Happy Little Writer Sarah, Journey

Halfway to Home

Haven't found the pot of gold, but it seems like a good sign.

Haven’t found the pot of gold, but it seems like a good sign.

I have been here for 18 days. I am well past the halfway mark of my retreat into the quiet and the writing.

I’ve never done this before. I have never gone somewhere and just stayed. Growing up we rarely took a family vacation that involved going to one place and just staying. We drove. We woke up in the morning, found breakfast and got on the road to the next spot. Sometimes we lucked out and found a random quaint town on the back roads in Wisconsin or New Mexico. Sometimes we found a Motel 6.

As an adult, same rules apply. My stays usually last about a long weekend at best. Usually that’s because the money runs out or the couch-surfing is only available for short stays. When I was in Ireland last, five years ago, I was here for something like three weeks and I didn’t stay in any town more than two nights. I managed to do a complete ring around the island, even making my way to the far-reaches of the Dingle Peninsula and the Aran Islands and the Antrim Coast.

This time, I’ve stayed put. I visited friends in Wexford and made a side trip to the Glencree Peace Retreat Center-that’s a whole different story. I slept in Bray. I staggered my departure time to make sure I didn’t hit Dublin commuter traffic. And when I finally made it past the tolls and back into the rolling hills I felt relief. Back to my cozy cottage, my laptop, my notebooks, the kitties, the fire.

I was talking to Mr. B last night on FaceTime (thank goodness for FaceTime) and I found my mood shifting drastically into tears. I spouted worries about money, holiday gifts, and obligations at home. When it really came down to it, though, I wasn’t crying about those things, because I’m not really worried about those things.

I’m sad to go home.

These 18 days have been perfect. I slowly unwound into this space, walked, read, ate bread and butter and walked some more (and ate more bread and butter—low-carb can go to hell). And then when I finally sat down, words started happening. Not even close to the way I thought they would, not on any of the projects I’d brought with me ready to tackle. But they came from deep recesses of my brain. They are scribbled on paper all over the cottage, the car, my phone, my purse. When they get stopped up, I take another walk, read another story, eat some more brown bread slathered in butter and jam.

Mr. B wrote me later and said “this isn’t a month long trip to Ireland to write but a trip to see if this life suited you.”

It suits me. I’m crying because while this is so great, I know I have to go home and make this happen there and I don’t know how.

Journey, menagerie

A Cow Followed Me Home Today

My biggest regret of this trip to-date is that I did not charge my phone last night.

Everyday I take a break and go for a walk through the lanes around my cottage. At home I run, but around here it’s cold and rainy and the roads are more like trails and hilly…walking is nicer. The loop takes me ninety minutes or so. I’ve collected quite a handful of canine friends on these hikes.

My canine companions.

My canine companions.

More pals.

More pals.

I have no idea where these dogs live. Every day I find them at a different house. They remind me of me and my neighborhood pals when I was growing up. To a tourist in my little corner of the world, this roving pack of children could belong anywhere. We were in every yard, ours or otherwise, crawling in every tree, on every porch. The world was our playground. These dogs are the same.

So, I’ve made friends with them. There’s also a blind little pot-bellied short-fat (Mr. B-speak for a dog with very short legs and a very round belly) that chases me at the top of the hill. And a black retriever of some kind that resides in my favorite house and tries to shepherd me away every time I walk by.

Beyond the kitties that keep me company in the cottage and the pack of semi-wild dogs, my animal encounters have been fairly limited.

Until today.

I was taking the last left turn onto the road that connects with my lane and just as I was rounding the curve I see a cow in the road. Not crossing the road, not on the side of the road, just standing stock-still in the middle of the road.

It stared at me.

I stared back.

Everything I was ever told as a kid came back “Livestock are not pets. They do not want to be your friend.” I stood a little longer and then decided that I was never going to make it home if I just kept staring blankly at cattle. So, I went around. The cow (I actually don’t know if it was a cow. I don’t know what gender this animal was. I don’t know the proper name for it. I’m just going to keep calling it a cow.) turned its head to watch me and it’s body followed. I watched it over my shoulder as it took a few steps after me, and I scampered along. All I could think is that the one thing I did not need today was to get rammed by a cow in the middle of rural Ireland.

Well, the cow scampered after me. It followed me at a trot. I cannot imagine what this must have looked like–I was running down the middle of the road (albeit a small road), followed by a cow running after me. I was out of breath mainly because I was giggling so hard I couldn’t keep running.

I stopped, turned around, hands on knees to catch my breath. “Are you kidding me?”

The Cow stopped too and looked at me. I took a few tentative steps. So did it.

“You CANNOT come home with me, ” I said over my shoulder. She (let’s just call it a she) kept following me as though she was pretty sure she could find a nice place to cozy up at my house.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I debated walked up to the nearest house and knocking on the door, but then I just couldn’t imagine what I’d say. Excuse me, are you missing some livestock? Because it’s trying to follow me home. The locals already know me. When I go to the pub, people I’ve only seen once ask me how my book is going. I’d forever be that American chick who had a cow following her around.

So, I just kept walking. I sorta hoped maybe a car would come along so that i could point at my new friend and ask if this was normal.

We passed Pot-Belly’s house and he barked and chased the sound of us and the cow began running at a gallop to get away. And then, out of nowhere, she turned and walked into someone’s front yard. She walked right past the front window of their house and over to the gate to the pasture and stood there. She looked sort of forlorn standing there, gazing out at her cattle-friends, unable to get back in.

I stood for a second and debated. Should I knock on their door? Point at the obvious and say Hey, brought your cow home for you. I decided that ultimately, someone else was better equipped to help this rogue piece of livestock than me. And maybe it’s not that weird to have a cow in the road, really. Just a few days ago I saw a herd of sheep run down my lane.

So, I left her. I ran into a couple more of my dog friends on the last leg home and they sauntered up for a pat and then went on their merry way.

I really wish I’d had my camera.

Happy Little Writer Sarah, Journey

Here in the Quiet

IMG_2579People are generally surprised that I’m an introvert. And, realistically, if it’s all on a spectrum, I’m probably just a few hairs over the line into the land of the Introvert. After all around people I know, small groups preferably, I am definitely not shy. I frequently have an opinion and feel compelled to share it. Mainly because I see some sort of injustice or underdog that needs defending and if there’s one thing I can’t abide it’s seeing a dog knocked around. By and large, I am deeply driven by relationships.

But then there is my overwhelm button which gets tripped when I’ve said too much, been around too many or listened too long. Then it feels like I’m hyper-sensitive–more anxious, irritable, indecisive, emotional. Sometimes I feel a bad cold coming on. I don’t think its psychosomatic, exactly, it’s just my body responding to what my brain can’t handle.

Pre-dawn breakfast, 7:45 AM

My previous job was so very, very about relationships and listening–to students, staff, partners. This was no doubt the reason I loved it. Also, it was very easy to slip into the land of overwhelm.

I decided months and months ago, before I decided to leave my job, to take a month away from everything and retreat into writing. I wanted to see what I could produce if all of my energy was focused there. I wondered what it would be like to not have to cram my writing into a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon and then to be discouraged when I couldn’t get enough done. What if theI had all the time in the world to just do this one thing? I wanted to return to Ireland to work on a particular project, and besides, it’s a place I love that I’ve visited before.


The stroll up the hill.


Mists and green and sunrising.

I am here now. The project has shifted, but the goals are the same. All the things I was most anxious about before I left–the driving on the left, the hidden costs of everything, getting lost in this very, very rural part of the world, not writing–have been dealt with. I made it, I found snacks and I figured out how to light a fire with peat (it is NOT like a wood fire, folks). I slept something like 12 hours and my jetlag is pretty minimal.

IMG_2548I feel great. I have not spoken to a soul (other than a quick FaceTime call to Mr. B to let him know I was alive). I don’t have a television and wifi is a little on the spotty side so I haven’t bothered to try Netflix. I haven’t listened to music or podcasts.


Thank goodness for dry feet.


I can’t bring myself to interrupt this quiet.


I went for a couple hour stroll this morning to explore my corner of the world. I met several chatty mutts and some less chatty horses. I clambered through a bog to the top of a magnificent hill and talked to myself the whole time. I am not sure what I said in my head and what I actually uttered in sounds. It doesn’t matter.


This quiet, it’s delicious. I am savoring it. And I feel myself slowly unwinding.