Fern in Ballynahinch, 1985.  "This is when I truly fell in love with Ireland regardless of the rain."

Some time ago, I saw a quote that really resonated with me. It went like this:
“You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? “You should go do them!”
….So, I am. ….I am going to Ireland – for nine months…..and this is how my passion for that lovely dark isle all began.

Well, it all began so long ago that it seems to me like it has always been my passion and my dream to live in Ireland. But, that probably is not so because, think of it? At age 5 – or 7 – or 10, I don’t think I even knew there was a place where the leprechauns lived.
So, when did it really begin? I sit today, pondering, remembering, trying to think when I did not have “My Celtic Connection.” It seems like I have always loved Irish music. Then, when I was older, I really loved two special friends who were 100% Irish. One came to Denver from the copper mining town of Butte, Montana. Her family immigrated to Butte fro Alliheis in the Beara Peninsula, CO Cork where similar copper mines were the main industry.
Then there was a Hogan, native Coloradan from a big Irish family who farmed in Wiggins, Colorado.

These two friends loved all things Irish and especially Irish music. Only a few bars of an Irish jig would bring tears to their eyes. And, I still have the original fold-out map that shows all the Irish surnames and where they came from in Ireland. O’Sullivan and Hogan were circled – in the day. I sometimes dig out that old map when I am a little nostalgic. Now, at that time, I didn’t know I had a great, great grandmother from The Claddagh.

Now, it would be about 1960 and women that I worked with would go to the Dublin House near Colorado Springs for dinner and maybe some dancing on the lighted floor with flashing shamrocks. I remember the Dublin House like it was yesterday and it was actually 53 years ago. I was intrigued with the decor there as it had all been shipped from Ireland. I loved the two women from Dublin who owned the restaurant and the funny fact that they always wore SADDLE SHOES!

Oh yes, another man we worked with was a young Irish lad who came here from Dublin. We questioned him about Eire until he threw his hands in the air and ran away. We loved his Irish brogue and his lively sense of humor. Unfortunately, like so many, he did not live a long life – but we loved him so.

Most importantly, my soul sister and I dreamed of the day we could travel together to Ireland and I actually began dreaming of living there. Later the dream pared down to living there for one year. I read anything and everything I found about Ireland. And I subscribed to “Ireland of the Welcomes” and devoured each issue the minute it arrived. Later on “The Celtic Connection” was born and I was surely hooked on every article.

Now, then, I meet and marry my soul mate – not an Irish man, but rather 100% Swede, so my dream is put on the back burner for a few years. He did love to travel though so a wee small voice expressed a desire to include Connemara Country on our first European holiday. There my passion bloomed again after only three days in pouring rain in the West of Ireland. I took pictures in the rain and collected shells on Ballyconneely Bay – treasured to this day. The photos from that magical time still hang on my office wall, faded but treasured – memories of the lovely thatched cottages and the “Tears of God” everywhere (The fuchsia flowers are still my favorite of all flowers.). Yes, I am in love – with that lovely dark isle.

My soul mate passed after only seven years of marriage and my sister and I began again our dream of traveling together and visiting Ireland. So we did that, along with my stepdaughter and her Irish husband. Yes, I had a plan. Such a plan. Remember, I had been clipping articles and reading travel articles in “The Celtic Connection” and “Ireland of the Welcomes” for a long time. “Highways and By Ways” always told of off the beaten path, places and things and I loved the clever little illustrations. Yep, I knew where I wanted to go and the others pretty much agreed. My sister bought a bright green sweater with shamrocks and I worked out details of the trip. Unfortunately my sister was ill and unable to make the trip in the end, so she gave the the green sweater to me and I wrote to her every day of the trip to share the magic of Ireland as best I could.

Since that time I’ve made three more trips to Ireland – one with my Irish girlfriend, one on my bike, and one on a tandem bike with friends. I’ve written volumes about these trips so I’ll fast forward to last fall. My beloved Westie was killed hiking and I was devastated. But, up popped my dream of living in Ireland for a year as a “native” rather than a “tourist.” That’s when I saw the quote at the beginning of this tale.

So, yes, I am going to live in Galway for nine months. I have bought my plaid Wellies. I’ve asked for help from my Irish friends on the little questions that keep popping up – they are a Fermoy family of six, the Oughterard candlemakers and hostel owners in Glenties, CO Donegal.

I am getting organized – some say that’s getting to be over the top but “I am what I am!” I’m livin, breathin and talkin (yep, I’ve learned a little “Bite Sized Gaelic”) Ireland in 2014. I’ll be ready!

So, “you know all those things I always wanted to do?” I’m doin em!

….more to follow

by fern howe balaun
October 1, 2013 (October 2013 Celtic Connection/Denver Colorado)

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