Slowing Down

By Brett Garland, Burren Study Week Participant
August 8, 2011

If I’ve learned anything since I arrived in Ireland, it’s been to slow down.  As anyone who’s travelled here will tell you, everything in Ireland happens at its own speed.  Whether it’s waiting for a pint o’ Guinness in a pub or driving down a narrow, winding road to your destination, things just take more time. From the misty midland farms to the rocky and windy coastlands, time seems to stand still.

This summer I’ve been living “inside the Beltway” of Washington D.C. where the 24-hour news cycle never stops, and car horns blare at the slightest hint of hesitation at a traffic light.  As can be expected, the sedate nature of Ireland has been quite a refreshing change of pace.  That being said, each day I’ve still had to make a conscious effort to quiet myself in order to more fully encounter the world around me.

My first view of the Burren was a quick glance from the bus window.  To put it simply, I was less than enthused by my first impression of the seemingly “barren” landscape.  It was only after I had stepped off of the bus and climbed beyond the stone wall that I began to see more than just the gray of the limestone and the green of the grass.  Yellows and reds and blues and violets greeted my eyes.  As I meandered through the field, I was gradually introduced to the names by which my newly discovered flowering companions are known.  With each name there came a story.  With each story a relationship.

Some evoked a sense of the country’s religiosity in names like “St. John’s Wort,” which flowers around the feast day of St. John the Baptist, and “Our Lady’s Bedstraw,” which has been allegorically added to the story of the Nativity.  Other names such as “Bloody Cranesbill” sounded more like exclamatory phrases.  Regardless, as I came to identify more and more of the plants, I began to see my surroundings much differently.  My eyes became much more attuned to the biodiversity that I had initially overlooked.

So what’s my takeaway lesson?  Consciously deciding to slow down and take a closer look around us can reveal an unnoticed treasure quietly hiding amidst the hustle-and-bustle of our workaday lives.  What treasure is awaiting our discovery?