The story I’m about to tell could begin a lot of different ways. I could start it by describing the view from the bottom of Croagh Patrick, a formidable peak rising steeply from the surrounding valley. I could write of the things that seem so much like foreshadowing now – our bus driver supposedly knowing a man who had broken both arms climbing Croagh Patrick, Alice joking of how she was afraid to read my next blog post as I determinedly trudged up the mountain, my calves burning. I could tell you of a single moment, so fleeting that I barely remember it – a shifting rock, my legs giving way, an automatic gesture and the crack of bone as I caught myself with my left outstretched arm. I could even write of an uneven sidewalk and a clumsy fall in upstate New York over six months ago. And all of those, technically, would be starting at the beginning.
But still, I don’t know where to begin. No matter which way I arrange the events or frame my narrative, it all comes down to one, unglamorous and harsh reality: on April 25, I broke my elbow while climbing Croagh Patrick. So here I am, in the last three weeks of my time in Ireland, with a broken elbow and a very different outlook than I had just two weeks ago. My mind is filled with memories that I wish I didn’t have – the small Emergency Department of an Irish hospital, the shocked faces of my housemates when I told them I thought I’d broken my arm, descending Croagh Patrick in equal parts pain and panic, trying to suppress both.
I suppose an important part of this story is that night in upstate New York last semester. That was the night that I broke a bone for the first time. In fact, I also broke my left elbow (although in a different place). The story of that night was much less exciting – I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and pitched forward, catching myself mostly with my left hand and arm. Although I learned that these two fractures have no direct connection, my left arm has been weaker since it healed, leading it to break more easily.
Regardless of how it happened, this event succeeded in turning my life upside-down, at least for a few days after. Numerous times, I thought I was living a nightmare. I look back on the days after I broke my arm last semester as some of the darkest of my life; I was unable to play any music, I was in constant low-level pain, I couldn’t sleep well because of my cast and restricted movement, and I had to study for finals on top of it all. Now, it was happening all over again, but this time in Ireland, the place I had gone to be free, to escape my other life, to have new experiences. Worse, it seemed that my injury was more severe than the hairline fracture I had previously dealt with. There were times when I thought that things couldn’t possibly get much worse.
And yet, at the same time, I was constantly telling myself one thing, over and over: I will not let this ruin my time here. And strangely, even moments after I fell, it never had. The views from Croagh Patrick were breathtaking, especially from the summit, which is frequently shrouded in clouds. We were thrilled to be able to see anything at all, and what we saw was an astonishing view of the landscape and sea below (pictured above). I loved the first portion of that hike before my fall, and I loved everything after, even through the panic and pain. It was a gorgeous day, and even now, I don’t regret for a second that I went on that hike.
My world didn’t stop after I got back to Dublin, either. After two days and countless hours in the hospital waiting room, I hopped in a taxi, rode to the airport, and got on a plane to Vienna, Austria. This trip to Vienna had been in the works since the beginning of the semester, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from going, including a broken CT scanner which forced me to move my flight back one day. I was going to meet my two closest friends from Skidmore, and we were going to have the time of our lives in a city full of music and history. And despite everything, it was an amazing trip that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
I’m back in Dublin now, and although I recognize that things are different, I have a lot to be thankful for. The semester is over, and I don’t have any work left to finish, having already turned in my two final papers. I can do many things that my previous injury wouldn’t permit, such as play guitar and even a bit of fiddle. Whereas I had originally planned to focus on music this month, I am now considering many more things I might do around Dublin, like go to museums and even easy hikes. Over the past few warm and sunny days, I’ve visited the National Botanical Garden, written poetry for the first time in months, and met up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. Yesterday, I booked a flight to Amsterdam to visit another friend and realized belatedly that I’d booked it during the Dublin’s Skerries Music Weekend, which I had looked forward to for much of the semester. It’s probably for the best, I realized – I can’t play well enough or for a long enough time to participate in fiddle workshops anyway.
As I near the end of my time in Ireland, I keep recalling reaching the summit of Croagh Patrick, trying to remain calm as I became increasingly unable to bend my arm. Yet, it’s not the pain I remember as much as it is the incredible view, as well as the sense of accomplishment I felt at having reached the summit. My experience of climbing Croagh Patrick wasn’t what I would have ever expected, nor are my memories of the summit. But the experience was still incredible, and the views, of course, were undiminished. Mentally and physically, I’m in a very different place than I was before; my view has been altered, and I can’t change that. Yet, it remains a beautiful view, one I will try to appreciate in my remaining time here, however I can.