Thursday, August 21, 2008

Drinking rain and coffee

‘How are you?’ the fisherman shyly asked as he returned to his car right as I walked by. A greeting was to be expected as we were the only people visible at 7am in the Irish mountains.

‘I’m doing well; how ‘bout you?’ I answered in what I knew as a glaringly American accent.

As I had grown accustomed to over the summer, a passing greeting sparked curiosity the second I opened my mouth. ‘Where are you from?’ he asked from his double-take.

‘North Carolina,’ I answered, not even bothering to give the country.

The fisherman’s face grew puzzled as he tried to place it. ‘I think I’ve heard of it…’ he struggled.

‘No,’ I smiled. ‘You’re thinking of California. They’re very different… they’re like Ireland and England.’ My analogy served to give us a point of connection, and he relaxed from formal conversation by leaning against his car and looking down the hill toward the river where he had been fishing. I stood and took in the mountain landscape in the early-morning cold, happy to be out of the dripping tent that was now on my back, breathing in the wet air after a night of being soaked on the mountainside.

‘And what do you think of this weather we got here now?’ he asked. The question had become to me almost as universal a greeting as how-are-you, the Irish way of welcoming me to their country by complaining about it: apologizing, bragging and relaxing in the same sentence.

‘I’m actually glad of it,’ I confessed to his obvious shock, not wanting to complain about someone else’s country. ‘Back home we’ve just had a year of drought and I’m sure a summer of 35-degree-days, and I’m glad to be away from the heat.’

‘Why did you leave?’ he asked in obvious amazement. ‘The weather is disgusting [sounds like ‘disgoostin’], the worst summer we’ve had in 75 years. Why would you spend your summer in Ireland of all places? A hell of a place to visit!’

Even though his complaints gave me permission to complain, I was not about to criticize Ireland to an Irishman alone in the wilderness. ‘But it’s a beautiful country,’ I observed, surrounded by a landscape that demonstrated the point.

‘Oh, that it is!’ he exclaimed as his face transformed. One would imagine he was suddenly talking about a different country. ‘No question about that; it’s like nowhere else in the world.’

‘Your green is amazing,’ I added.

‘Oh, this is a special place. I’ve never been anywhere else, but you come out on a morning like this and you can just tell that there is something special about this country.’

Rain, evidently.

He breathed in the wet air a bit longer over, and suddenly his earlier expression returned. ‘Disgoostin morning. I don’t know how we survive this every year. Would you like some coffee?’

As I allowed the instant coffee from his thermos to warm my wet body, I wondered if we would do well to love one another like he loves his disgoostinly special country.


Chestertonian Rambler said...

That is an awesome story.

ellenran said...

I loved the poem and the story! Reading the poem first, then the story, makes me want to read the poem again as an enlightened reader and it makes me feel like an insider. Maybe you could do a poetry book like that, tell the story behind the poems.