We are returned to Ohio. Our journey to Ireland, at an end for the time being, we sift through laundry, piles of post, lists of things we ought to be doing to return us to “real life” and “normality”. Yet, these notions are unreal in themselves, for every journey changes us, and this one especially. I will write of a lovely day spent by the sea admiring the magic of moving water and sky, and of meeting musical legends large and small along the way. I will even write of the enchanting spell the west of County Kerry might cast. For there is so much more to tell you…..
But for now, we are on the cusp of Samhain and the veil between life and death is thin. Especially for our family. You see, while we were away in Ireland, my mother-in-law passed away peacefully. My husband had arrived with news that hospice services had been engaged for her and that her time was nigh, though no one knew just how long she might linger with us. In the long run it was all sooner than we had expected, but isn’t that the way of things? We are never ready, even if we have prepared for an age. He had just seen her days before leaving to meet me, and I had visited her just days before leaving for Ireland myself a few weeks prior. I am glad I made the time.
We were now so far from home, and there was some flurried discussion of shifting flight plans and making our way back to Ohio sooner than later. We opted out of this change and chose to sit with all of it for our few remaining days of travel in Ireland.
Ireland is a place of great depth. Depth in the beauty of its landscape. Depth of history and story. It is actually a rather appropriate place to consider the loss of a loved one.
One can’t move in Ireland for the archeological treasures to be found dotting the landscape. We visited many in the coming days. Newgrange being the first. It is a “passage tomb”, thought to be a place of ritual and ceremony.
It contained the remains of ancient ones, known now only to the mists of time before written history.
Ancient people built these great structures to be in tune with the heavens. They were at one with the seasons and the turning of the wheel of the year. Newgrange is known for bringing the sun into the deepest part of the inner sanctum of the tomb at the winter solstice. One can only imagine the level of engineering prowess this must have taken.
Their care in collection of materials from around the country, and the artful manipulation of stones and designs must have taken them generations.
Amidst the day to day tending to the feeding and sheltering of themselves, these people still took the time and effort to create these tombs honoring the passage of loved ones to another realm. Death was important to them.
It is said that the Celtic peoples of old had great esteem for the concept of death as an inherent part of life. That they honored this concept in how they thought about the cycles of the year, and their own place in it as mortal beings.
It is said that while the Celtic people of the ancient times must have certainly grieved the loss of their loved ones when they passed away, for they were only human after all, it was all understood to be The Way Of Things. The many passage tombs we were to encounter in subsequent days honors this idea and I found it all strangely comforting.
There is something about this time of year that offers us a chance to consider our own place in The Way Of Things and to remind us that we are only here but a short while in the vast depths of time.
It is crucial that we make the best of our time here. To strive to be the best incarnation of spirit we can be, to offer that back to whatever great power put us here in the first place. We cannot know the intentions of the cosmos.
Knowth, in the same general vicinity as Newgrange, was the next stop on the day we learned of Tony’s mom’s death. Our eyes danced with dizziness at the spirals spied on so much stone and at the great vastness of scale the many passage tombs provided.
Stones were to be a constant theme in the days to come as we traversed the country and took in all we could in the days we had left. I put the work of writing and painting aside and simply experienced it all with Tony, which felt like the right thing to do.
We left the east part of Ireland to head west toward the Burren, a place I was keen to see this time around.
It is a magical moonscape of sorts. Many of the roads are mere cow tracks or bóthairín and I found myself holding my breath as we occasionally met another car traveling in the opposite direction. We made our way to Poulnabrone Dolmen which is considered a “portal tomb”, which was also a means of honoring the dead. The murky, misty weather intensified the mysterious feel of the place and we fell in love with it all immediately. It was in keeping with the depth of how we felt about everything going on and seemed to be an appropriate way to spend some of our time in Ireland, considering the circumstances.
Barren though it all seemed at surface level, there was life everywhere in the cracks and crevices of stone.
On route to the Cliffs of Moher on this day, we spied the ruins of an old church. Less ancient than the pre-historic sites we’d been visiting. We parked for a look at the place. It was no less enchanting for its relative modernity.
Once again we were struck with the connectivity of life to death in this place. Graves upon graves, old and new, just next to a place where cows graze and birds flit about. There is a peace to it all.
Later that evening we spent an enjoyable and delicious meal with dear friends in Ennis. I read stories to the kids while the grown ups shared wine and cooked. There was fresh baked bread which was divine. There was time to laugh and converse and sing a bit together. It was ultimately quite healing.
There is so much more to tell of our brief time together in Ireland, and I will weave that part of the tale into this broader story on another day. I will tell of how we left Ennis far too quickly to catch the ferry back once more to my beloved County Kerry, and how we dodged raindrops to play amidst sea and sky along the Dingle peninsula where we could. And how we eventually made our way back east once more again to fly home.
Once more through the mists….
And here we are, on a gray, autumnal Ohio day. Sifting through old photos of Patricia Lynn Musick. Pat is someone who had the strength of stone and steel in her very bones. She raised my Tony and his brothers on her own with nerve that saw her through many trials in her lifetime. By the time I came to the family, she had found her first love from teen years and had married him and cared for him through his life time of health problems. She used to be a beautician and so would perm my hair for me when it was fashionable at the time, but way out of my budget. She was fierce, whether playing cards or caring for her home or working the many jobs she held to keep things together. She was proud and had a sarcastic sense of humor. She loved her grandkids and they loved her. We now have her last dog, Charlie, who needed a bit more care than Pat could give her as her own health further declined. We took her often for visits which I think Pat appreciated.
I dedicate this post to the mother of my beloved.
Pat, go bhféadfainn Dia do bhealach a lasadh. May God light your way.