St. Patrick’s Day means nothing to Aki. She is only interested in the animal moving with stealth through the woods lining this beach. We are far from the bars where most Americans like to celebrate the saint’s holiday, drinking green colored Budweisers and singing songs not heard in Ireland since it was a British colony. You might find someone there with a Bodhran but no one with a copy of Patrick’s breastplate. Americans have always howled at the moon this time of year—the Irishman’s saint’s day is just an excuse.
My eyes settle on a wooded hill forming a bell curve across Stephen’s Passage. It’s shape might have reminded the Irish crew on Vancouver’s Discovery of Croagh Patrick. A homesick man looks for the familiar in the foreign; perhaps they imagined climbing this mountain without shoes.
We have had our pilgrimage this morning—me in boots not bare feet like Aki—the little zealot. Together we wandered half lost through a thick forest drained by an awakening creek. Snow still frosted trees, bush, and ground. Without a mountain summit to draw us on we chose the easiest paths until reaching a throne-shaped tree stump illuminated by a tiny shaft of sunlight shining through the overcast. Giving this troll’s royal chair a slight nod, I lead Aki out of the woods and onto this beach to take up station on a rock just washed clean of snow by the tide. Now we wait for sun to warm out faces or a whale to breach in Stephen’s Passage, or a line of Trolls to begin the climb up Croagh Patrick.