It is not regular for me to have a personal view looking down on the clouds, their shadows on the ocean below. I am familiar with images of all sorts but always from the safety of my own perspective.
David and I flew to Belfast for a three week stay with Naomi. It was important for us to see her life in this new, illuminating perspective. She lives just off Ormeau Rd., in a brownstone with four other young women, who are all volunteers for L’Arche Belfast. Belfast is a large, lively and friendly city that is steeped in history. The architecture, the roads, the picturesque countryside, along with a young population, multicultural, modern and diverse.
We rented a car for a week and the three of us did some touring around the Emerald Isle. First we stayed in Cloughey, (a generous gift of four nights stay in a lovely cottage facing the Irish Sea). Another stay in Glenties (in the county of Donegal), where they happened to be having a Fiddle Fest. We also had a couple of nights in Downhill, on the northwest coast, looking out at the wild Atlantic. David and I took a bus trip to Dublin and walked for hours in the downtown core, Trinity College, Oscar Wilde’s memorial, etc. During our three week visit, we ate in various interesting restaurants, cafes, pubs. (Memorable Maryland Chicken!) We saw many amazing sites that have stayed with me in my mind’s eye. But truly it was, (isn’t it always?) the people.
The myriad of Naomi’s friends made us feel so welcome and at home. The ideologies of L’Arche, of belonging and acceptance were very apparent in the welcome we received. Her Root Soup friends fed us and included David and me in their celebrations. Root Soup’s Allison (and Gerry) opened their home to us, making us comfortable in their cottage. Naomi’s flat mates are all extraordinary, interesting and kind. The L’Arche homes are warm, hospitable places. Root Soup’s kitchen is inviting and delicious. Bread and Banjo bakery is a cafe haven on a busy Ormeau street. They serve scrumptious apple cinnamon scones and good Americano coffee. (Why hasn’t Ireland discovered cream in their coffee? Half and half?)
Naomi has friends in all the right places. She greets the woman in need selling tabloids on the street. She is comfortable, good friends with a very influential and powerful woman. Who gets you to know yourself from the inside out. On first meeting! At the Highlander Hotel pub, (during the fiddle fest) I was struck by a small ink painting on the far wall. I walked over to examine it. I was astonished at the mastery and beauty of the portrait of a fiddler playing. The perfect balance. Lights to darks, loose and controlled use of the ink wash. Delicate, sensitive treatment of the face … When I asked at the front desk about the artist, the young lady said. “Oh, she’ll be in here shortly. She’s a fiddle player.”
As we drank our Guiness, enjoying the ‘Donegal style’ live fiddle music. And the amiable table company of yet more fiddle players. Naomi remarks, “Oh, there she is, the artist. Susan Hughes. I know her, she’s a friend of L’Arche.”