California winters have made me soft. On any given morning, I wake expecting to see sunlight bursting at the seams of my bedroom curtains. I frequently spend mild evenings on my back porch, waiting for the pups to romp themselves that bit closer to a good night’s sleep. Occasionally, I close my eyes and thinking how the sound of the freeway reminds me of the ocean.
But the Atlantic in February is wild and nips at your heels as you navigate the rocks by a west-facing shore. These rocks have been carved by a sharp wind and are stoic in the face of harsh winters ahead. The Atlantic sounds nothing like the quiet and relentless stream of traffic and the gulls laugh at my forgetfulness.
My feet have been cold since I landed here. I had forgotten what that’s like too. The gradual awareness of damp creeping up the back of your legs, as your jeans absorb the last of the afternoon’s rain. I hadn’t noticed at first. Too many joyful welcomes and firm handshakes, as I walked home through the town. It’s only when I reach my street that I realise how wet my clothes are.
It’s a short walk from the corner to my house. Behind me, other families are settling in for the evening. The sudden smell of peat burning on the cold night air makes me nostalgic for a childhood that wasn’t mine. It speaks to a long history of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, who know that warmth inside has always been more important than any cold outside. I wonder for a moment if Irish families are closer for so often being driven indoors to the fire, and if the same sharp wind makes them strong in the face of harsh winters ahead.