Today was our last, and arguably best, day in Dublin. It's also the last day of the trip, which is bittersweet. We have all been blessed on this trip with amazing friends, incredible experiences, and unforgettable adventures. Tonight at dinner, Dr. Elsner asked us what changed about us on the trip and what we will take away from our experiences in Ireland. Here's what some of us said:
Cali: I see places like the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant's Causeway, and I wonder what Eden was like."
Sam: "My faith is opening up, and I'm learning how to make it my own."
Chelsea: "I loved watching the interactions between people and seeing a new culture and their relationships."
Pete: "We are stuck in our ways, so we ignore other people's views. And I think experiencing something like this helps us understand the world better."
Kathleen: "I loved the unexpected things, like making dinner or going to places that weren't on the itinerary, and I learned to appreciate it."
Today we went to the Dublin Writer's Museum and Trinity College Dublin. The Dublin Writer's Museum featured original manuscripts of W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, G.B. Shaw, Oscar Wilde and others, as well as copies of iconic pieces of literature like Spenser's The Faerie Queene. I think my favorite part was seeing the signed, first edition copy of Ulysses, and even though we weren't allowed to take pictures in the museum, I snuck a few because there was no way I was leaving that museum without a picture of Joyce's signature. The museum was located in an old home, so the upstairs featured a library collection of first edition works by Irish writers, like a first edition copy of Dubliners, Joyce's short story collection, which has my favorite short story, "The Dead." Sam surprised me with my very own copy of Dubliners that she bought at the museum gift shop, so now, I finally have a copy! She was so precious to get it for me!
Next we went to the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin, which features the Book of Kells as well as the infamous Long Room, which is ranked as one of the prettiest libraries in the world and was definitely on my bucket list. I'm not gonna lie... I cried when I walked inside. In the center of the room they have temperature controlled, first edition copies of classic books and graphic novels ranging from medieval psalters to The Hunger Games. The most breathtaking part of the library was the walls lined with ancient books preserved for the generations. Literature has been, and will always be, my passion, and one of the many things that draws me to literature is its timeless essence. Words transcend generations, uplift souls, inspire actions, and influence culture. More than weapons of mass destruction, more than fashion statements, more than the glances of models and actors on TV, the written word continuously inspires and brings growth to generations. The words that James Joyce penned one hundred years ago are still poignant today and one hundred years from today. That's what I love about literature: it connects us to the past and the future and enriches our present.
In "The Dead" Joyce uses snow as a symbol for the unification of all people. The main character, Gabriel, believes that he is better than everyone at his aunts' Christmas party, and the entire story he is worried about including a quote by Robert Browning in his annual Christmas speech because he thinks it would be too sophisticated for his audience. Yet by the end of the story when his wife confesses she is in love with someone else and he ostracized himself from everyone at the party, Gabriel realizes that he is not as special as he once believed. "The Dead" ends with Joyce's description of Gabriel looking out the hotel window at the snow. Joyce writes, "His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead." Just as the snow symbolizes unity between all people in Joyce's "The Dead," I believe that literature symbolizes the unity between people and cultures. My soul certainly swooned slowly when I entered the library today.
This trip has taught me a lot about myself and how I relate to others. I have been challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I have explored another culture and another world and found that it is not so different from my own. I have traveled far and wide. There were parts I didn't like, there were parts that stretched me, and there were parts that taxed me. But there were also glorious parts that fed my soul and my heart, that opened my eyes to unexpected glories, and that nurtured my spiritual journey in unimaginable ways. Like Bilbo in The Hobbit, I discovered that I'm a lot braver than I thought I was. I may not be a burglar now, and I certainly didn't aid in a battle between five armies, but I did grow and change on this trip, and I think that growth and change was for the better.
At the end of The Return of the King, Frodo continues the traveling poem Bilbo wrote at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo's continuation is this:
The road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began
Now far ahead the road has gone
Let others follow it who can
Let them a new journey begin
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn
My evening-rest and sleep to meet
I must admit, I am happy about going home, back to my armchair, my book, and my cup of tea, but I don't think my armchair will be as comfortable as the one in Limerick, my book as beautiful as The Book of Kells, or my tea as strong or satisfying as the cup I could get in a corner cafe. And I KNOW I can't get scones as good as the ones I had here. But home is where I belong, and it is wonderful...just in a different way.