A tip of the hat to Ireland
St Patrick. Did you know he was an Englishman? Paddy the Englishman was 16 when he arrived in Ireland as a slave caught by Irish raiders along the coast of Britain. He tended sheep for six years, escaped, and went back to his family. He returned to Ireland as a missionary and the rest, as they say, is history.
So what would St. Patrick think of it all? You know - Ireland. He has been watching her from the white clouds of heaven.
Brave old Ireland, her climb over the past 10 to 15 years from war-torn havoc to peace and rapid prosperity made her "The Celtic Tiger," the center of the world for making gadgets and pills. And in a world that was demanding both, she was suddenly getting rich.
Ireland was on a rollercoaster ride of property buying, building, fast cars, and buckets of champagne. Thousands of workers arrived from Eastern Europe to butcher the meat, staff the restaurants, dig the new roads, mind the children, and clean the house. Things went from a time when cleaning your house was a daily chore to be proud of, to "Leave it - Estella will be here shortly with the mop."
I can picture St. Patrick then, sitting with Grace O' Malley, "The Sea Queen Of Connaught," a pirate in Irish folklore, but an actual larger-than-life person from 16th century Irish history. There they'd sit, St. Patrick with his walking staff, and she with her sword, fondly looking out across Ireland's shores to Grace's homestead in the west of Ireland.
"What's that they're making in the factories of Westport, Patrick? Botox?"
"Yes Grace, for the ladies all over the world, it keeps them looking younger."
"There was none of that back in my day, Patrick."
"If you think that's good, Grace, you should see what they are making by the bucket load in Roscrea, called Viagra."
"What's that about then?"
"Oh Grace, that keeps the men feeling younger, all over the world. Tir na nog, the Land of Eternal Youth, hasn't a patch on this battle against aging."
"Well," said Grace with a sigh. "Some things don't change then, the Irish are still helping others win their wars."
But, that was last year - in the good old days. The roller coaster has come to a stop, the Celtic Tiger had can be heard no more. The scars of empty housing estates, and sky scrappers along her country river banks, stand as a symbol of ambitious overdrive. The country is in free fall, and you can't help but feel sorry.
Last month she lost a national gem in the closing of Waterford Crystal. It takes five years to learn to gather, blow, and cut glass, then three more years to master it. Crafts will be lost.
Ireland's children again crowd the airports for opportunities on foreign shores, but this time they must go farther afield with little reassurance of work, as the world closes its doors and hunkers down to nurse their own economic woes.
She has seen it all, the bad times and the good, war, famine and plague, poverty and freedom. But Ireland has heart, and is a great little country, no matter what.
Lara Robinson lives in Vineyard Haven with her husband and three children. She moved to Martha's Vineyard from Ireland in 2004.