1998. I am 15. I am in the back of a dusty blue minivan hurtling along the craggy and barren west coast of the Hawaiian island of Maui, and I am weeping. I am weeping at the first lush and vigorous strains of the Riverdance soundtrack. It is inexplicable (and hilarious, even then). I may have just spent the summer reading The Mists of Avalon. I may be irrepressibly desirous of finding a selfhood that rings true—an identity that fits. I am, you see, a redheaded, impossibly fair-skinned Jew living on a tropical island. I do not, exactly, fit in. But this? Fiddles and dancing and moss and mist and moors and redheads? This I can do. And so, I wept.
I have yet to visit Ireland, and my family is far more Russian shtetl than Irish potato farm, but the illusion—a kind of psychic, past-life affinity—endured. In the years that followed, I became obsessed with British pre-Raphaelite visions of moony, supine redheads, powerless in the face of their own verdant ease. I listened to Loreena McKennitt sing wan Celtic poems whilst burning incense and writing poetry of longing for my own, someday-arriving, Lancelot. And, even on Maui, I sought out pastures that looked the way I imagined Ireland’s did.