The island of Ireland is roughly the same size as the US state of Indiana, so it is not its geographical heft that make Ireland seem like a homeland to many people who have never been there, and to those who may have no ancestral ties to the land either. Ireland’s long history plays a part in this sense of connection, no doubt, as does the fact that during long parts of that history economic and political events have caused its sons and daughters to emigrate. They carried their music and their stories and their memories of Ireland with them — at times many had little else to bring — and wove these strands of green in lives made in countries across the globe.
Everyone finds his or her own way into Ireland — my way won’t be yours. I have spend long amounts of time in Ireland, though. At this season around Saint Patrick’s Day when the whole world seems to be thinking about Ireland, here’s a look back a several of my favorite stories.
There are two countries in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Republic. There’s long history behind the divisions, and they are still present. I encounter a reminder of that in the border town of Newry in Meeting the Past in Northern Ireland.
People are finding ways to share the stories of their lives, not just of division, but of connection: Holding Memory in Your Hands
Summer is a glorious time to visit — although things can get a bit crowded at times. Each season has its charms and its drawbacks, and as a friend of mind often says when people ask his advice, the best time to visit Ireland is anytime you can go. Myself, I prefer the quiet of winter.
Here’s a reflection on a January journey Ireland: a Journey of Trees
You’ll find music everywhere in Ireland — and not all of it will be traditional music, either. The tradition lives in the landscape and the language of Ireland, though, and it often seems almost to be part of daily conversation. Are you thinking this means dancing tunes, lighter than air new age music, or hearty drinking songs? They all have their place, but for me, there’s far more interesting stuff going on. music made by those who grew up in the tradition and are taking it forward. Ireland in Four Voices
If you like that idea you may also want to see Learning about Irish Music and Cathie Ryan: Teaching Tradition.
Speaking of listening to Ireland: the folk at Irish Fireside have put together a map and a list with links for audio tours of Ireland — many of them available at low or no cost — a useful resource for preparing for a trip, as well as for armchair travel to the Emerald Isle.
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