Late June 2009

An Evening Visit to Fanore.

Jonathan greeted us at the door with an excited smile and a hug. Anna, his fiancé, was behind him and did the same. They quickly welcomed us into their home and Gabriel Elijah, their son, peeked his head around the hallway shyly. The family's primary language is German, and Gabriel Elijah's name in German is Bärchen, meaning "little bear." To be honest, I don't like most kids. I don't like most kids to the point of not wanting to have one ever. That was, until I met Gabriel. He looks at me as if he knows everything about me and, with his eyes, he tells me to work on my faults. At any point when I walk into a room and see him, I want to hug him. He rarely cries, doesn't complain frequently or freak out about not getting candy. Gabriel seems to have avoided the usual childhood path of a bi-polar hypochondriac with a violent sweet-tooth; he prefers eating bread and putting on a CD of his choice or taking a walk on the beach with his family while admiring the patterns of the water rippling on the shore. Gabriel is almost two years old, bi-lingual, and his favorite food is "gucken," or, cucumbers. Jonathan, Anna, and Gabriel have shown me what the proper definition of a functional family is by exemplifying it. We sat and chatted about the main events that we've missed in the past five months of each other's lives; this served as a brief outline for the conversations that would be had for the rest of the night. Jonathan and Gabriel decided it would be a good idea for us to go to the beach in Fanore for a walk. I sat in the back center of Jonathan's car, and chatted with Anna and him about past memories of Fanore while Gabriel spoke German to me to my left and Jeff had passed out to my right. The drive to Fanore taking the Doolin road is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. As I shared that with them, Anna told me that the road has been the same one for 1,000 years.

The beach was gorgeous. I noticed a trait of Jonathan's that may come from his family background, but he always likes to have plans prepared and then announce them so everyone understands the agenda:

"Anna will lead us to the beach and the river. When we cross the river, she will return to the car to collect us from the car-park while we sit and eat bread with Gabriel. That way he will not want food when we get home and we will eat the meal Anna has prepared for us. We will talk and drink wine before going to sleep." 

He had really covered everything - except the description of how dream-like Fanore would be. We walked for about an hour before we got to the river, everyone splitting off into their own worlds of thought and reuniting at different points to share how amazing whatever one of us was feeling at the time. It didn't feel real, being on that beach in Fanore, nor back in Ireland in general. My brain couldn't decide whether this trip was happening or the past five months had never happened.


Anna pulled into the car-park as Gabriel was finishing the last of his tea-soaked bread with almond butter. As we buckled in and the car started, Jeff and I both had simultaneous narcoleptic timing and passed out for the full duration of the ride home. I guess I hadn't anticipated what drinking far too much in Galway, not sleeping much, not eating much, climbing a mountain, and going on a long walk over dunes would do to our energy. When we woke up, Jonathan had a smile on his face, a digital camera in his hand, a picture of Jeff and I sleeping, and a new plan for the night:  

"When we arrive at my home, you and Jeff will sleep in the guest room until the dinner is prepared and warm. Gabriel will then be in bed and you will have energy to talk and drink wine."

Our nap was quick, it felt like five minutes, and it may have been actually; I never checked the time. Jonathan came in and woke us up, the food smelled incredible. Anna is an amazing chef. We had an all-organic pasta with sautéed vegetables from their garden with wine. The warmness of their kind faces and of the room made this part of the day particularly surreal, having woken up moments ago from dreams similar to this situation. We maybe talked for five minutes before the conversation became emotionally intense, that's normally how it goes with Jonathan and Anna. And I hadn't talked to Anna much before this night, but I remember her effect on me. Her eyes are like Gabriel's or Gabriel's are like hers, and they are piercing and blue - they make you feel like you don't need to explain anything further than you would normally do because they already understand. Anna began talking as though I'd disclosed something to her in secret and she was answering. She told me that only the amount of experience I will have on any journey will the amount I'm ready for, and that there's nothing I can do but listen. And she said that we normally don't want to think that things are out of our control, because we want the comfort of thinking that we can decide parts of our future and we can, but we'll only experience what we're ready to experience. She went on to talk about keeping the mentality of working on bettering our own faults and becoming better for ourselves, instead of ignoring those faults. We had one cigarette outside in the pitch darkness that is Ballyvaughan at night, making our cigarettes resemble fireflies. While Jeff and Anna were exchanging words, Jonathan hugged me for about two minutes and then said "thank you" when he released. I said "thank you" and we all went inside. Jonathan showed us his beautifully crafted photographs and Anna showed her paintings of eyes that were equally as piercing as hers and her son's. We talked over tea until 3 am when Jonathan fell asleep in the chair he was sitting in. We said goodbye to Anna after she woke Jonathan, and Jonathan sleepily announce our plans for the following morning:

"I will wake you in the morning, you will eat the bread I made for you, and I'll drive you to the bus stop. You can then go to Galway to get to Brussels. Goodnight." 


2009, Europe, IrelandMatt Austin