This past week has been a holiday from school called Reading Week. It’s designed to help us catch up on reading and get started on essays. Guess what I was doing?
Amy, Laura and I just returned from a four day trip to Ireland. We stayed in Dublin, but on our second day we ventured an hour south on the coast. That day, I think, was my very favorite day of my whole semester abroad. Let me tell you why.
We got off the train and followed a dirt path that led to the sea. Laura and I climbed over boulders to reach the water’s edge. The beach was made of the smoothest, shiniest, blackest pebbles I have ever seen. I turned some over in my hand and let the water lap against my boots.
After strolling along the beach for a while, we walked into the sleepy town of Wicklow. The downtown area was small — a few pubs, cafés, pharmacies, and secondhand shops. Blue and white flags were hung all over the place in honor of the local football club, and a statue in the center of town wore one of their jerseys. A grand cathedral sat on a hill and towered over the town. A little past the main street we found the ruins of an abbey. Moss covered the remaining walls. The abbey stood across from the cathedral, and when you looked through some of the windows you could see its tower.
We found a cozy, quiet place to eat lunch. The three of us all ordered the mini Irish breakfast, including an egg, beans on toast, sausage, bacon, and white and black pudding. I am a huge fan of the beans-on-toast combo, but I can’t say I’ll be eating black pudding again any time soon. Lunch was immensely satisfying, and it re-fueled us for adventuring. We left the restaurant and headed toward some ruins of a castle we had spotted from the beach.
As we walked back to the coast, the sunshine grew brighter and the sky bluer. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The world felt bigger as the terrain rose in small cliffs and met the water.
We spotted a crumbling stone wall. There, a plaque told us that these were the ruins of Black Castle. A little further in the distance, I saw the last vestiges of that ancient castle perched on a cliff over the sea. At the sight, I forgot myself. I had no thoughts — only goodness welling up in me. I started running. I didn’t know why — it just felt like the right thing to do. I couldn’t stop laughing. I just couldn’t believe that a place like that actually existed, that human beings could co-exist with beauty so pure.
We climbed all over the cliffs and the stones and listened to the giant sea. The wind roared around our ears and the sky shone like a jewel. Bless the holy mind that imagined such glory.
We walked to the base of some of the cliffs to sit on the stones and soak up the sun. I stuck my boots in the shallows and splashed around a bit. What is it about hearing waves crash against the shore that makes me feel so at ease?
Further away from the castle at the top of the cliffs, the grass grew in soft cowlicks all over, forming small, downy pillows on the ground. Amy, Laura and I just lay there for half an hour with our eyes closed, luxuriating in the peacefulness of the place. I know we could’ve fallen asleep if we had stayed for longer.
Wicklow is going to stay with me. It got into my soul. Back in Dublin that night, if I blinked I could see the cliffs and the waves and the grass behind my eyelids. I know I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life. It made me think a lot of Heaven. I realized very solidly that if the beauty of Wicklow is just a drop in a bucket compared to the glory of God, eternity with Him is infinitely worth the most awful trials this life can give. Those precious few hours on the coast were signposts to the perfectly loving God of all creation.
Dear mother earth, who day by day unfoldest blessings on our way, O praise Him! Alleluia! Ye who long pain and sorrow bear, praise God and on Him cast your care!