanks for coming by.

The only thing I have a quirk about is drinking tea from my home in Ireland. I get my mother to send teabags, I won't drink any other kind. Other than that everything else has to be a new experience for me. When I go to a new place I don't like to try what I'm used to. Otherwise, why go?
And oh, don't you hate when you go somewhere old or exotic like a museum and the only exit is through the conveniently located giftshop? It's wasted on me though, I just rush straight through.

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