A Long Way from Ireland at Christmas: By Dan Branch

Before sifting through today’s blog photographs, I put the kettle on to boil and drop a bag of Barry’s Irish Breakfast Tea into a mug. Then I start the music from the Chieftains first album playing on the stereo. Aki follows me around the kitchen after the water boils. Something about the smell of Irish tea raises her expectations for treats.

Most Americans wait until St. Pat’s day in March to connect with their Irish roots. They drink more whiskey or beer then, rather than good cups of the Irish tea. This time of year, they prefer coffee drinks laced with peppermint or eggnog. But the Daughters of Mary and Joseph, who taught at my Catholic grammar school in California, missed their Irish families each December. To get through the month, they taught us to dream about the joys of Christmas in their home counties. Maybe that is why I asked the little poodle mix to walk with me around the little Sheep Creek delta on this late December day.

Small rafts of head down Mallard ducks were hammering the shallows when we arrive. At first, I took them for scattered rocks. They must be capturing the baby salmon that try to leave fresh for salt water each Fall. Even more birds fish in the creek or along the shallow edge of the beach. They don’t care about Aki or I, just about each other. A few gulls do care enough to take low surveillance flights over our heads.

Down channel, a shaft of brightness breaks through the clouds over Gatineau Channel, looking like angel light flooding out from a room where a good mother just gave birth to her must-loved Christmas child.

Dan Branch, who lives and writes in Juneau, is the manager of the 49 Writer’s Blog.

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