They say it takes 21 days to form a habit (or to break one). No wonder I feel disconnected. Due to a family bereavement, I’ve been away from home for six weeks. That’s twice as long. Waking up in New Jersey had become routine. Now I’m back and am feeling slightly bewildered. Jet lag is partially to blame. My body falls asleep in the middle of the afternoon and is wide awake at 2am. My mind is even more muddled than usual. Sleep cycles are not the only reason I feel so strange, however. It’s the shock of cultures. Thankfully I don’t have to hit the ground running. I can take the weekend to transition from the surreal yet familiar life I had living in a luxury tower block, back to the very real beauty of the fields that surround me, along with the muck and damp that go with it.
New York City is probably as far as you can get from West Cork. I love the buzz and bling of it. I love its brashness. Everywhere you look is an iconic snapshot. Being raised on a steady diet of American film, television, videos and advertisements makes every street scene — from the sublime to the grotty — seem both exotic and familiar. That makes any stay in America a little surreal. It’s as if you are walking through a film set. The amount of concrete, stone and blacktop is overwhelming. The skyscrapers give me vertigo. The homeless give me vertigo. The number of people, and cars, and trains, and airplanes, and helicopters gives me vertigo. Even after six weeks, I was still gobsmacked by the ride across the George Washington Bridge and into Mahattan, as we drove to the airport to catch a flight home…
The disconnect with nature was the thing I felt most keenly. I missed the landscape. I missed the trees, and the cows, and the green. I missed my pets. I found myself gravitating towards any green leafy corner. I looked out for any birds. I’d walk to the end of the parking lot to check on the squirrels that frolicked in the rubbish bins.
The weather had me topsy-turvy as well. I flew in at the end of March and found myself at over 20C. It then froze for a few weeks, before settling into what everyone called Spring, but what for me felt like a lovely West Cork summer. Flying into a freezing Dublin was a definite shock. In fairness the sunshine has been out most days since I’ve been back, but I’m still lighting a fire; which, may I add, is delightful. I also missed the fire. I don’t like the recycled air and temperature controls one finds in modern America. It is both comfortable and stifling.
I find myself taking big lung-fulls of air every time I step outside. It is a lovely heady feeling (even with the faint sell of slurry!). We’re lucky enough to have our own well, and I also find myself drinking big gulps of water after weeks of the bottled stuff.
The garden has been well tended in my absence and it was such a delight to walk around and check on the progress. We have a fine crop of winter spinach, and the leeks are doing nicely. I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty again. I know that’s when I will have fully transitioned back to being home.
The world is a wonderful place and I think that we should see as much of it as we can during our short stay on this extraordinary planet. I’m lucky to have seen a fair bit of it. I’m even luckier to have found a place to call home, which is more beautiful, more charming, more welcoming and more craic than anywhere else I know. If there was somewhere better, I’d have moved. I was in the local shop when the owner asked me if I missed America. “It might sound crazy” I answered,” but I prefer Ballinascarthy to NYC.” It’s given me loads of food for thought to try and figure out why…