The following is a poem I wrote about an experience I had during my travels to Ireland. I’d shared a glimpse on my Instagram, but a fellow traveler whom I’d met on the trip requested to see the full poem, so here it is. Enjoy!
“For those lost to the cliffs.”
Is what the sign at the bottom of the trail read.
Yes, many a tourist stood too close to the edge
and with a gust of wind was blown over the tall
green and muddy rocks to the unforgiving waves.
Knowing this, and even in the chill gray rainy day
I set my boots to the slick brown mud, squelching
beneath my feet as every step created suction between
myself and the earth.
Up and up we trekked, staying safe behind the stone
barricade and sticking to the trail until it stopped and
opened up. We’d made it to the top…
Of the first cliff, at least, and that’s where my asthma
let me go. We walked no further, being on a time crunch
but, oh, what. A. Sight.
I ventured toward a sloped edge, my boots sliding, precarious
but I needed to see. Cold, frothy waves beat against the jagged
rocks, blue-grey over brown curtained with mossy green. My lungs
ached deliciously and the wind numbed my cheeks as I stared
down the long drop and spread my arms in praise. I breathed
in the clear air for the few short minutes we had and closed
my eyes, like praying.
The journey back down was slick, but I made it.
I made it back, but, oh, I was lost to the cliffs.
I went to Georgia during my birthday weekend back in college, junior year if I remember correctly. I was attending an open-call audition and Caitlin, Char’Lee, Lida and I packed into the Volkswagen for a chilly adventure. (Side note: traveling during my birthday always brings a weather surprise for me, as January in Florida is still hot as hell).
As with all proper road trips, we stocked up on snacks and tunes, ready to roll down the highway with classic rock and Pringles. Of course, keeping up the hype for over four hours is difficult, so after a while it became a napping party with Char’Lee behind the wheel, a true team player staying awake.
As we cruised the interstate though, nearing Atlanta but still on the outskirts, Columbus (the Volkswagen) started running low on gas, and every exit we took led to ghost towns with tumbleweeds rolling in the wind. No seriously, the first exit we took, the gas station looked like it’d been abandoned for years and there was brush and dirt just blowing in the breeze. The next stop was the same thing. It wasn’t until exit number three that we made human contact at a mom-and-pop garage.
Thankfully, they did not kill us as we suspected they might, and instead laughed and said, “Yeah, you’re not gonna find a working gas station for a while. Keep driving.” How was that possible near a mechanic’s garage? Columbus would just have to keep livin’ on a prayer until we reached the city.
We made it. Just barely, but we made it. Filled up and headed to the hotel where surprise, there’s a parking fee for the garage they hadn’t told us about when I’d first booked the hotel. Shout out to my mom for taking the extra charge. Other than that, I gotta admit, I don’t really remember the hotel. I just remember walking around Atlanta.
I don’t remember when we arrived, but while the city itself felt alive, there were hardly any passersby on the streets. It was like my friends and I were the only living souls left amid the breathing concrete and edifices. I’d never pictured Atlanta, GA being so devoid of people at any given time. It was a major city, wasn’t it? Shouldn’t it have been like NYC or Miami, with citizens bustling around at every goddamn hour of the day?
Eventually, my friends and I parted ways, leaving me behind to wait with the cattle call for auditions while they ventured into the city to explore. I got a text message saying, “We found Atlanta. Everyone’s at the aquarium lol.” Who knew the Atlanta Aquarium required reservations beforehand?
Fast forward through the auditions, because I spent the whole day there, mostly sitting and practicing and panicking, until it was all over and I was free to join my friends again. I believe the name of the restaurant we went to was called Pitty Pat’s Porch. The pecan pie is highly recommended. That damn dessert still haunts my dreams. Also, I had collared greens for the first time that night, and they were delicious.
More food adventures were had the next day as we lunched at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, and oh, damn, were those ribs social media worthy. Atlanta was good for food. And for laughs, as we arrived in the Five Points neighborhood and Char’Lee had to get out of the driver’s seat to let me parallel park. Apparently I was the only one there who had some experience with that maneuver (Hialeah training, thank you!).
For the hipster and bohemian at heart, I say visiting Five Points is the way to go. Not so much my cup of tea, but the others enjoyed it a lot. Crazy jewelry purchases were made. Thrift shops were perused (because who goes to a place like Five Points and doesn’t go thrift shopping?). Record stores ogled. Yep, the perfect place for a writer to set up shop and start working on her observation skills.
Our final day in Georgia saw us through a tour of the Martin Luther King, Jr. community. It’s still surreal to me to walk down paths as an every day citizen in neighborhoods where such historical figures once walked themselves, and I wonder if they thought they were ordinary as well.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting North Carolina three times with my a cappella group for a conference called SoJam. The first two times, if I remember correctly, were at Duke University in Durham. I didn’t spend a great amount of time there because it was mostly spent on campus at the conference, but I do remember my awe at seeing orange leaves.
As a Florida girl, I’d mostly seen palm trees and varying degrees of green and brown, but never orange. It was like a candlelit forest, and their delicious crunch under my feet as my boots crackled over fallen piles satisfied me like a precisely executed harmony.
I always forgot to pack a chap stick with my things, so I can’t tell you how many I’ve bought on all my travels, but most of them came from North Carolina. The cold, still atmosphere that captured my breath mid air reminded me within an hour of walking around outside that chap stick was a necessity. My fingers would get stiff and achy without gloves, so I finally caved and bought a pair of those too. My hair loved the freezing temperatures though.
Okay, it wasn’t freezing. It was really only in the mid-40’s. That hardly counts as snow conditions, but it did delve deep into the bones. Good thing there were plenty of coffee shops to grab a hot cup of tea or cocoa, because at that time, I didn’t drink coffee yet. I remember one shop had board games and puzzles for patrons to pass the time indoors before venturing into the cold once more.
My favorite part of all these trips was always the nightly visit to a local Cookout. Late night treks with the crew to the little stand, putting in our orders at the window and sitting around on the dirty ground just really hit the spot. Gourmet milk shakes, hush puppies and delicious, greasy fast food is exactly what a college kid needs after a 10 hour bus ride into North Carolina.
There’s a lot of local flavor in the city, and I wish I could have seen more (and remember, but it’s been a few years now). I have these flashes of memory of a strange bull in the city center, restaurants lined up side by side serving chicken and waffles in one and exotic salads in another, world-famous ice pop joints even though I’d never heard of them, and a flurry of oh my god did we get on the right bus?!
Oh, and of course I can’t forget that North Carolina is where I learned about a certain turtle flavor of chocolate. Yeah, it’s called turtle and I was hella confused when the waitress asked me if I wanted it. (Just chocolate and caramel, guys, relax.)
I wouldn’t mind heading out that way again someday, with more time to devote to the scenery and local sites. I will say this though, as cold as the climate was, it sure felt like a warm welcome everywhere I went.
Let’s start this travel blogging endeavor with the first trip I remember making that gave me the travel bug. I don’t count Puerto Rico at 1-year-old or Jersey at four because I have no memories of those trips.
No, my first official journey into the world of travel happened when I was 8-years-old and my parents took us, my brother and me, to New York City for the first time. My dad drove us the whole way in, in his graying, white Toyota Corolla with the thin blue stripes along the side.
We made our way through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, stopping a few times to take pictures and bathroom breaks. All the way we went until finally, our hotel in the heart of New York lay ahead of us, behind a flurry of white cold sheets of snow. We’d arrived in the middle of a blizzard.
My father never let on his terror of driving in that snow, but I never saw it as a threat. I stepped out of the car, eyes wide and tongue out, trying to catch a snowflake, and let those tiny icicles charged by wind fly into my face without a care. I’d never been in snow before that day, and it was as magical as the movies always made it out to be.
I remember warm, toasty nights in the hotel room, wearing our flannels and thermal underwear while we sat under the bed covers eating pizza and drinking hot chocolate. Back home we never got to eat this much junk food, but we were on vacation, so health and diet be damned.
We saw the usual tourist sites: Central Park, Rockefeller center with the tree all lit up, ice skaters gliding on the ponds and in the rinks like fairies coming through portals to another world, and even the Twin Towers. We’d visited NYC the year before they crashed down, and that was the day I realized I had a fear of heights as we reached the top and my brother pretended to tip me over the edge. I haven’t been able to climb high places ever since.
The day we took the ferry to Ellis Island was bitter cold, chilling straight through my layers of a fluffy coat, fleece sweater, turtle neck long sleeve shirt, mittens and scarf, as if Jack Frost laughed at my poor attempts at armor. As we pulled into the parking lot for the ferry dock, my brother and I pointed and laughed at a seagull trying to fly away, but only getting knocked back to the ground by a strong gust of wind.
That day Lady Liberty’s upper floors were closed, so we only made it through half the museum, but I still saw so many pictures of immigrants, in black and white and sepia tone, arriving at the island, wearing smiles, signing their names to the books, greeting relatives. I saw pictures of the very statue I stood in from the point of view of newcomers seeking refuge, prosperity and family, and even then I knew what that meant.
The thing that always stuck with me though about New York City was the rush. The city that never sleeps. Constantly bustling, I had to learn how to walk fast and keep up with the flow of bodies from bus station through streets to subway stations and back all over again. I even got to yell at a taxi that nearly hit me as I walked with the throngs through impatient, honking traffic.
The reeking smell of garbage as we hustled through construction zones never bothered me. Truth be told, I probably didn’t notice because I breathed through my mouth as I struggled to keep up with my family in such thick and heavy wardrobe. The pace and flow of New York City is not to be taken lightly.
I’ve been to New York a couple of more times since then, and every time I still feel like Dorothy as she approaches the Emerald City. I’m just always in complete awe of the blazing lights of Broadway, the obnoxious honks of horns in standstill traffic, street performers putting on a show like their lives depended on it, and the rushing bodies as the crowds swarm the sidewalks and streets making their way home or to school or to work, all the while never paying each other any mind.
It’s the perfect place to be if you want to be left alone but not feel alone.