Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Town I Loved So Well

There are posters all over town for a play: Sinbad and the Sea Pirates. As opposed to what, exactly? Mountain pirates? I know, savanna pirates.

The other day I was sitting in a café down the street from the university reading the textbook for my Viking archaeology class, and who should walk in but the lecturer for said class, who is also the editor of said book. I waved, and he came over to my table, saw the book, and laughed. I bet I'd get bonus points on this essay if he knew what my name was.

It snowed last night. I mean it snowed hard-core, albeit for less than an hour/about an inch. I spent most of my last day in Cork trooping around to music stores on a bodhrán quest (mostly for a friend, although I also bought a small cheap one for myself, because I thought it might lessen the pain of the nice one not being for me) through a layer of snow I had not expected to see while I was here. The pond in Fitzgerald's Park, near the river in between my apartment and the city centre, was frozen solid where a day or two ago it was mostly water with some slushy ice. The ducks and terns had fled, presumably to the river. I was one of several people walking back and forth to photograph the snow-covered rose garden from multiple angles.

My last walk by the river. Farewell my lovely swans, my awkward terns, my elusive cormorants. Farewell my funny/creepy rooks. And farewell my herons, even though there was a good deal of love lost between us after I discovered this: (I just couldn't look at them the same way after that.) It's funny, I never though I cared much about birds, but I may have spent more time this semester watching birds than in all my time before now.

I meant to mention before, I think, that I count swans compulsively. I like the way they're so often in even numbers. When they're not, sometimes if you watch them for a bit you can guess which is the odd one out.

It took me a month or two, but eventually I saw exactly six in the same place at the same time.*

I also don't think I realized how much I cared about water. Everywhere I have gone this semester, I have gravitated toward rivers and bays and the open ocean.

I am very sad I did not get to go back to Killarney. There is a lot that I didn't have time for, but I think that is my biggest regret.

I feel like there is so much more I wanted to say here on my last night in Cork. I could say it's strange to think I won't walk down the Western Road again, or hike up the ridiculous hill to the music building, or see the spires of a cathedral from my living room in the early morning. I could rejoice that I no longer have to live with the slovenly roommates who after a semester of unabashed disgustingness left yet more for the two of us here until today to clean up. I could mourn that I will no longer drink a pint in The Gallows on Wednesday nights, or find live trad music whenever I want it, or be able to get on a bus and be any of a several dozen beautiful and interesting (and preferably by the sea) places in less than an hour or two. I already miss some of my classes and lecturers, and I already miss MedRen and O'Bhéal and assorted friends and acquaintances, some of whom live here and some of whom have already left for wherever they came from. (And to those I would have seen if I'd made it to Tom Barry's on Friday night—I'm sorry I missed you. I hope it was fun, and I wish you all the best.)

But I don't think any of that is what I really wanted to say.

I've never been good at goodbyes. They're always awkward. And in ten minutes there's going to be a taxi outside waiting to take me to the bus that's going to take me to the plane that's going to take me to New York.

So goodbye, Cork. Goodbye, Ireland. It's been quite a ride. I hope we will meet again someday.

Good night [morning?], and joy be to you all.

* This is a geeky fairy tale reference. Look up "The Six Swans" by the Brothers Grimm, or "The Wild Swans" by Hans Christian Anderson, which as far as I can tell is based on the Grimms' story and which I think might be the only happy thing Anderson ever wrote. One of my favorite novels ever is a retelling of these tales, set in medieval Ulster. (I think. Maybe Leinster. But probably Ulster.)

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