Walking Til Dark in Dublin

Quad, Trinity College

Autumn’s emaciated light greets my eyes as I wake up from a long night of dreamless sleep. The sky is bright outside, without a few wisps of cloud peeking shyly at the corners of my window. Dublin is slipping into winter’s cold arms: when I step outside, a strong gust of wind glances against my cheek. Nick and I walk briskly to the train station, and when the train drops us off in the city center we have breakfast in a small café tucked into the corner of a local grocery store.

Nick goes to class and I walk off into the city. Dublin is a ceaseless string of sudden left turns, quiet brick houses, and tree-lined village squares; navigating them means becoming lost in them. After a sojourn down a closed-off alleyway I emerge onto ancient Trinity College and follow a series of grassy quads until I reach Pearse street station. From there I continue down the main boulevard, which passes several pubs and a barbershop before ultimately ending near Dublin’s dockyards.

I cross a short pedestrian bridge where a man in rags shelters from the wind beneath a banister, then turn right, cutting away from the water and toward the train tracks a few blocks south. After following the train line for a while, I pass by a behemoth structure of glass and lightweight metal; a modern stadium looms over the tidy residential courtyard which inhabits the lot next door. It takes me twenty minutes to walk around it before continuing in an easterly direction.

Soon I come to a bustling intersection that is criss-crossed haphazardly by cars coming from several direction all at once. Nearby is a fortress-like building which turns out to be the US Embassy; I ignore it and continue walking east. The road here is choked with cars and so I turn off onto a much quieter side street. Stately elms and ancient oaks beckon me forward, and I walk into the silent embrace of these noble trees.

On either side of the street are luxurious manors, most of which feature flags of whatever countries they serve as either embassies or residencies for the diplomats who work there. Black cars line the driveways, dark pearls of temptation, greed, and power. The wind picks up and the sky begins to darken; I quicken my pace and turn in a more direct route towards home.

Back onto the boulevard I walk, this time with cars passing me on my right and the bay on my left. I pass by an inlet formed by the jetty that feeds into the River Liffey; there is a wooden sign with marker scribbled on it warning against bathing. Tall, dry grasses, some green and others the color of straw, flick themselves at my feet. An ancient stone wall divides the water from the road; it is tired and beaten but it still stands. The lightest, weakest rain falls sporadically on the ground—barely a drop hits me.

Farther ahead I pass a small power plant across the water. It has two chimneys which tower into the air. The top half of each chimney is white and the bottom half is red; the rain stops completely and to the west the clouds part just enough so that the sun illuminates the power plant. The chimneys glow an off-yellow color, smudged and soot-stained even while bathed in gold.

The tide has receded out into the bay and there are acres of flat dewy mud, shimmering with small collections of puddles and the occasional flight of terns that splinters the view of mud, unimpeded, until the sea. Across the bay steams a gleaming white cruise ship, twin smokestacks tilted backwards, prow cutting the water slowly but deliberately.

From behind the road and the buildings the sun finally dips behind the horizon, and a chill slowly envelops the beach. I climb a seawall and begin to toe along, the sea to my left and the train tracks to my right. Each time a train passes I stop and wave at the conductor, who usually waves back. The bay is becoming choppier with each second elapsed. Short streaks of white dot the bay, a testament to the invisible force of the wind.

As I reach the next train station, Blackrock, it finally is dark. The station lights are illuminated and glowing sickly orange onto the concrete platform. A train, packed with commuters returning home from work, rumbles into the station, and my tired feet urge me to join them. My hands, gloveless and growing increasingly numb, have squeezed themselves into balls in my pockets to stay warm. I give in, hop onto the platform, and take the train to Dalkey, then walk the remaining ten minutes home.

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3 thoughts on “Walking Til Dark in Dublin

  1. Nathan, how could I miss this post on the city of James Joyce. “The tide has receded out into the bay and there are acres of flat dewy mud, shimmering with small collections of puddles and the occasional flight of terns that splinters the view of mud, unimpeded, until the sea.” Nice.

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