Saturday, May 31, 2014

Arriving In A Foreign Land - The Beginning Of Pilgrimage

It is my intention to blog for a few days as I attempt to process some of the things that took place while I was in Ireland.

Why Ireland? Ireland had not really been on my grid of places to go, yet here I was - flying thousands of miles by myself to a foreign land (albeit relatively safe, since they speak English), to be with a group of people whom I didn't know to go on "pilgrimage"? Why? It seemed I had almost been compelled to go. I had dreamed of making pilgrimage, but seriously, not to Ireland. Yet...

I asked myself "Why Ireland?" often before I left, and even while I was there. It was only in the last day or two that I knew what made me go: I had been called. Ireland itself, the land, the ruins, the holy wells, the people, the green, the fairies and rainbows, and the monks had called me. And somehow, something inside me heard the call and said "Yes." I didn't choose Ireland. Ireland chose me.

It was a little daunting getting off the plane at the Dublin Airport and realizing that the distance between where I was and where I had to meet the bus was really a bit further than it looked on the map. Not a huge distance, but far enough that struggling with my big wobbly-wheeled suitcase across uneven pavement to another building (now which one did he say???) was a big deal. Needless to say, I grabbed the first bus marked "Galway" and settled in for the last leg of my "just get to Galway" trip, a 3-hour bus ride.

Some of the sights along the way:

Along the river that winds through Dublin

Colors of Ireland
It was raining and cold when I arrived in Galway. I had intended to be a real pilgrim and walk the distance from the bus station to Adare Guesthouse where we were staying, but the heavy suitcase with the wobbly wheels, the cold rain, and the absolute discombobulation of being in such strange place unsettled me so that when the nice taxi driver rolled down his window and offered me a ride, I quickly said, "Yes!" (Notice the word "Yes". Pilgrims must get used to saying "yes", often and without too much thought processing). We arrived in "nothing flat", and the kindly cab driver unloaded my luggage and carried them into the lobby. Right then, I determined that cabs were the way to go.

A hospitable young woman named Mary greeted me, and she hauled my bag up three flights to "home" for the next 10 days.

The view from my 3rd floor walkup:

Looking from my window onto the patio

A Window with a View

I will confess, I was pretty nervous about going exploring on my own, but several years ago, a good friend of mine provided me with a mantra that has changed me on my insides: "Face the fear and do it anyway!" I donned my raincoat on over my sweater and out I went to explore the city. I know I'm not very good about noticing and remembering landmarks, but I had my map, so surely...except I quickly discovered there aren't many street signs in Galway, at least not in consistent places, so a map didn't help much, except there was the river, so the river became my marker.  And the Adare Guesthouse folks really helped by painting it bright yellow and lettering it with large letters easily spotted when you get in the vicinity, but before I realized all that, I was slightly overwhelmed with the idea of getting lost. But one of my favorite expressions is "Don't trust a guide who's unwilling to get lost," so off I went, exploring the river and the streets of Galway.

I happened upon the "pedestrian streets" in the center of the city. Even that was pretty daunting because the crowds were big and my little bit of ADD drove the periphery of my vision crazy, until I finally set myself down in a little sidewalk cafe. I knew I was getting "beside myself", so I sat in a chair, put my feet on the ground, and just breathed. I practiced my yoga breath for a few minutes, until I felt space being made inside myself. I felt myself becoming one with the city, not apart from it, but a part of it. There was a definite shift as I sat quietly and breathed in Galway, and I wasn't afraid anymore. When I got home someone had posted this on Facebook, and I KNEW this was what I had experienced.

THE QUOTE: “You cannot travel the path until you become the path itself” ~ Buddah Artwork by Jane Lissner / The Path Unwinding..

Pilgrimage had begun - I was on my way, but first a little fortification for the journey. Can't beat pizza and wine outside in a sidewalk cafe lined with window boxes full of flowers.
Notice the PIZZA!

I had arrived. I was here in this space. Now, I wonder what tomorrow will bring?