Cages Of Our Own Making

October 16, 2021

 

Yes. These last few posts have been a bit nostalgic and they reflect a longing for the wisdom of past knowing of how to be in right relationship with community. And I know the wisdom of this that is embedded in Irish heritage is not perfect nor perfectly applied today. But it does offer inspiration for those of us who hold an aspiration for a kinder and gentler energy to run through our communities that seem so much in the grip of anger and despair.

So I offer one more reflection from Joe McGowan. 

We may look back on thatching and thatched houses with nostalgia, but how many who were part of that world would want to swap slate for thatch and return to the simpler way of life? Why do we regret losing something we don’t really want? Why do we long for a way of life we wouldn’t return to: an austerity that was sustained by penury, not by anyone’s wish for it to be so? What is it that attracts us to open fields, dangerous seas and rustic hearths, despite remembered toil and discomfort? 

Perhaps we miss the intimacy of a society where neighbours depended on each other, needed each other. Unrelenting elements and never-ending work did not prevent the older generations from putting down sheaf, spade or bucket to exchange banter and conversation with a neighbour, or a stranger. Mechanisation of labour, automatic appliances and jet travel have not bought us more time. They have increased the pace, stolen the serenity. 

An elderly neighbor, Gorgie McLoughlin, spoke to me one day of the lack of friendly contact in modern living. Neighbors who once stopped to chat when passing on foot or by ass and cart now waved from speeding cars. ‘Ah, I don’t know who they are half the time,’ he said wistfully. ‘They look to me like birds in cages flying by.’

Birds in cages we are indeed, in the cages of our own making.

Cages. We make them. We can escape them.

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

Human Strands

October 15, 2021

 

 

The commerce of country life was more than just a trade of goods and services; it was an affirmation of friendship, an exchange of courtesies, a drawing together of the human strands of small communities.

Joe McGowanEchoes Of A Savage Land

 

Joe McGowan has written many books about life in rural Ireland through the lens of his County Sligo homeland and history. Some reflections are those from his boyhood. Others are gathered from elders who have now passed from this life. He writes of a heritage that still lives in the people. A heritage I’m finding so present my cottage neighbors and community. Human strands. It’s all about the human strands.

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

Uncommon Courtesy

October 14, 2021

 

 

I was walking in Coole Park when the phone rang. “An Post here. I’m here at your front door to deliver a package but there is no one home. What would you like me to do with your parcel?” We arranged for the parcel to be left inside the back door which I had left unlocked. 

I was delighted, thinking about the times packages delivered to our house back in the States are left in the rain depending on the mood and busy schedule of the delivery driver. 

I was surprised by the phone call. And then I remembered that these are the same postal workers who, when the covid lockdowns landed over here, lobbied their union to change the rules so they could check on vulnerable people on their route and even buy and deliver food to them.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all lived in a world where these courtesies were not uncommon? What if courtesy determined the schedule rather than the schedule determining courtesy?

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

The Neighborly Approach

October 13, 2021

 

 

There are no house numbers here in rural western Ireland. We have a postal code that is house specific and this is generally how folks find us. Generally, but apparently not locally. 

When the washing machine died with a spectacular bang, Declan was the man who came to the house to pronounce the machine dead and administer last rites. When I rang him he asked where we are located. I gave him the postal code. After a minute of silence on his end he asked, “Who are your neighbors?” I wasn’t at all prepared for the question so just gave him some general directions and described the house. “Ah, now. Did a woman named Colleen live there at one time.” Well, yes. She did. “Grand. Now I know exactly where you are.” And he was here in minutes.

When the new washing machine was to be delivered and installed I got a call and the same question. “Now, who are your neighbors?” This time I was prepared. “Mick and Mary Keenan,” I told him. “Ah, now. I know them and know exactly where you are.” And Ken was here in minutes. When he walked in the front door he asked, “Now was this Anna Casey’s house?” Yes, it was. She’s the woman we bought the cottage from. 

In this rural community it’s all about the neighborhood and the neighbors – past and present. And that is exactly how folks approach each other. It’s delightful. The longer I’m here the more I appreciate this neighborly approach. 

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

Echtra. The Story Unfolding.

October 10, 2021

 

 

Echtra. The word was gifted to me at the beginning of this Ireland journey. I thought it would be metaphoric. It wasn’t. 

The word carries the energy of the journey but more the story of the journey. And the story of this journey is still unfolding. It’s so deeply powerful and profound that I find myself not at all called to write about it. It’s just too sacred to be shared through blog posts. 

There is much more to write about.

I will share that this figure appeared to us through the mists that enshrouded Benbulben on our second day just after to portal closed. It was as if this figure was showing us where the next one would be opened. Yes. It’s a tree stump. But the shape of it was no coincidence. 

I will share that in our time in the sacred sites we were joined by an increasing number of ancestor and Otherworld energies. Hundreds. And it seems those entities and energies are now remaining with us. We are all navigating this new dynamic in our life landscapes…for it is indeed dynamic. And the integration will continue. The Light is rising.

I’m absolutely aware that many of you are anticipating more mystical stories. But for now, I will hold those closely and turn to other adventures. After all, it is Ireland. And there is something of a magic here in any adventure, sacred or secular.

Beannacht,
Judith

Stirrings

September 30, 2021

 

By the time we wandered into Sligo town and Michael Quirke’s shop I didn’t need an affirmation for what was unfolding. But I would get one anyway.

Carver of Myth & Legend, Michael is also an incredible storyteller. Totally captivating. A visit with Michael is always a favorite experience and the women with me this time were not able to resist buying some of his mythic carvings – each one with a story written out on the spot by Michael’s hand, along with directions on how to care for the piece. Linseed oil works but the preferred is body oil through lots of handling.  

Over the years, through personal experience and anecdotal insights from people who have known Michael for a long time, I’ve come to know him as a deeply mystical man. He doesn’t talk about it but it’s there in his carvings and his stories. Very much in plain sight for those who can see it. I’ve even heard that he holds very strong Druidic energies. No surprise in that. 

As the others left the shop I hung back. Holding Michael’s hands I thanked him for the visit and told him to mind himself. In the past few years he’s had some significant medical challenges and while he looked good in this visit I always hold in the back of my mind the thought that one day we won’t be able to spend time with him. He seemed to dismiss what I said. Instead he looked me in the eyes and said, “When you’re here things always get stirred up.”

Apparently so. Looking back I see that the stirrings, especially in this landscape, have been unfolding for years. And while the portal of this journey is intensely powerful, I sense my relationship with these accelerating energies will continue. There is in this the coming home of my soul.

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

Portals Of Profound Power

September 29, 2021

 

It blew open the first day.

We had settled into our ocean side B&B, everyone recently arrived from the States and dancing with jet lag. I decided it would be good to step into our journey with a soft day of connecting with the land and the ancestors. A gentle beginning in this mystical Sligo landscape I thought. I was wrong.

We went first to a nearby wide sandy beach to be with the ocean and collect Hag Stones. While there are many beliefs though history, a Hag Stone is simply a stone with a natural hole through it. As is the way with the history of mystical women, there are those who say the stones offer protection from evil hags. I prefer the narrative of them being associated with protection, healing, and knowledge as well as representing ancestral wisdom and connecting us with the energies of ancestral insight and guidance. For our journey, I suggested the stones would also carry the energy of a portal to the wisdom and insights that would be offered and gathered on this pilgrimage.

I wandered down to the shore thinking I would look for my stone later. But there it was right in front of me. And there it was in the shape of Ireland with the hole where Sligo would be. The message was clear. Your portal begins here and now. Wow. Somewhat stunned, I tucked the 3″ stone into my pocket and began to gather the women for our next destination of the day, Benbulben.

Fresh air and exercise are excellent for dealing with jet lag and a walk through the Benbulben Forest Park affords that opportunity together with a powerful connection with ancestral energies. There is a small grove on the hillside that I’ve been working with for personal ceremony. It is absolutely a portal to the ancestors and in the last few years I’ve started taking other people to this place. Approaching the foot of the mountain, we climbed a fence and made our way to the grove. I was again stunned. One of the grove trees had fallen across the circle, completely blocking access. There was still a power here, but it felt diminished.

I sat with the roots of the fallen tree for my meditation and my attention was immediately called by a large stone lodged in the roots. After meditating for a bit I reached up and dislodged the stone. One woman in the group noticed that when I removed the stone the weakened globe of light that surrounded the grove collapsed completely. Without knowing she had seen this I had already received another clear message. My relationship with familiar sacred sites was changing. This portal is now closed. It’s time to expand the energy and, in the case of this grove, to find and work with one that holds more capacity. 

The Benbulben portal was closed but the portal of this journey had blown wide open. A profound presence. And the power of it would flow through every sacred site we spent time with. 

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

 

An Honoring

September 28, 2021

 

After the potent intensity of our time in sacred sites and landscapes, we landed in Doolin and needed a day to breathe and ground. Some of us took the ferry to Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, for a day of walking in the peace and tranquility of the place. It was a gorgeous day and we returned to the dock well filled and recalibrated.

We were on the ferry again headed back to Doolin and just a mile off shore when the captain cut the engines and brought the boat to a full stop. At first we wondered if there might be something wrong. And then we realized there was something right, very right in what we were about. 

Looking across the water at the island we could just make out a long line of people walking slowly behind a large vehicle. It was a funeral procession. And as they made their way to the cemetery, we floated in silent tribute for a full twenty minutes or more. There was clearly no concern for schedules. This honoring was the only thing that mattered. 

In this pandemic time there is much conversation about what is missed. Among the Irish, those conversations lead with a longing to again attend funerals. Now the lifting restrictions make that possible and people can return to their cherished traditions. And as is the way of this tradition, the entire population of Inis Oírr would have been in that procession. Every thing stops to honor the dead. And so did we. 

It was stunningly beautiful and a privilege to join in the honoring.

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

Refections Of Resilience

September 27, 2021

 


The pandemic has washed over us like a tsunami of change to the rhythms and very fabric of our lives. While Ireland anticipates reopening fully on October 22nd, it’s clear people will be peering warily at this from their lace curtained windows. The months of lockdown and restricted travel have taken a toll. Is it safe to venture out? What is the nature of this world now? What is the nature of my place in it?

Indeed, the last eighteen months have raised questions for all of us. As the foundations of our lives are shaky and tremorous, where do we stand as individuals? As a people? As a nation? Where is my grounding and in what am I rooted? For some this has been a compelling invitation for exploration. For others it’s been a time of trauma. These last months and this time in Ireland have given me much welcome insight which will be fodder for future posts. But here in Ireland I’m watching something rather amazing taking place.

As if in answer to the question of who the Irish are as a people, murals are appearing on walls and buildings in Dundalk and Drogheda on Ireland’s east coast. They are murals of mythic proportion and mythic character. This mural of the God Lugh with his sword and light spear carries a profound message from Irish heritage. A message of power and mysticism, a message of hope and endurance and resilience.

This mural is one of thirteen created for the Dundalk SEEK Festival 2021 with a focus on connecting people to their history and heritage. Art as a catalyst for change. In addition to Lugh, there is one for Brigit celebrating her as both goddess and saint. Images of power and healing from the past for the future. That Lugh is on a major hotel and Brigit on a phone shop blurs all of our modern social and cultural boundaries. Perfect.

Just down the road, this amazing mural is being created in Drogheda. It is the story of the boy Fionn who was cooking the Salmon of Knowledge on a spit when he burned his thumb and in sucking and chewing it to ease the pain, the wisdom flowed into him – much to the chagrin of his Druid mentor who had planned to have the wisdom for himself.

This is the first of six large murals that will depict scenes from Irish mythology. Yes, this project has been dreamed and planned for several years by the artist, Ciarán Dunlevy, together with Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore. But was it some mystically inspired timing that these images would come to magnificent fruition right now when perhaps more than ever there is a need for these mythic inspirations? Or perhaps it was just a coincidence. I favor the former. 

I favor the former for in these tumultuous times I believe the ancestors are returning to remind us of what is possible. To remind us of who we truly are and what truly roots us. And in these mural images we are gifted with reminders of our heritage and our mythic potential. We are gifted with reflections of resiliency. Perhaps it took a pandemic to give us the time to wake up to our true nature.

May we all chew on that wisdom for a while!

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

Meanwhile In Ireland

September 26, 2021

Her eyes widened over her mask. “Oh my god, you’re here! We haven’t had more than two Americans visit the gardens this season. How did you do it?” 

We had made a spontaneous visit to Brigit’s Garden near Galway and I was delighted to find my friend Jenny Beale, founder and director of the garden, was there working with volunteers.

In more that twenty years coming to Ireland I’ve never had a more challenging time organizing a trip. Many friends thought I was crazy. Well, that’s a given. But there were times I wondered at the sanity of it all. At the same time I was watching how Ireland was dealing with the pandemic and it became clear they were in much better shape and on a much better trajectory than the States. Over 90% here are vaccinated and since July Ireland has been opening up again. They plan to be completely open by the end of October. It’s safer here than in the US. 

Yes, the Irish were not happy with the multiple lockdowns that restricted travel to 2km and later 5km and people over 70 from leaving their houses. And yes, there are anti-vaxxers here but as friend Anthony Murphy observed, “It’s a small minority and at least over here they carry signs and not guns.” It’s safer here than in the US.

I’m now settled in the cottage and, as Dennis noted, have shifted from herding pilgrims to herding subcontractors. Many projects have accumulated in the year since I’ve been here. And with three weeks remaining here I have time to write the stories that are calling to be shared. 

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com