Sometimes I think a place gets into a person’s DNA; that ancestry reaches further than simply blood and genes and hereditary features. Sometimes dirt, and soil, and air is passed on. Which is how I know my mother’s family was Irish.
My mother lives on a farm in Ohio. It’s a beautiful piece of land with rolling hills and a creek that runs through it. That’s where we can usually find her: down at the creek, sifting through fossils and rocks. When she finds some she likes, she puts them in her pockets and trudges back up the hill to her house, her pockets full of her treasures. She spills the rocks around her patio and walkway and then arranges them just so. I think she knows every rock that is there.
But that wasn’t enough. The small rocks didn’t fill enough space. So she and her sisters started loading flat creekbed rocks into wheelbarrows and hauling them up the hill to make a memorial rock garden for my step-father. That then expended into lining rocks around the front porch. I think the rock sculptures might have gone on forever except that she finally had back surgery and isn’t allowed to lift rocks anymore.
I don’t know what she would do if she lived in County Clare, Ireland. There are rocks and rock walls everywhere.
Not to mention the Cliffs of Moher.
The cliffs are a majestic specimen of sandstone scaling vertically down to the sea. I was struck by the smooth flatness of the water from our perch, and the inky smudge of the Aran Islands distantly off the coast. There wasn’t a sound there but us. I felt like the Gaelic people of Inisheer were a million miles away. They seemed as ephemeral as Irish fairies.
When we headed away from the cliffs, we passed acres and acres of farmland divided by Liscannor stone walls. Liscannor stone is a special type of flat, blue stone indigenous to the area. The steps leading up to the viewing areas of the cliffs were made of Liscannor stone. The roofs of some of the old houses in County Clare are made of Liscannor stone. The paths at Bunratty Folk Village are made of Lisacannor stone. You can see small fossils of eels embedded in the dark, smooth stone. All you have to do in County Clare is look down beneath your feet and you are probably looking at Liscannor stone.
Which is exactly what my mother would have been doing if she’d been with me; looking at stone and rocks on the ground.
We’ve always known we were of Irish heritage, but we thought we were related to its people, not its land. Now I’m not so sure. I think rocks run through our blood. You know the first thing she said to me when she saw these pictures? That it’s time for a new rock project. I think she’s going to build a wall, even if she breaks her back in the process. Apparently you can take the girl out of Ireland, but you can’t take the Irish rocks out of the girl. No matter how hard we try.
Is there a place that’s part of your DNA?
*Special thanks to Failte Ireland for taking me there.