At Home In Dingle

by Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe

It’s a soft Kerry day here in Dingle, Ireland. In other words, it’s raining.

The rain is different here than in the states. It really is soft. It falls like a heavy mist, rarely the pelting down kind I’m used to. It soaks you just the same but somehow it’s less offensive in its gentleness.

Maybe that’s what makes it easier to tolerate. Or, “you can’t change it,” as they say here, so why fret? So, off we go, my sister Christine and me, for our morning walk in the rain.

It’s hard to believe we have been here nearly two months and are settling into daily routines.

The last article I wrote about our decision to spend a year living in Dingle seems a lifetime ago. Yet, in the blink of an eye it feels our lives have changed completely.

We were sitting in Adam’s pub, during our last vacation, when we hatched a plan to live here. That vision was realized sixteen months later.

People from home often comment that we are lucky to have this opportunity. It isn’t luck at all.

I’ll admit that we’ve been very fortunate, along the way, to have pieces of this plan fall seamlessly into place.

My home, for example, was listed for sale in a market less than favorable for sellers, but it was under contract within five days.

My best friend and constant companion, Fergus, not just a dog, was offered a temporary home with his Vet and her family.

My clients and students, while wishing I’d stay in Vermont, were genuinely happy for me to take a sabbatical in Ireland.

Christine was able to secure us a home on the very street we had hoped to be living on, again in a market where very few rentals were available.

Everything fell into place, assuring us that the choices we were making were right for us.

That doesn’t mean that this has been easy. Just because something is right doesn’t mean it’s easy or without its share of stress and heartache.

I, for one, certainly have suffered both stress and heartache throughout this process.

Packing up my life and leaving it in a cold, dark storage unit after giving up the first home I owned on my own wasn’t easy.

Walking away from a thriving private psychotherapy practice and secure teaching job to take a chance on writing, or whatever else may come, with no income wasn’t easy.

Saying goodbye to Fergus broke my heart and still isn’t easy.

Taking every penny we had to our names in order to make this happen wasn’t easy.

None of this was easy. But it was right.

Settling in to life in a foreign country is not without its challenges, no matter how right it is.

Laundry for instance.

Now both Christine and I have used the washer/dryer combination in Ireland before, but this machine was slightly different.

We agreed that washing towels for the initial load would be safest.

Funny little symbols of varying colors stared back at us. We chose the green swirly setting labeled “H” (hopeful?) and forged ahead.

Next, I twisted off the plastic cap on the bottle of detergent and, to my surprise, found no opening for the release of the soap.

Noticing the utter confusion on my face, Christine grabbed the bottle and began looking at the directions.

Our little bottle of Faery soap offered little help, which shouldn’t have been surprising. As the name suggests, a little trickery might well be expected.

Christine was describing the little pictures and their corresponding red “X’s” when I realized the cap in my hand must be a measuring cup of sorts.

“Aren’t there any directions on the damned bottle?” Christine pleaded, handing it back to me.

Staring at me was a picture of a woman squirting detergent from the bottom of the bottle up into her eye, with a big red X over it. We burst into a fit of laughter and added the soap, ever mindful not to squirt it up into our eyes.

The towels were soaking wet, hot steam filling the little closet that housed the machine. Agreeing that the load must have been too big, we tried a smaller one next.

This time we risked our jeans.

We paced and rattled on about how long the wash/dry cycles were taking and the cost of electricity when the machine started to spin.

The entire house shook and rattled. At least a 6 on the Richter scale. Then, just as suddenly, it was still.

We crept toward it reaching for the door. Locked. Stepping back, unsure of what to do next, we waited in silence for the little red light to go off so that the clenched jaws of the beast would release its hold on our, we hoped, dry jeans.

Those were our first experiences. We’ve since adjusted to the machine’s likes and dislikes and can successfully wash our clothes.

Drying is something else entirely. Nothing is ever really dry here, let alone the clothes.

However, I have solved that problem with some fishing rope I found in the rocks at the harbor.


Life Stories

After rubbing the rope against the rocks in order to cut specific lengths, as though I were a contestant on some survival skill realty show, we washed and soaked the pieces in bleach.

Stringing them across the beams in the hall we now have a clothesline; a system that’s working quite well.

Adjusting to the changes is the key, I suppose. Learning and experiencing this place, its people and the quirks of everyday life is part of why we are here, after all.

We have and will no doubt continue to experience challenging times, and we know it won’t always be easy. But it is right.

I’ll keep you updated here on what this experience reveals to us over the next year. In the meantime, I welcome your comments in the box below.

Photographs courtesy of Mary Elisabeth Briscoe

Mary Elizabeth (R) with her sister Christine (L)

Mary Elizabeth (R) with her sister Christine (L)

Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe, LCMHC, CCTP is a licensed mental health counselor currently on sabbatical from her private psychotherapy practice in northeastern Vermont.

She is living on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland, where she will be writing her second memoir chronicling her time there.

Mary-Elizabeth lived and worked on Cape Cod for many years prior to her move north.

She has a master’s degree from Lesley University and is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional.

She has also worked as a Lecturer for Springfield College School of Professional and Continuing Studies St. Johnsbury, Vt. campus.

Mary-Elizabeth can be reached at

Or visit her website

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