Sitting here on the "Emerald Coast" - a beautiful stretch of Florida coastline where the fine quartz sand reflects lights through the clear water, giving the surf a signature jewel-green hue - I find myself dwelling on the curious synchronicities that entangle people and places far apart. Exactly ten years ago, I was apprehensively packing a carry-on suitcase for my first journey abroad. Another destination famous for its swaths of brilliant green, the "Emerald Isle," had beckoned with an unlikely invitation from 4,000 miles away, and in a flash of conviction I was ready to leap into the unknown! This adventure became an initiation into wanderlust, a first tantalizing taste of exploration, that proved incurable in the very best way.

The photos that follow are chosen from the millionty or so amassed over those two weeks; all of them smaller than the ones my cell phone takes these days, but each packed with stories that would require many hours to tell. I hope you'll join me as I travel back in memory.

Like all the best adventures, this one arrived unplanned. The prologue is a convoluted sequence of art, literature, and genealogy, interwoven in true Irish style with a dash of mischievous magic, and strung together in a series of events that would puzzle most of you the same way it did me. (I'm not even Irish.) But there are connections between things that we only notice in retrospect - and that is part of their beauty.

Of course, this is the last thing on your mind during a red-eye flight, bleary-eyed at high altitude, watching the tracker screen etch the dashed line somewhere over Greenland. The jet lag (and the preceding sleepless night of anticipation) finally kicked in for this first-time international traveler at some point during the Amsterdam layover, as I stood in front of an art installation in the airport, wondering drowsily if I hadn't already missed my connecting flight to Dublin.

If you find yourself on a left-lane drive through the Irish Midlands, you'll probably see a view that looks like a lot this. Patchworks of small farms, with the soft borders of ancient semi-evergreen hedges stitching the property lines into a massive quilt of ridiculous green. It really is mind-blowingly green. For a dreary day barely out of the grips of winter, the green radiated upward with a shocking vibrancy, eking a ration of sunlight through the cool rain like an emerald carpet over the dark, squishy, archaic Irish peat.

Forlorn gates and fences with many a generation's tale to tell stand with their histories literally etched in rock, like the wall at the Aughnacliffe church where the stones cry out the fossil record. All of Ireland has a deep connection with the sea, and the ancientness that pervades the ground almost makes it hard to believe that the prehistoric oceanic creatures embedded in the local limestone were really so much further in the distant past.

The town of Aughnacliffe is quiet - but scattered on the fringes are places where the ghosts still peer through the rubble, watching the strange passage of time slowly loop back to find them again.

There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present.

- James Joyce

To be continued...