Dancing to an Irish Reel
I spent ten blissful days on the western coast of Ireland last October, and I’ll tell you why I returned to the misty, velvet shores of the area where I once spent a year: I’d written a novel set in the area and wanted to reinvigorate my standing amongst the land and its people before it came out. In order to do that, one has to show up in person to let the very air saturate the skin until it permeates to a cellular level and recalibrates the soul.
Ireland affected me deeply when I lived in the rural village of Inverin in the region of Connemara, yet it took a few months before I allowed myself to let go of my American frame of reference. Once I did, there was such a shift in my being that a local at the grocery store (or the shops, as they call it there) did a double take upon seeing my tranquil face and commented, “Claire, you look more Irish!” I knew just what she implied. I could feel a newly acquired demeanor settle upon me, one that relaxed me physically and slipped me into a present tense mind frame where a type of willing acceptance of events replaced my harried propensity to manipulate my way through life. Ireland will do this to a person quickly, for it is an island with its own peculiar consciousness spawned from its cloistered history and its humble dependence upon the vagaries of the weather. I see it as an overarching attitude of rightful thinking, something which suggests there’s no point in becoming too worked up over much of anything, for change will rule the day of the best laid plans, and in the meantime, we’re all in it together, safe under the watchful eyes of God. And the Irish are a reverential people. And it’s not just God they revere. They pretty much hold all things sacred: the land, Irish history, each other. And because they comport themselves this way, they don’t take themselves too seriously, which is exactly why they have the reputation of being the friendliest lot on earth.
I took the experience of living in Ireland and created a novel about a single American female who leaves the record business in Los Angeles and relocates to Connemara, where she meets an Irish traditional musician named Liam Hennessey, whose entire life revolves around music, therefore the prospect of love unbalances him to the point where he can’t decide whether to come closer or completely run away.
In writing the book, I went out of my way not to patronize anything about Ireland, particularly its vibrant people. I wanted to refrain from bringing an American attitude to the story because I felt it had been done before and somehow cheated what I wanted to be the point of the story, which concerns the ambiguity of a budding love relationship with its attendant excitement, hope and doubt. On the one hand, this story could have happened anywhere (I know of very few people who haven’t been thrown into confusion as they navigate the minefield of new found attraction) but because this story takes place in Ireland, I had the opportunity to highlight a setting in possession of unfathomable beauty with a history of cultural nuances worth the singing of deep praise.
In writing my book, I did what all writers do: tell about how they find the world through the vehicle of one painstakingly crafted, poignant case in point. The novel’s release date is March 31st, and is appropriately titled, “Dancing to an Irish Reel” ( Visnpire Publishing), which refers to the push and pull of attraction from the vantage point of a stranger in a strange land.