Somewhere in my research for our time in Dublin, I stumbled upon an article about Kevin Woods, the Last Leprechaun Whisperer of Ireland. (And yes, it is capitalized.)
As his website describes, in 1989 a leprechaun suit, bones, and gold coins were found on Carlingford mountain in Co Louth Ireland. No was was more skeptical than the Whisperer, so he organized a leprechaun hunt that year to try and catch one. Mysteriously, none were found. In 2002, he found gold coins again in a stone wall on Ghan Road, which enabled him to communicate (not sure how, and forgot to ask him) with the leader of the 236 surviving leprechauns. By 2009, Kevin had fought to have those 236 leprechauns protected by the E.U. under the European Habitats Directive. In 2010, he published his first book “The Last Leprechauns of Ireland” based on their lives.
Needless to say, we immediately got in touch with him, and then more or less planned our entire visit to Ireland around the date and time of our leprechaun hunt.
It fell on our last full day in Ireland, and we decided we’d make the whole day around myths and legends: first leprechauns and fairies, and in the afternoon, a visit to the Giant’s Causeway (which I wrote about here).
Getting to Kevin meant renting a car and driving north from Dublin for about an hour and a half. As we drove, Reza and I made a point to check in with the boys on exactly what they believed (and what they didn’t believe) about leprechauns. The thing is, we weren’t sure if the leprechaun hunt would lead them to believe in leprechauns any more, or any less, or just the same – we had no agenda either way – but figured it would be good to see where they stood pre-Kevin.
So once we were out of the city and on the highway, I turned down the radio and dove right in.
Like so many conversations with our sons, I felt like every other sentence could lead us down a bright and unexpected path of new ideas, new questions, new things to wonder at together. I often feel like kicking myself because, during the best conversations, so much is happening at once – so many good ideas flying around. I always wish I’d written down their words. This time was different.
And the difference was, we recorded the conversation.
Me: Guys, question for you. Like we’ve talked about before, some people believe leprechauns are real, and some people don’t. What do you think?
Cy: I believe they are not real.
Me: Huh. OK. Why is that?
Cy: Because leprechauns and giants, they’re all like, well, mists!
Cy: Well yeah I mean myths.
Me: What’s a myth?
Cy: A myth is something that tells people how the world went, but aren’t really true.
Me: You agree Jas?
Jas: A myth is something that people have never seen, and they don’t know whether it’s real or not.
(Discussion interrupted because Asa whacked Jaspar. A few apologies and minutes later, we resumed.)
Jas: So I was saying, myths. And anyway, I even got Cyrus, when he said myths were fake.. Guess what, I said, well God is a myth, is God fake?? And he said, well no no NO….
Cy (interrupting): GOD IS NOT A MYTH!
Jas: Yes he is, to some people! Because he is a myth, to other people!
Cy: But GOD IS NOT A MYTH!
Jas: Well yeah, he is, to other people! Just like some people believe leprechauns are myths!
Cy: I did NOT SAY THAT! I did not say NO NO NO!
(Discussion interrupted because then Asa joined in and all three boys were just yelling over one another. Then everyone was crying. A few more apologies and minutes later, we resumed.)
Jas: And anyway. So. Myths. A myth is not fake, well we don’t know that it’s fake or not, like, we don’t know if God is fake or not, because no one has ever seen him. We don’t know if the leprechauns are fake or not, bc no one has ever seen one!
Me: Do you think today that we will see a leprechauns and figure it out, once and for all?
Jas (super confidently): YES. If we see a robotic or a fake one, then leprechauns are fake, if we see a real one, leprechauns are real. …But I’m not doing this like a bet.
Cy: And if we see NO leprechauns, leprechauns are fake.
Me: Well, if we see no leprechauns, are you sure that’s the only conclusion? Maybe the conclusion is, if we don’t see anything, we still get to guess?
Jas: Because leprechauns can run the speed of light!
Me: OK, so leprechauns can run the speed of light, and I know I can’t run the speed of light, so we might not be able to catch them, so it’s possible…
Jas: …well, really fast, I mean, I don’t know that they can run at the speed of light, but you’re gonna have to have a trap that’s the speed of light to catch them.
(Discussion interrupted because Asa wanted to contribute, and we got onto the topic of a sculpture he saw the day before, a random fake-Greek sort of statue in a cheesy Italian restaurant; Asa had declared that the statue was “God’s assistant.” He had no explanation for this. We talked about it for a few minutes. Then resumed.)
Me: So guys. Even we haven’t seen God, do you think you’ve seen clues? Things that are of God, or from God? Like “God’s assistant?” I mean, I look at nature and I see God in that.
Cy: If God was fake, like, God wouldn’t, I mean, nobody would have been able to make us.
Me: Interesting. tell me more. What do you mean by that?
Jas: YEAH and if leprechauns were fake, we wouldn’t have any money or luck!
Me: Oh Jas, I sure do like your logic buddy! Cy, so you believe God is real because we are here?
Jas: And leprechauns are real but no one will ever find one, but I believe they are real, because, why do I have luck?? And why do I have money? Why? Like, we’re lucky right now that we’re going searching for giants and leprechauns, right?? See?
We were lucky. No one could argue with that.
That’s about as far as we got. Far enough for now.
Then everyone got quiet for a while. Asa fell asleep, and Cyrus and Jaspar each started out their respective windows at the passing land, lush Irish countryside. So much green.
author of #claywaterbrick. cofounder of @kiva. instructor at @USC. investor at @collabfund. in love w @rezaaslan + our three boys.