Three days in Ireland, and already I feel completely immersed.  All it took was one run in weather that belonged in the month of January, some quality time hanging with cows in a pasture, a Guinness on draft, and going to a special someone’s retirement party.

View from our placeWe haven’t met anyone in Ireland we haven’t liked, and we’ve met about 200 people already.  My default facial expression has been an angelic smile, (with the exception of my workout in the rainstorm), and we are surrounded by extremely helpful people who facilitate whatever training needs we have.  I don’t know why my great-grandparents left this place.  Oh yeah, that potato famine thing; that would have a been a buzz-kill.

My father’s mother (Gamy) was 100% Irish blood but grew up in Los Angeles.  Her distinct genetic traits among Americans are commonplace in the faces of strangers here; it comforts me to see pieces of her around me as I grieve her loss.

countrysideThe Irish will have a laugh at the American who says, “I’m half Irish” when she’s never stepped foot in Ireland.  Being “Irish” in America means little more than distant genetic heritage.  Truly being Irish is to grow your bones with your feet in Irish soil, and have Irish spring waters in your veins.  Having visited, I understand that now.

My friend and main connection to Wicklow is a generous, loyal, and lovely girl, and she also happens to be a bit of a local celebrity.  Being from a supportive small town with strong community values, making the Olympics is sure to make waves, especially when you aren’t a jerk-face, and you give credit to the people who helped you get there.  She is the picture of humility, deflecting attention toward those around her, highlighting their accomplishments big and small with an elephant’s memory.

GuinessShe planned a retirement party for our host, an athletics coach of 30 years, and we were lucky enough to be invited on our second day in town.  This woman is loved by so many, and hearing the speeches given by former and current athletes, parents, and peers, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the entire community.  Their words were from the heart.  Their gifts were planned ahead and thoughtful.  Not one person looked like they’d rather be someplace else.  I left feeling like there was a strong web connecting these people, and any movement would be felt by all.

As an athlete going from hotel to hotel, its so rare to travel someplace new and feel like I “get” the place.  In Wicklow, however, I feel as though Jesse and I have had our hands placed directly on the town’s heart.  Man, we are really lucky.