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The Irish culture of our ancestors had a very different relationship with time. There really was a sense of when God made time he made plenty of it, typified in the quote attributed to a whole series of Irish luminaries including poet Patrick Kavanagh:

“There are over thirty words in the Irish language that are equivalent to the Spanish ‘mañana ‘. But somehow none of them conveys the same sense of urgency.”

Cultures in a sense carry with them a history of nostalgia for what has been lost and as generations come and go there is always loss. Not only their physical presence but their way of doing and being. I’m continually drawn back to the experience of my grandmother’s kitchen (she was from Sliabh Luachra on the Cork-Kerry border) as a young child where the day was measured more by cups of tea than by clocks. The past and future and living and dead all seemed to float around that kitchen as people came and went (ag bothántaíocht) and conversation ebbed and flowed. Time was deeper with echoes of “everywhen” and even as a child I could sense the peace that was created.

My grandparents spoke English, although in my grandmother’s case at least it was heavily influenced by Gaeilge, so my fascination has perhaps always been more on their cultural constructs. For example, beyond having that radically different sense of time, I also remember a different quality of stillness, of deep silence, of that thin veil with the other side. That isn’t to say they didn’t work hard – they did – hard physical work – and yet time had a slow quality about it.

Having spent over 20 years in Spain and seen the increasing busyness of that culture and of the Irish culture, I am curious as to what echoes of the old Irish Celtic sense of time still exist in the Irish community worldwide (both those born in Ireland and born into Irish families). Cultures are continually evolving and in so doing let go of practices from the past. Some for the better, but perhaps not all.

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