The sound of an afternoon shower, the clink of a stout box, a hornpipe spilling out of a bar or the lonesome sound of the wind through the trees -- all of these conjure Ireland and you carry them with you in memory.

There are too many of these sounds to talk about, but they're part of the repertoire of almost any Irish emigrant’s life.

That's because the great lessons of Irish life are first taught by nature. Within 30 minutes you can travel from any urban center to a landscape that still exists in ancient time.

Take a good walk along the Wild Atlantic coastline and you'll soon have trouble telling where the earth ends and sky begins. In Donegal the division does not seem to exist at all, because when the light falls the horizon can lose definition, letting the sea reflect and in a way become the sky.

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That's probably how James Joyce's alter ego Stephen Daedalus found himself tipping headlong into eternity along Sandymount strand. It could happen to anyone there.

The first great lesson of that magnificent landscape is that you and everyone you know are just transitory ants crawling over eternal rocks. It teaches you some humility and perspective.

That landscape has shaped the character of the flinty and people who live on it. We're lucky for it.

Ireland is a communal society. It's more about the community more than the individual. It's a pragmatic approach to life that's been handed down from our history.

The threats from other people and other lands brought us closer into a fleece huddle, and so we prefer to know who our neighbors are and to speak to them when we're out on our daily errands to this day.

That doesn't mean we like them all, or agree with them all, or want to know them all at a deeper level. It's just an acknowledgement that we prefer community life to lonely individualism.

So if you want to escape other people's scrutiny, Ireland may not be the country for you.

Or at least, not at first.  Not until you get out into the countryside or down to the endless beaches where you can easily spend a long afternoon without encountering another soul.

There are few places left in Europe where you can be wholly alone in a giant preternatural landscape and then be back in the warm embrace of a cozy Irish pub before evening. Ireland offers you that choice and it does it with an ease that is almost lost elsewhere. We should treasure it.

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Irish people rarely tell you this, but they can miss the land with the same intensity that they miss certain people.

Looking out from the airplane window as those green fields come into view after a long absence, their hearts can lighten, more or less in the same way they do when they catch a glimpse of their parents waiting for them in the arrivals hall.

The magic is done before you notice. The landscape works its way into your imagination and you will carry it with you from London to Singapore.

On hot days in foreign nations you'll hear the rain falling at home, you'll think of coastal walks you often took and your insides will become a sort of portable terrarium.

No matter how far you travel or what you meet you'll never dig Ireland out of you, so why try? If you let it, the memory of that landscape can be one of the most centering influences in your life.

It can filter out all the nonsense you'll meet elsewhere. In America, for example, you are constantly told that things will get better tomorrow if you buy this, do this, eat this and stop eating that.

America believes in tomorrow because people will pay to dream. Finding fault is profitable.

But all that anxious chatter quickly loses its meaning when you stand on a Donegal shoreline. Here's something ancient and enduring to restore you to your senses.

Here's a seagull gliding on an upwind in search of a fish. Here's a wind so fresh it fills your lungs in great pailfuls. Here's a beach that hasn't changed since Cleopatra was a girl. Here you're close to the mystery of what happens.

Breathe it in, carry it with you.  It's all the home you'll ever need.

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