Poetry and Porridge: the teachings of Ireland

The best thing about traveling is it removes me from my  comfort zone of daily routine and vicarious living by way of TV dramas and social media updates.  I also find that when I take leave of my collective belongings and reduce my necessary material items to whatever fits in a suitcase, that a burden has been lifted from me.  All I have to worry about is a bag, and when that's gone, as I experienced in Ireland, then I'm confronted with the mere fact that life goes on with or without belongings.  In Ireland, I found myself being internally realigned to value real life moments more than things. You see, the Garda in Drogheda did recover my bag, which I'm guessing turned up on the side of the road.  They called us at Ballynahinch castle on our second to last day in Ireland and said we could come get it if we wanted.  However, that meant a five hour drive back to the east side of Ireland on our last day of visiting Connemara and the castle.  I thought about it for a few minutes, but it was a no-brainer.  There was nothing in my bag worth the sacrifice of mine or my aunt's joyful time at Ballynahinch.  The Garda offered to donate my things to a local shelter and I felt nothing could be more perfect or right with the world than that.  

I think traveling also challenges your assumptions about people, places, and things. There's no good way of really knowing the truths of the world without seeing and experiencing first hand.  My assumption, however minor, that was challenged in Ireland was my belief that anything called porridge was a horrid gruel served by cruel adults to children living in an orphanage.  Imagine my surprise when at breakfast on my first day in Dublin and at every subsequent breakfast to follow in Ireland,  there was always a big pot of porridge.  Yet, we were not bunking at any kind of institutional care facility.  I avoided it on my first day, but on the second I had to cross the gauntlet. I stood back and watched a well dressed woman who was dipping the ladle into the pot o'paste.  After she dumped a ladle full into a bowl, I watched as she dressed her porridge with cream, dried fruit, brown sugar, maple syrup, and muesli.   Wowee!!! I hadn't noticed the accoutrements before!  I suddenly had a feeling about porridge. I scooped my own ladle full, dressed it up with all the fixings, and raced back to the table. First bite in and yes, oh yes, it was amazing.  Figuring out how to make it was the first order of business upon returning to the states.  Basically, Irish porridge is oatmeal made from steel cut oats, which you can find in most grocery stores. Steel cut oats are not flattened and rolled like the quick cooking oatmeal we're used to in the states.  If you really want to do it right, get a can of McCann's imported Irish oats.  Just follow the cooking instructions on the package and then dress up your porridge with whatever you want or have at home.  It's thick, but not pasty, and it becomes a wonderful canvas for whatever flavors and textures you add.  

This trip to Ireland also rekindled my love of poetry.  Maybe it's because the beauty of Ireland has been the inspiration for so many poets and because I was traveling with my aunt, who is a huge lover of poetry herself.  On my second night at Ballynahinch Castle, I stayed up talking to John, the night porter, and we were having a discussion about William Butler Yeats.  John shared his favorite Yeats poem with me titled He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.  In this poem, Yeats is expressing how if he had the means, he would bestow wonderful riches upon the one he loves, but because he is poor, all he can offer are his dreams.  He asks his loved one to take that into consideration in the handling of his heart since his dreams are all he has.  This trip for me, was like being offered the Cloths of Heaven.  It is the most beautiful place I have ever been to for so many different reasons.  I did find adventure and the love I found was that of the country itself.  I am forever grateful to Lucy and my parents for making this adventure possible.  I hope I can go back someday, but until then I have to experience it through literature and film.  If you're interested in the Irish culture I've been partaking of, you may want to browse my online bookshelf.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you William Butler Yeats:
He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven
Had I the heaven's embroidered clothes,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-William Butler Yeats 


  1. Lovely post! I am so sorry to be at the end of your Ireland adventure. I am glad I got to see you pictures and hear about your trip in person as well. Great job, you really need to keep traveling!

  2. Thank you Jo! I'm going to have to keep traveling, just so we can swap stories.