About 6 months before planning this trip, I got a puppy. She was fat & the only girl of the litter, and was sound asleep at the bottom of all the male puppies gnawing on each other on top of her. I picked her. She came home & was afraid to stand up. She laid for almost three days. She didn’t cry, she just couldn’t move. And I understood this dog to be mine, just like that. So this dog is basically ME. I decided to let the dog tell me her own name. So I waited. And there it was…she is Grace O’Malley.
(Now, some of you may not believe this, but I knew of Grace O’Malley, but nothing really about her, and I always saw it spelled, Grannuille. I decided to read about her, and of course, I LOVE HER. An awesome, fearless Irish pirate pretending to be male, protecting her clan, fighting the good fight, standing up for what she believed in, and not being afraid to fight for it. To me, some parts of her seemed like an enigma. Some parts, I totally got. A true warrior, and a woman who embraced all parts of herself and just did it. So, I decided I would throw in one of her “forts” for fun during this trip. The fort or lookout stone structure was on the island of Inishbofin. That’s why I wanted to go there.)
I wasn’t banking on the BANC HOLIDAY they had in Ireland this weekend, which basically means, that everyone gets an extra day off from work, leaves the center of the country and they flood the shorelines, filling hostels & bed and breakfasts everywhere. I actually think three people laughed at me when I stopped looking for a place to stay. (oh, and to make matters worse, every good little catholic girls & boys were making their first communion as well, so there were tons of families, kids in suits and white dresses in every church, on every corner- It so reminded me of the picture I carried in my wallet since my early teens of me making my own)
So basically, there was NO place to stay.
I rode almost 90 miles this day, peddling up and down every hilly, windy dog-infested street, every offshoot to the shore and main road I could find, looking for a place. There was nothing. I would have taken even the biggest dive on the planet – I didn’t care- I just wanted Roofage. The wind was most certainly NOT at my back, Love. I was exhausted, I could barely think.
I stopped at this funky deli/shop along the way to eat a bite, take a break, and talk myself up to sleeping with the sheep. While I was sitting there, the woman across from me was reading a book I read years ago. Women Who Run With Wolves. It’s a tough read actually. I had to do it a couple times before I could absorb some things that I just didn’t get yet. But there were parts that I did get, and contributed to an attitude which probably brought me to Ireland on my bicycle in the first place. Here was this woman, reminding me. I got the message. I got back on the bike after a good long break and starting looking again for a place to stay.
I ended up in Clifden, a little seaside village, at a pricey hotel on the main road there. The woman behind the desk says, “Oh Love! There is one cancellation, just now! but she whispers to me, “it’s expensive – 200 Euro.” I said, “I’ll take it.” (No, I didn’t do the math. I just said yes). She whispers again, “There is a place down the street, I work there in the mornings serving breakfast, the owner, she has a room there, she has one room, and it is only 35 Euro. I will save this room for you, but go, and ask her if you can stay there….” So I was totally like YES! and i ride as fast as I can to a little Bed and Breakfast overlooking the harbor down the road another mile. I could do it.
I ring the bell. It sounds like my grandmother’s old black phone. I ring again. To the door comes this heavily made-up, giant suicide blonde Bee-hive hairdoued woman, about 60 years old. I tell her about the woman down the street, and I ask if she has a room for me. She says “yes, but it’s not much of a room… it’s the one I slept in when I was growing up, it’s on the top floor, and it’s small. Quite small, and without luxury.” At this point, I think I must have realized that I couldn’t even stand up anymore, and I totally dive-bombed (fell) into this lady’s big bee-hive hair and started bawling… you know, like a huge baby. My body was no longer listening to my brain, and I was pouring apart. How very unlike me I could not believe it. But I was like, out of my body, and just couldn’t stop myself…. After I DID compose myself, and she wasn’t afraid I might do it again, she says.. “Oh my lord child, you are totally exhausted, let me look at you” At this point, she takes me up three flights of very narrow carpeted stairwells, and brings me into this tiny white room filled with sunlight. She lifted my arms up and peeled off my biking top, undresses me and starts this teeny tiny shower for me. I barely fit. She cringed in pain when she saw the color of my Irish arse. NOT PRETTY. A shade of blue/purple/black & even some yellow?…. She said “You have to sleep, I am taking your bike. You will have everything you need, but you have to sleep. You can stay here a few days. I’ll give your bike back to you then. Let’s look at those bruises.” She took my bike and hid it on me in the little shed out back behind her building, and padlocked the door. I immediately felt an incredible relief. It was like a gift. Grounded. Somone took my choice away, and here I was, thrilled by it. I loved this lady already. Thank God…. a woman with some sense. (Because I apparently had none)
The room overlooked the ocean, just like the one I had when I was growing up on the shores of Massachusetts. I got in the shower and cried. I have no idea even why, I was just so tired. My face was probably going to stay this shade of red I thought. I was making this primal noise from my throat, one I never heard before. Deeper cry? Tired cry? Ancient cry? All those side streets I rode seeking a bed, all those places I went this one day, I drove 87 miles, and they weren’t easy ones. I cried and then I passed out on that white tiny bed. I must have fallen right to sleep with that sea breeze blowing in at me.
I had a deep dream night this night. A dream about a lifetime love. I recorded it in my travel journal. It brought me to a total peace, and brought back some kind of comfort I was missing. I was feeling good. I no longer felt alone.
I woke up late for the whole free breakfast thing & went running down all those stairs with my bedhead, jammy bottoms and my peace t-shirt. I didn’t know it was a whole formal kind of place, considering the informal feel of my bedroom, but inside the dining room behind the french doors were a full room of families, dressed in their Sunday best for this Banc Holiday weekend. Pinky fingers were flying in there. I might as well have been naked.
The employee serving breakfast was the same woman from the hotel down the road started laughing and I went right up to her and i said, I am totally late for the free breakfast thing right? Yes, I was, I knew this. But she sat me down, gave me this spread you would not believe. I think I ate for two hours. Fresh fruit, fresh yogurt, Irish Bread, Jams, Tea, Cereals, Fiber – I was finally starting to feel somewhat human. Coffee. I didn’t care what i looked like. I was getting my food, i had this awesome dream, I didn’t have to look at that bike, and I could feel my legs again. I observed the families, feeling their familiar mannerisms, and remembering so many scenes in my own life that looked the same. I at one point felt like I was watching tv, old movies ….
The owner said, “Child, you walk where you go today, it’s a small town, you can even walk to the ocean, but if somewhere farther, I know a taxi, he’ll take you anywhere you want to go…” I said, tomorrow, I want to go to Inishbofin. I need to get to the boat that will take me to it. She arranged it, and I went upstairs and laid back down. Today, I would walk. Tomorrow, I would walk. This was a tremendous comfort. The whole room filled with light, and I had everything I needed, and I didn’t need to ride. Thank you God.
I stopped crying, My eyes were little slits, but I looked human. I hid all my padded diaper-butt bike-pants, grabbed some jeans, a t-shirt, and I hit the streets of Clifden. My first stop, the massage therapist/Reiki woman about a mile away. She refused to massage my bruised skin, but cleared my energy, rested my chaos. I bought arnica and some gel. I felt even better.
I ate mussels at a local outside cafe and drank white wine. I listened to a loud American girl, who was young, and attention-seeking. I turned up my ipod. I ate my bread, ate my seafood chowder, the mussels in butter. I was listening to Natalie Merchant, drowning out Ms. Mouth. Do Americans have to be so loud? Out of the corner of my eye I see this woman trying to talk to me. I take out my earphones – she is also American & says, “I had to move way over here to get away from her. I see you are trying to drown her out too.” Absolutely correct. We talked a bit. Her husband was with her, both Texans, oil money, travelers…. they asked about me and what I was doing.. I told them a little bit of the planning around this trip, the trip so far… This woman is staring at me with this envy… I could see it, and like this glimmer in her eye, and almost licking her lips… but not the husband. This guy is looking at me with a total blank, almost downright righteous face and says, “You are totally having a mid-life crisis.” And the wife smacks the guy in the arm and goes, “At least she’s not out fucking 25 year olds and driving sports cars! She’s riding her bicycle alone! Gerry, What the hell!”
Funny note: I do drive a little red sports car, and I swear, I only dated a 25 year old once….