”You would like her,” they said. Neighbors had encouraged me to stop in and visit her for some time. Apparently she had great stories to share. But I never quite got around to it. And this week she died.
Annie lived just down the road from the cottage here in Ireland. A modest trailer home she shared with her dog and cat. Two days ago we noticed the cars. And then the hearse. And we knew.
I wasn’t sure about going to the funeral for a woman I had never met. But here if you live on the same road, if you are a neighbor, you go. And so I did. There was no church service because although she was a very spiritual woman she had no love of organized religion. The service was around her grave. As we gathered, the skies let loose and we were soon drenched. Perhaps a blessing from Annie.
As people spoke and placed flowers, especially single yellow roses, over her casket I got a sense of the woman. When people visited her she made them feel like they were the only people in the world that mattered. She kept both stories and confidences. She loved music and dancing, often the first on the dance floor. She saw death as intrinsically woven with life and in the end she was ready to go. Excited even. Ready for the next adventure.
”I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good.” “I get by with a little help from my friends.” As those lyrics were played I had a deeper sense of this woman.
And yes. I would have liked her.
Of course I had no anticipation of crying. I had never met Annie. But as we drove home past her tiny house her dog was sitting on the front porch waiting for her. Looking so lost and forlorn. It broke my heart. And the tears flowed.
I was looking for a piece of furniture for the cottage kitchen. A neighbor told me about this place hidden away on a back road in Gort. There was absolutely no signage but I eventually found the place and stepped through the open steel double doors and into a massive warehouse with items that span from second hand to salvage. A bit overwhelming. But I found exactly what I was after.
The problem was I was dealing with Francis. Nice man. But he made it clear his brother, James, was in charge and the only one who could give me a price. Of course James was not there. As we were standing at the large steel entry doors, Francis said, “It’s best that you ring him. Here. Let me give you the number.”
And with that he reached around and closed one of the doors.
Cracked me up. I did ring James. And the deal is done. Delivery of the piece is scheduled for when I get back from the upcoming tour/journey. Here’s a photo.
Of course we don’t know the true meaning of them. So there is room for interpretation. But a few stories I’ve heard from the official guides at Newgrange and Knowth about the meaning of the intricate carvings on the ancient stones are pretty incredible. In the truest sense of the word.
One guide suggested that the carvings are the result of parents giving their bored children something to do. Another suggested they are just decorative doodles and went on to tell the gathered tourists, “Your guess is as good as any.” Seriously. During the latter pronouncement I was standing at the back of the crowd with Jack Roberts and Anthony Murphy. We shook our heads and just walked away.
No. We don’t know the true meaning of them. But many, including Jack and Anthony, have offered insights that bring us closer to understanding. Celestial alignments and patterns. Reflections of the universe and universal energies that were woven with such harmony in the Iives of these ancient people. Honoring sacred cosmology and their relationship with it.
I recently visited the ruins of a church in Glendalough where I saw this carving. Not uncommon as so many churches still carry intricate stone representations of the natural world. Reflections of the Earth energies that were woven in their lives. Honoring the sacred nature of the Earth and their relationship with it.
Celestial patterns. Natural world energies. Honoring the sacred. Reminding us today of our place in the great web of universal harmonies. And perhaps that remembering is enough.
Mother’s Day. Honoring all mothers. One day a year for the awareness of it. Every day of the year for the practice of it. Especially when it comes to our Earth Mother. Especially here in Ireland. The signs are everywhere. Including the menu of the Rowan Tree, a favorite restaurant in Ennis.
Honoring all life.
Honoring our Mother.
Is there any more important ethos?
I was on the phone with Kevin. He was giving me directions to look at stones for an installation at the cottage. “Now. You know Kinvara?” “I do.” “And you know Ballyvaughan?” “I do.” “Grand. So from Kinvara take the Ballyvaughan road about a mile and a half and turn left just after the field of bright yellow flowers.”
Yep. There was the field of flowers. I wondered what directions he gave in other seasons.
The next day Kevin came to the cottage to look at the installation site. I gave him directions with all the road numbers. He got lost and rang me. “I’m just at a blue building with a metal roof. Do you know it?” I drove to meet him at McCarthy’s Bar so he could follow me to the cottage.
Yesterday I booked a B&B near the Hill of Tara for the night before the Gathering there next Saturday. It had dawned on me that driving three hours the morning I was facilitating an all-day workshop made no sense at all. While on the phone with Mick to make the booking, he gave me directions. “Ah, so your coming that way. Sure, grand. When you get to Trim take the Dunshaughlin road and when you get to Dunshaughlin take the Ratoah road.” Lovely. I got out my map. Of course all the roads had numbers. But he didn’t use them.
OK. It’s perhaps a subtle distinction. But it’s my experience that way-finding directions in Ireland are very much about a relationship to place. A relationship with the landscape, like a field of flowers, and with destination. If you are headed to Kinvara, you take the Kinvara road. Which can be a bit confusing as there are a few. If you are headed to the cottage you take the Portumna road even though you turn off well before Portumna.
People who travel to Ireland comment on how connected the Irish are with the land. It’s a relationship with place that has been in place long before anyone thought to assign numbers to the roads. It’s a relationship with the land and landscape that has thrived for thousands of years. It’s a relationship of respect.
It’s a relationship I wish was more present in this country.
Landing in Dublin airport, the passport control line was agonizingly long. As we snaked our way to the front of the line we could see there were only two agents. One, an officious young man, was moving people through pretty quickly. Ask the questions. Match the passport photo to the face. Stamp the passport. Next.
The other and more elderly man seemed to engage in conversation. I could feel the energy of those in line with me. Just stamp the flipping passport. And of course this was the man I was sent to. He asked me how long I would be in Ireland. Two weeks. Is this a trip for business or pleasure? Neither, really. So, what is the purpose of your visit?
And, without thinking, I said, “I’m here to deepen connections.” His eyes got big. He threw himself back in his chair and laughed. “I’ve been in this job for eight years and that’s the first time I’ve heard that reason for being in Ireland.” We chatted a bit more under the glare of those still waiting in line. He eventually stamped my passport. “Deepening connections,” he said writing it down. “That’s a new one. Have a wonderful visit.”
Deepening connections. It was absolutely why I was in Ireland. Deepening current connections and establishing new ones. Deepening my connection to people and place and myself.
And isn’t that the true gift of travel? Especially to new and unfamiliar places? To become more connected to self. To step into connection with others and understand that we are all more alike than not. To see ourselves rooted in our commonalities, our shared hopes and dreams and aspirations. To see each other heart to heart and soul to soul. To find that there is really no ‘other.’
In this time of growing hatred for ‘other’ isn’t this exactly what we need?