Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


Ireland’s Referendum (Part 2)

I lived for several months in Ireland, much of it with Catherine, her husband Pee and their nine children, in a small farmhouse without plumbing and powered by turf. I also spent time on the road, hitchhiking around Waterford and Cork, and later up the west coast from Dingle Bay to Donegal. Ireland is a small place, just 300 miles long and 170 miles across, and yet its landscape and culture are remarkably varied. I discovered, in my travels, three very different countries: the fertile pastures of the east and south where Anglicans and Catholics lived amicably together; the barren, rock-strewn west to which Cromwell had driven the conquered Irish 300 years earlier – where beneath a thin veneer flourished a pagan world of fairies and leprechauns and mythic giants, where Gaelic was still the language of daily life; and the midlands, Catherine’s Ireland, impoverished, ruled by priests, steadfastly holding to the old ways. Last week, when Ireland’s voters overwhelmingly approved the gay marriage referendum, the single district to vote against it was in the midlands. I wonder what Catherine would have made of it all. She never questioned the Church or the priests who ran her parish as a fiefdom, and yet she was the kindest person I have ever known. And so, when her youngest, beloved daughter, Kathleen, got pregnant as a teenager, Catherine overcame her catechism and opened her heart to her grandchild. And when Kathleen died from cancer a few years later, it could not rock her mother’s faith.

Ireland’s Referendum (Part 3)

Ireland’s Referendum (Part 1)