By Maria Lawrence
Editor’s Note: Maria Lawrence, a 2011 graduate of Dunmore High School, is the daughter of Albert and Patrice Lawrence. She is currently studying English literature at Marywood College.
During the weeks before my class trip, I spent the days imagining what Ireland would be like. In my mind I pictured green pastures filled with grazing sheep and charming villages lined with pubs. As I entered the country my dreams became a reality. I drove down winding roads past luscious fields, sat on creaking barstools drinking whiskey, and frivolously spent my money in souvenir shops. But what caught my attention the most, something absent from my fantasies, were all of the stones. Of course, there are stones covering every pathway from San Francisco to Beijing, but there is something special about the ones in Ireland.
I was still quite jetlagged as I stumbled off the bus and headed towards The Burren. Batt Burns, our tour guide, warned us about walking on the stones. “Careful not to fall in a crack and twist your ankle!” he shouted. The region we were in consisted of limestone slabs, formed by glaciers millions of years ago, that lead out to the sea. An ice age carried a rare mixture of Alpine, Arctic, and Mediterranean plants that now grow inside the cracks of each slab. This place was a limestone jungle just waiting to be explored.
As I approached the area I was blown away, both by its beauty and by the strong winds. I hopped from stone to stone like a child, imagining the crevices were filled with hot lava, praying that the combination of wind and jetlag wouldn’t lead to my first international injury. I crouched down, peeked into the cracks, and couldn’t believe what I had discovered; incredible green plants flourished amongst the stones.
The Blarney Stone
I crept up the stairs of a spiral stairwell inside the Blarney Castle. The passageway was tight and my feet could barely fit on the steps. I grasped onto the railing, sweating and apologizing to the people behind me for walking so slowly. I was on my way to kiss one of the most famous stones in the world. It is said that if you do this you will be granted the gift of eloquence. When I finally reached the top of the castle my anxiety lingered still. I hadn’t realized the stone was suspended in the air and I would have to hang from a parapet to reach it.
“Don’t worry,” my friend Nolan said, “A man is there to hold you.” I stared at this man, filled with skepticism. After all, he is just a human being. My panic grew as the line inched closer to the stone, but there was no turning back. I hadn’t climbed those dreadful stairs for nothing. It was my turn now so I set down my backpack, removed my glasses, sat on the edge of the parapet, and focused my attention on the man. He smiled as he looked into my eyes, wrapped his arms around me and said, “Scooch back, dear.” His demeanor instantly soothed my nerves. I leaned backwards and held onto the metal railings while he guided my body until my lips touched the stone. The rest of the day I couldn’t stop thinking of the hundreds of people he meets each day. I decided that the Blarney Stone’s true purpose is to bring people together to trust one another. It is the way Ireland opens its arms to the world.
I crouched through the skinny entrance and gazed at the thousands of stones that made up the entirety of Staigue Fort. No mortar, no wood, and no nails. This structure was simply layer upon layer of stones. I climbed the stairs embedded into the side of the fort and peered over the wall. I could see for miles in every direction; rolling hills smothered in shrubs and sheep, and waves crashing onto the beach.
Batt told us a myth that if you go near it after midnight you will hear the Wee Folk, who are fairies, dancing and singing inside. You’ll be lured in by their festivities, but once you join them you can never leave. Who built the fort is a mystery, along with when and why, but there are many theories. Most people, including me, believe it was constructed for defense. The question I pondered as I sat on its ledge was whether the Irish made the fort to keep intruders out or the Wee Folk to hold trespassers in?
One afternoon a small group of us decided to go horseback riding on Derrynane Beach. I waited impatiently on the gravel driveway outside the stable as Caroline and Wendy, the instructors, helped the others onto their horses. I had never ridden a horse before and I was beginning to feel uneasy about my decision to do so.
While I paced back and forth, the instructor’s dog ran up to me and started barking. I stopped moving but he continued to bark. He was fixated on my feet. I tried petting him, ignoring him, and talking to him, but no matter what I did he just would not stop barking.
From atop her horse my friend Kaitlyn laughed, “He really doesn’t like your boots!” My feet did look like they belonged to some sort of bog creature in my green clunky boots. Eventually Wendy noticed what was going on and yelled, “Oh, pay no attention to him! He just wants you to kick the stones.” I couldn’t fathom what that meant but it was time for me to mount my horse so I stopped thinking about it. I grabbed onto the saddle, put my left foot in the stirrups and swung my right leg around the horse.
I clenched onto the reins listening to the instructions when I was suddenly distracted by the dog. He had made up a game for himself and was flinging stones into the air with his snout. I smiled and thought, “Wow, even the dogs in Ireland have found a purpose for all of these stones.”