Under the Volcanic Ash

by Rachel Dickinson

I was offered a sweet little gig to come to Ireland for two weeks and blog about my travels. I was set up with fabulous rooms in fabulous hotels across the country and then my job was to wander about, find a story, take some photos, then come back and post once or twice a day.

You know, it’s not easy being alone for a couple of weeks. I mean, I found myself lingering when the maids came to clean the room just to get in a bit of conversation. And because I never stayed in one place longer than a night or two, those little relationships I formed were just small rafts in a sea of loneliness. The one bright spot was April 18th and the day I got to get on a plane and go back home to my husband and four kids. I couldn’t wait.


Then the volcano erupted.

At first I was amused and really interested because I got a degree in geology many years ago and hey,  I knew what made a volcano tick, especially one that sat over a hot spot in Iceland. But then as it spewed more and more ash into the atmosphere I began to get worried precisely because I knew what made a volcano tick. It didn’t help when I heard the Icelandic volcanologist say, in all seriousness, on the BBC that this could last for two years.

I spent the morning I was supposed to leave Belfast searching for any way back to the states. I looked up freighter schedules, I tried to book passage on the Queen Mary2, I thought about making a 36-hour journey to Rome by ferry and train in hopes that planes would be going to America from there. But then – once I tamped down my hysteria and desire to make my way across the ocean with the same kind of zeal those South American ants have as they march over everything in their path  – I decided to calm down a bit. 

I picked up a book I bought in Dublin and began to read. What a glorious feeling to just sit in a chair and read. I opened my window and began listening to the birds which is easier now because there’s no air traffic to contend with. I kept saying to myself, “I can’t make the volcano stop. I can’t make the ash cloud move that covers Ireland, Britain, and most of Northern Europe. I can’t control nature.”

So now it’s down to the mundane things like finding a place to wash two weeks of laundry. And finding a nice place to walk by the shore of the lough that spreads out in front of my hotel window. And hoping the hotel doesn’t kick me out before I find my way home. Maybe I should be looking for apartments.

Rachel Dickinson lives in Upstate New York where she writes for a variety of publications including the Atlantic, Audubon, The Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic Traveler, and Executive Traveler. Her latest book Falconer on the Edge: A Man, his Birds, and the Vanishing Landscape of the American West (Houghton Mifflin) is now a featured selection in the YourLifeIsATrip.com Trip Shop

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