Notes from New York and Ireland
Home (noun) 1. residence 2. native habitat 3. place of origin 4. safe place
December 2009—Geraldine Sweeney
JFK Airport, New York City
A major snowstorm was underway as my cab slowly made its way to JFK airport. After three hours stranded on the runway we finally take off for Shannon, Ireland. Once over the Atlantic Ocean I felt the familiar feeling of suspension between two worlds: the home I had left behind in New York and my first one in Ireland.
The cold grip had also reached Ireland with record breaking low temperatures, as I returned to the slower rhythm of daily life here.
The local radio brought news from nearby towns and villages. People were fixated on the “cold-snap.” Grit supplies were dwindling and many who lived on the secondary roads were left stranded and unable to leave their houses for up to one week.
On a scenic drive to the Fjord at Killary Harbor, I am once again struck by the solitude and sacredness of this place and the night sky magic of the West of Ireland.
Brisk country walks with my nieces offer a healthy respite from the frenzy of my daily grind in New York.
Then, all too soon, I am once more up-in-the-air. Below me the West Coast of Ireland stretches out like a blanket. And once again suspended between my two homes, bustling New York lay in wait for my return.
The Big Apple
Back in New York, I experience the familiar energy and excitement of the city that first drew me here. And what was meant to be a six-month visit has turned into a richly woven tapestry of two decades of urban life.
In that time much has changed and today in downtown Manhattan where I work, I witness the first steel skeleton of what will be One World Trade Center emerge, as it slowly rises from the pit of Ground Zero. At the beginning of this new decade, there seems to be a collective sigh that downtown Manhattan might be spared having to hold the 9/11 Terror Trials here.
Last summer, to mark my 20th anniversary of living in New York, I hosted a garden party at the edge of the East River in Gantry Park, Queens, where family and friends from Ireland and New York gathered to celebrate.
I now know how lucky I am to have two homes: one rooted in family and ancestral land, and the other a new world of opportunity. They shape and nourish me in distinctive ways, and fuse in my mind as I fly back and forth between them.