One of my favorite traditional Irish bands is the Chieftains. They've been around forever. They are amazingly gifted musicians: on the harp, the flute, fiddles, bodhran, tinwhistle... and Paddy Moloney on those Irish pipes! "Cheese and crackers!" (as Grandpa Donaghy would've said)... it sounds like the mystic moan of the poets and warriors of Ireland, calling us out to Tir na Nog!
Matt Molloy plays the flute for the Chieftains, and he owns a pub in Westport, County Mayo. On our tour of the west coast of Ireland, we stayed a night in Westport. After setting up in a little B & B, with great reverence and a dose of excitement, we walked into town and entered the dark cavern of this legendary pub. Our eyes adjusted, and our ears as well, just as a stream of music came gushing out of a cozy little back room.
There was a band of 7 souls gathered around a wooden table covered with pints and glasses. They were kicking out jigs and reels like kung fu masters. Making "moosic" with wild abandon; fiddles flew, whistles wailed, drums beat. The room was packed, but we managed to squeeze in beside a mantle against the back wall. Then I realized, my hand was empty. And so was Rebecca's.
Now if you're ever in a pub in Ireland, having an empty hand is like not burping after a meal in Turkey. You follow me? I hastened back to the bar; "Bailey's with milk, please," I said to the man, "and a pint of Guinness."The music played on, rising up, swirling about in a Celtic cloud of glory; feet were pounding the hardwood floors, hands smacking hands, smiles, joy, an occassional "woo!" I could see Rebecca back there, crammed in the shrinking space, her face pleading "hurry!" as the room filled with people. It became a microcosm of the larger world: Germans, Italians, Poles, Chinese, Americans, that's the magnetic power of this music, this Irish stream of melody that is still a riverdance running through the world.
"I'm coming!" I mouthed, and turned back. The drinks were laid on the polished bar. And then I did what I knew I should not have done. I reached for my pint before it had *"settled."
Now there are those who know what an offense this is, and those who don't. The bartender, of course, was in the know. As my hand touched the glass in obvious haste, he took it, and drew it back. With a look of sincere pity, he shook his head. And I hung mine. No words need be said. And so it goes. As the dance of life continues, and the rooms around us fill up, can we stop and simply let it be? We are in it. No need to grasp, no need to rush. I made it back in time, and there was room to spare. Of course there would be. And the pint was just right. When will I ever learn!
* settled - there's a distinct gap between the
dark liquid and the head or foamy cap.