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For Ireland fanatic, tomorrow’s no ordinary day

I have a confession to make. Beneath my steady-as-you-go Northwest exterior lurks the fiercely beating heart of a fanatic.

I was that kid who was the member of the celebrity fan club. I had pictures of musicians and actors plastered all over my bedroom walls. I made countless mix tapes of my favorite songs, told everyone who would listen what my favorite part of each song was, and I knew every single word to each of those songs.

Beach Boys Freaks United Fan Club? Oh, yes. Writing letters to an actor in a beloved film? Yep. Madly gathering and devouring every book by an author I love? Are you kidding? Reading every Agatha Christie ever written? I only have eight more of her books to track down, including the ones she wrote under a pen name.

Falling in love with a special pen I have to custom order? Guilty. Being so enamored by eggs that I wrote a poem to them on my cooking blog? That’s me.

But the one devotion I am probably best known for by those who aren’t afraid to call this super fan a friend is my adoration for Ireland.

My interest in the country was piqued while a senior in high school, when I first read “Easter, 1916” by William Butler Yeats. From that moment on, I dove headfirst into the history of Ireland, her literature, her heartbreaking tales of famine and war, her myth and lore (Finn McCool, Queen Maeve and Cuchulainn, anybody?), her wild and uncontained beauty that spills out over rocks and lake shores and into the heart of a 17-year-old girl with big dreams, a lively imagination and a heart ready to give itself away, with only the expectation that I would someday stand on her shores and see the images my mind had been exploring for years.

Eight years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Ireland for my 10th wedding anniversary. I spent months “geeking out” over every single detail of that two-week trip and being able to share every history lesson, every poem, every story, every single detail of Ireland with my husband — whether he was willing to hear it or not — as we made a tour of southern Ireland.

We stayed in B&Bs and hostels and explored every single scenic drive, ferry, hike, small country road, farm, hillside and sheep (there are a lot of sheep) in Ireland. We went on tours; we sometimes made our own tours; we listened to local musicians playing in churches, pubs or on the street; we climbed miles up green-covered hills to look at stone beehive huts; I quoted Yeats while gazing at the Lake Isle of Innisfree; we watched swans gliding lazily on rivers; we stood hand-in-hand gazing down 700 feet into the Atlantic while atop rugged cliffs, my fanatic heart beating wildly out of my chest.

March 17 is not just another day in my house. It is, in fact, my favorite day of the year, and I hold nothing back on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s all Irish, all day — from the traditional Irish food I make and serve for breakfast, lunch and dinner (Dublin coddle, anyone?), to the traditional Irish music played at home, in the car and in my office, to only Irish movies that are played in the evening, courtesy of the collection I’ve been amassing over the years.

My boys have learned that if they make a little effort, like asking me for second helpings of dessert by using the Irish for please ( le do thoil), they are more likely to get it. And, at least for this day, the little Irish shrine containing pictures, road maps, magazines, books, poetry and a reproduction page from the Book of Kells, that sits year round above my fireplace, no longer looks a little out of place.

So, I challenge you: On this most green, lilting and shamrock bedecked of days, if you have never tried fanaticism, why not give it a shot? I can attest to the fact that it is not only fun, but it also feeds the heart and soul. Erin go bragh!

Karin Leeburg Larsen of Puyallup works in Seattle and enjoys writing everything from novels to a cooking blog. She is one of six reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at Klarsen265@

gmail.com.

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