Friday, June 6, 2014

Out of Civilized Galway Into the Wildness of The Burren

Thursday morning May 22 dawned early for me - I rolled out of my bed and onto my yoga mat about 3 that morning, and as I stayed for a few breaths in child's pose, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Way back in August of 2001, I made this little clay dish at a prayer retreat. And as I pressed my thumbprints into the soft clay, I prayed, "God press your thumbprints into my life so that I am marked." I'm not sure what I expected when I prayed that day, but here I was 13 years later, remembering that prayer and this dish with such gratitude. God HAS left thumbprints on my life through every individual I have met along the way. Some have pressed hard and deep, some have left soft caressing marks, some have shaped. Some of those prints have been left by places, like England, Arizona, White Sands, and now Galway. Some have been left by Tom and Athena, my cats. And these pilgrim monks I have met here in Galway will leave their marks on me as well. And that is God. That's the way God marks - through people, places, things, events, animals, sky, trees - it's all God's mark.

And Donna left her thumbprint when she brougt me this beautiful
linen piece from Ireland in 2011. Didn't know the Claddagh symbol
originated in Galway. THIS is how I KNOW there is God. Over and over
synchronicity shows me there is another force at work in my life that is Love.

THEME - COMMUNITY Each day of pilgrimage had a theme. The first day's theme in Galway was "HOSPITALITY", which I met everywhere I went, beginning with the cab driver who met me at the bus station and offered me and my wobbly-wheeled suitcase a ride to the BnB. 

FIRST STOP TODAY - Kilmacdaugh Abbey

The Abbey from afar -THIS is why I came to Ireland (I think).
I love old churches, and I am immediately smitten!

Holy lives worshiped here. Holy lives STILL worship here.

"Soft days" - raindrops on my camera lens. We walk the path
to the outer edges of the Abbey grounds. I thought I had a picture, but...
just imagine cows lying to your left just beyond the walls. They know this
still holds life - they are part of it, and in their serenity, I am reminded, so am I.

Ferns growing in stone
wildflowers grasping life
All is provided
by Martha Louise Harkness

I just love this image as I stood at the top of those steps
and breathed in the silence.

Monks love their stone towers.
Arches and windows, letting in the Light and the sounds
of the Beloved.
My heart always skipped a beat as we turned to prayer in these holy places.
Abbess Christine leads us to the Altar for prayer and quiet.

Another point of view: another kind of window, one for the rabbits and mice
along the way, and another over the fern and the wildflowers growing through the stones.
All around, the stones provide shelter.
Reminds me of the Scriptures: You are my hiding place, my strong tower, my shelter.

Martha Louise, Rebecca and Polly

Alix and Heath (my fellow Episcopalian)


The Burren Perfumery, where they gather wildflowers,
grow their own herbs, distill it, package and sell it all right here.
I bought some lovely lotion for my yogis here.

OMG, I wish I had "smell" capabilities on my computer.
The fragrance was heady and wonderful!

The word "Burren" comes from an Irish word "Boíreann" meaning a rocky place. This is an extremely appropriate name when you consider the lack of soil cover and the extent of exposed Limestone Pavement. However it has been referred to in the past as "Fertile rock" due to the mixture of nutrient rich herb and floral species.
Photo of The Blackhead
In 1651 a Cromwellian Army Officer named Ludlow remarked, "of this barony it is said that it is a country where there is not water enough to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury them. This last is so scarce that the inhabitants steal it from one another and yet their cattle are very fat. The grass grows in tufts of earth of two or three foot square which lies between the limestone rocks and is very sweet and nourishing." (from the website above)

We had a wonderful guide, Tony Kirby, as we gathered to walk the Burren to Temple Cronin and the holy well.
Walking along the limestone rock of The Burren.
It was a cold and rainy day. So grateful for rain paints and good shoes.
Must hit the sweater shop for another layer, though!

Tony Kirby explaining how the turf of The Burren grows.
Beautiful little flowers along the way.
The Burren is one of only two or three places in the whole
world that has the necessary elements in place to
grow flowers from all the climate zones -
from the arctic to the tropics

Teeny little tropical orchids
Tony continues to try and fill my little pea brain with so much knowledge of this fabulous place,
and pilgrim monks climb ancient steps in the wall to pass over into another landscape.

Pilgrims walking an old path between two stone fences.
Tony explained the difference between the two - one is
purposed for holding sheep inside.

Pilgrims enter fairlyand.
We have moved into "fairyland".

My first glimpse of a "holy well". I will admit that in my
skeptical days, "holy" meant inside the 4 walls of a church,
but that's changed over the years. And after pilgrimage, I KNOW
why these places are called holy. You can feel the energy here of
days gone by, and numbers of pilgrims making their way to
these sites - all kinds of pilgrims, not just Christian pilgrims.
All people know that water that bubbles up out of the ground in barren places -
well, it's holy. No other word for it.
Maura steps over the stone steps in this sacred space.
Tony teaches us (me) how to "walk the rounds" of a sacred well.
One usually walks 3 times or 7 times. How many others have walked the rounds here,
and for how long?
Monks leave this blessed place. More will come.
Wells & ruins
Christians & Druids
deep calls to deep
release & keep
laugh & weep
arise & sleep
then repeat
 Martha Louise Harkness
Thank you for visiting these places with me again. It has been a long day. We leave this space in silence and journey back to Galway, bone tired, but blessed - and still not believing we're here. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude!

And so much gratitude to Martha Louise Harkness for her "yes" to letting me use her haiku's and poetry on my blog space.


Susan said...

OH, I love everything about this post. I have always been drawn to Ireland and now can see some of the best of that longed for place through your eyes. Thank you! :-)


Anonymous said...

Dear Sheila,
Although some believe there are no coincidences I was surprised to find you again through the on-line Abbey. And then through it, your blog and especially this entry with its stunning pictures and beautiful words. It sounds like such a rich and deep experience.
Thanks for sharing it. Blessings on your journey.
Bill Cunningham