By Dearbhla Fay
Most people do not fall in love with their high school English classrooms. Most people leave these rooms behind after graduation and never look back. This is purely because most people's classrooms are not as beautiful as mine was. Their English rooms were not Room 10.
My high school lies on probably the most beautiful site for an educational facility in the world. It is situated directly on the eastern coast of Ireland. When I say directly, I mean it. We had unobstructed sea views from most of the classrooms and the room with the best view of all was of course, Room 10. Two of its walls were made up entirely of windows, row upon row of sea salt splattered windows which were at the perfect height for those sitting at desks to look out from.
Although I loved English as a subject and my teacher was second to none, it would often be the case that whatever was going on outside those windows was far more exciting than what was going on within. An island lies about half a mile offshore and on sunny days I could do nothing else but stare at the shining, sparkling water in the sound between the island and the shore, shifting with the currents and constantly flowing away from me.
I specifically remember during my second last year at school when I had English on Wednesdays, a man, balancing on a single plank of wood, would paddle past the classroom as though what he was doing was the most normal and natural thing in the world. Passers-by on sailboats or yachts often used to wave at us. On particularly calm or quiet days (usually exam days) we could hear their shrieks of merriment and joy as they debated taking the jet skis for a spin on the glass-like water. Those were days I would rather have had a school without windows.
The stormy, wintry days were just as, if not more beautiful than the summery ones. The restless nature and continuous change of the sea has always fascinated me. I cannot think of a more captivating sight than an angry, gray, churning sea, the kind that spits waves at the rocks and threatens all the time to burst the barrier of the coastline and engulf the entire country beyond it in water. On these days the wind would howl around the triple glazed windows of Room 10 and the outside wires which came loose sometime in 2008 and were never fixed back in place would whip against the window panes.
The first time I was in Room 10 on such a day as a mere 12 year old, some of the girls in my class screamed. I, however, loved the feeling of being in this warm, dry and brightly lit room with all the chaos and anger raging one story below me. My friend and I would often open the windows during storms in the hopes that we would get splashed by a particularly rogue wave. The next day, when the weather had calmed down, we would return to Room 10 to resume our study of Macbeth (though the Tempest would have been a much more fitting read) and the only evidence of the previous days' anarchy would be a two inch thick layer of salt on the windows which had been directly in the path of the wind coming off the sea. The salt made it more difficult to look out the window and allow myself to become distracted and subsequently not pay attention but it didn't make it completely impossible, thus my love of stormy days was preserved.
As I sit here in Ryan Hall, the nicest dorm on the Notre Dame campus, I can't help but notice the sea's absence. I saw it every day of my life for 18 years and now all I see outside my window is a blank brick wall. Whenever I think of home and how beautiful it is, my mind instantly transports me back to my seat in Room 10, looking out at the iron colored water as the rain pelts down in sheets or marveling at the seals who would pop up out of the greenish deep from time to time as if to remind me that the period of my life that I spent in Room 10 would soon be over. I find it impossible to tell whether I miss my friends and family or the sea more. In a way, however, the sea became a part of my family because of all the time I spent with it in Room 10.
The sea's moods nearly always mirrored my own. There were times when I was completely aware of how much I loved it and times, usually when I was battling to control my uniform skirt on my way to school as the gale roared in off the water, when I felt almost as though I hated it. I experienced the exact same emotions with my parents, as most teenagers do. Now, though, that I am 700 miles from the sea and over 3,500 miles from my parents, I have truly come to realize how much I miss all three of them. I love it here at Notre Dame but I do wish the campus could be on the coast. Here I have nothing to gauge my moods off and there are no tides to look at for reassurance throughout the day that time is actually still moving, something I relied upon heavily on the days when I was not in the mood to be educated and something I now sorely miss.
There is a saying that blood is thicker than water and I know this is ridiculous but I believe that when the two substances come together, there is no stronger combination on earth. I came to a realization one day when I was supposed to be analyzing the poetry of Sylvia Plath (a woman whose mind was as stormy as the winter sea) that I belong by the sea and the sea belongs with me. This experiment of mine in Indiana will be just that – an experiment. Once my four years of college are over I will return to my friend the sea, to salt in the air and the tides. For helping me come to this realization I will forever be grateful to that little room with the big windows, continuous draft and beautiful view. When the time comes for me to click my ruby slippers and head back home, I know that I'll be taken straight back to the place I love so much – I'll be right back in my seat in Room 10.