One of my favorite weekends of the year is the first weekend of August. The Irish festival rolls in for three days of Irish music, dance, lectures, stories, and food. For someone who loves Celtic lore, this is great! This past weekend I forged through mud, and dirty, sweaty bodies to submerge myself in all the things I love about Ireland, except for the land. Throughout the three days, you’ll see all kinds of people; the ones that only like Ireland for three days of the year and spend the other 362 forgetting all about it; the ones that take it to the extreme and forego inhibitions to dress like the Irish of days old; the teenagers who gather in one mass at the end of the second night because they’re too self-absorbed to care about anything else but how to flirt with their crush, who’ll be supplanted by someone new in a month or two; the middle-aged women who sway to music that was popular and hip when they were young,; the children running here and there, getting their face painted, or giggling at a tale a storyteller is weaving; the older men who intellectualize everything they see and hear. Then you have people like me, who go to learn something they might not have heard before, and to remember why they started that faerie novel in the first place four years ago.
The first day, I plopped myself in one of two tents—Irish Traditions and Spoken Word—switching between the two to hear different talks. I listened to a lecture about Celtic mythology, one that actually touched on the goddess from the novel I’m writing. I heard a reading from one of Larry Kirwan’s books. I discovered Cara, a German band that plays Irish-inspired music. I found a gorgeous necklace that was $900 and walked away sullenly. On the second day, I watched Wee Banjo 3 for the first time and wondered why I’d never listened to them before. Larry Kirwan read me another excerpt from his book. A woman in the audience annoyed me when she persisted in talking on her phone when he got up there to speak. Another woman wanted to show off that she knew him, that she was better and cooler than all of us who are only just seeing him for the first time, or speaking no more than a minute or two with him as we stand in line for autographs. But I smiled to myself when he seemed frustrated with her trying to push herself forward, taking over the Q&A session, and decidedly ignored her questions that came one after another. I saw a carbon fiber flute that I practically salivated over. If I had $1300, I’d buy one. After all, I used to play the flute, you know, the metal ones with lots of wires and keys. I walked away from the stall with this consoling thought, “Maybe I can get my flute fixed. It would probably be cheaper.”
I saw all of these people and did all of these things, but what I learned or took away from this weekend was that I miss Ireland. I miss the UK, too. I miss playing my flute. I miss writing my faerie novel. I miss how it felt to be in Scotland where even the most mundane things seemed to be shrouded in some sort of mystery. I think what I miss is the past, when I wasn’t focused on the everyday things that you have to worry about as an adult—jobs, money, relationships etc. I miss the magic of being young.
I’m too young to miss my youth, so I’ll focus on the bright side. The Irish festival has a “Best Legs in a Kilt” competition every year, which is awesome. Luckily, the people who win aren’t usually the ones wearing Utilikilts. Don’t get me started. Who needs a cargo pants version of kilts? Gross. Tragically, though, this year, the Irn-Bru dealer wasn’t there. I was sad. But I perked up with a chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick.