“I have never seen you like this.”
The words are my friend`s. She has come all the way from home, the cold way north, to visit. I have spent a week alone, wandering Inis Mor, and have one night left before going back home.I see my reflection as i pass a window, and with her words in mind, i stop to take a closer look. She is right. I have never looked like this. As i look closer it seems my eyes have gotten a depth to them i haven`t noticed before. My smile is wider. My skin is darker. My hair is messier, blown out of style, a week ago.
I arrived with the first ferry on a Saturday.
Since then, the sun has ruthlessly pounded the endless tracks i have walked across the island, for hours and hours. The wind has blown just as stubborn, making my ears almost deaf as i have been sitting on the edge of cliffs all along the coast. It has been noone but me and time. And the island. I have fallen into my soft, high bed at night, exhausted with impressions from a world so far away from my city-life back home.
So what changed me? How did my appearance change in a week? As we sit down by the water at Kilmurvey Beach that night, listening to the waves, it hits me that it is just that. The sound of the waves. The wind blowing my hair out of style. The same wind burning my skin. An islander said that, that i was not sunburnt, but windburnt.
My smile has widened from countless waves to tourbusdrivers, bikers, barkeepers, shopassistants; all making me feel like i know them after seeing them more than two times. I have spent hours with my back against the massive walls of the Dun Aengus fort, looking across the water, trying to see if there is land in sight in the horizon. I never saw any. The depth in my eyes must come from that.
It seems like wherever i have looked the past week, the island has been filled with reminders of just how much love it holds. From islanders greeting their visitors with open arms and hearts, shopkeepers asking where we are from, and actually waiting for an answer. From landlords offering to give a ride in to “town” for a good meal. From pony-and-trap drivers recommending to take a tourbus, in case i didn`t want to spend too much money on the first day. To the tiny, yet strong stems of a plant with heart-shaped leaves, clinging to the edge of a cliff, totally deserted because none of the tourists went that far out on that windy day.
It is not just the outside that is different. As i think about the way my life is back home, i wonder how i can ever go back to normal. To hours in line in my car, to and from work. Rushing between shops, footballpractice with my son, meetings, and evening jobs. Trying to see friends, family, workmates and still be an at-home-mum, keeping the house clean, tidy and always ready for little boys running in and out playing. As i take in the salty air from the sea one last night, i know that there has settled a stir somewhere deep inside. A stir that can only be calmed by the endless sounds of the waves hitting the shores of the most beautiful beach i have ever sat at. A stir that only the sound of horses trotting along together with the laughs and deep voices speaking in irish can calm. A piece of my heart, a part of my love is left there on that beach, waiting for me to come back and pick it up again.
Winter lies ahead back home. My new knitted sweater will keep me warm over the next months. As will the memories. Martin the busdriver said I will be back. I know he is right.
I leave on a Saturday morning with the first ferry.