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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

And There I Found Myself...

By Ron Bateman

“I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw

 Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
 And there I found myself more truly and more strange.”
                          Wallace Stevens, Tea at the Palaz of Hoon

Yesterday stands in stark contrast to today. Our trip to the Northern Coast of the country – Musseden Temple, the Giant’s Causeway, and the Bushmills Distillery – was the perfect reprieve from the deep, emotional exploration of the Troubles that serves as the basis for our Peacebuilding Through Dialogue curriculum. Each day I realize that there is so much more to this country than what I knew and what I thought I knew.

The Giant's Causeway
The Northern Ireland Coast
As we headed north out of Derry, the River Foyle was bursting out of its banks. Sandbags could be seen in the low-lying areas just outside the walls of the old city. Forty-five minutes later the North Atlantic came into view. After spending a while exploring the ruins of Mussenden Temple and Downhill Demense perched high above the water, we moved on to the real highlight of the day for me – Giant’s Causeway. Thousands upon thousands of hexagonal basalt columns create an otherworldly landscape. The group hiked together through gale force winds – at times hopping precariously from column to column – before eventually going our own separate ways for the hike back to the motor coach. Our diverse little group chose to climb out via a steep trail that led to the cliffs above. We were greeted by winds that registered in at 58 mph.  We were nearly knocked over, but after doing an about-face, we had magical views of the ocean far below.  The sublime contrast of beauty and harshness was exactly what we had wanted of the Northern Ireland Coast.  The 15-minute return hike was invigorating and the suffering welcomed.  There were no complaints about the weather, but for a few moments rather, we weren't the roles we play in a life that seemed far, far away.

Bushmills seemed like an afterthought.  It was a wonderful tour of an historic distillery, but a wee less existential than our hike.  We thawed out with some whiskey and a meal before heading back to Derry.  I, like many of my new friends, slept a satisfied sleep on the ride home.

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