Tag: Árainn

Breadcrumbs and Buried Treasures

Breadcrumbs and Buried Treasures

When I was a child I instigated buried treasure hunts in the bay where my grandparents lived. A great uncle told us the story of pirates using Week’s Bay as a hiding place and pointed to a place where they used to anchor their ships. He suggested there might be a treasure hidden there in the depths of the sticky, thick, muddy bottom. Every time the tide was low enough, I’d try to recruit my brother and cousins to search for it. We never found it but the seed was planted in my subconscious….buried treasure lies hidden in the dark, sticky, thick mud.

In an effort to clear my phone of clutter, I’ve been sorting through photos and videos. There are many that need to go; however, there are some real jewels that are beautiful and quite amazing in their ability to remind me of not just of good times and travels but of the strong, wild, adventurous person I was. Yes….I said ‘was.’

Over the past year (plus some) I’ve been clearing inner debris…diving into my depths. The phone cleaning is like a final polishing compared to the deep, inner work I’ve undertaken. During this descent into my Underworld I’ve met up with all kinds of ‘fun.’ Fears, anger, resentments…did I already say fears? It’s like the lid was removed on the well-hidden psychic debris and I did a deep dive into it.

One of the gems I discovered on my phone was a letter I wrote to a workshop facilitator from Ireland. I went there for a Celtic spirituality retreat in September 2017. In the letter I described an experience I had there and as I re-read it again yesterday realized that was the entry point into the Underworld.

We were singing a Brigid chant and I saw arise within me a primitive form. It was slick, wet, dirty and it unfolded within me. It felt like this being had been cramped and shoved down into the muck for a very long time. As the day progressed I observed as the figure became progressively clear and more humanoid. Later that night I did a solo walk up to the 5000 year old fort perched atop a 700 foot cliff on the Atlantic Ocean. As I climbed in darkness of night, I could feel Her given space to breathe and freedom to unfold. The next morning She was shining and beautiful. She was a goddess. The Divine Feminine literally born within me. I had been waiting my entire life for the rebirth and worked hard for that moment.

As I walked the next day along the narrow roads of Inishmor, it was Her voice that spoke through my voice, arising to protect the planet and all Her creatures. Something had shifted within and it opened a doorway to a journey…remember Innanna? Her journey?

This experience was the invitation to go deeper, to excavate the inner realms. Not as a way to punish myself (yes, it’s been that hard) with difficulty and pain but so I can discover hidden treasures buried within the fears, resentments, anger. It’s all in there in one massive debris pile and sorting through it is the way to discover the strengths, talents, and gifts.

More sorting on my phone unearthed a video I created over two years ago within a stone circle in Northern England. It was the day after the US election. I was heartbroken as I saw clearly the suffering and darkness that would envelope our country….a lessening of human rights, an increase in social injustices, an attack on the environment and innocent wildlife. That morning I checked the news and fell to my knees in the cottage where my friend and I were staying. I sobbed with grief as the vision of what was to come unfolded. Then it felt like a push and message interrupted my spiral into despair. “Go to the circle.”

I quickly dressed in many layers as it was November and Northern England is quite cold then. My friend was asleep so I left a note and drove to Castlerigg. I was alone there for a while as it was early. I went to the main stone and fell on my knees and simply listened. Very clearly an inner voice said this: This is necessary for there is much darkness hidden. This president will take the country into the depths of hidden darkness so that light can be shone onto it and healing can take place. It will be a perilous journey but one that is necessary. Do not despair.

Foggy dawn below Castlerigg Stone Circle

Two years ago the preparation for my personal descent into the Underworld began. Nearly a year later is when She was freed from the prison of mud and since then it’s as if I’ve been in explorer mode, going where I’ve never had the courage to go before and facing the root of fear within myself.

During the middle of this intense year the Thai boys trapped in the cave were rescued in a most amazing rescue. In an odd way this gave me hope that I would survive my own descent into my inner ‘cave.’ My guide, instead of a cave diver, was a wholeness coach who offered to work with me in my journey. She has been holding the lantern as I make my way back from the long, perilous journey.

Earlier this week I released a lot of anger and resentment and found myself deep in forgiveness…of myself, of others. It felt like the hard kernel of angst had cracked. I wrote that it was like a dark sphere of polished stone cracked open and from that cracking released me to experience more space and freedom within….freedom from the gripping anger at being wronged by others, at being wronged by myself.

Inanna’s descent into the Underworld, to visit her sister, required her pass through seven gates. At each gate she had to remove one of her royal garments….her crown of heaven, breastplate, gold rings, beads, and scepter–rod of power. When she finally gets to the bottom,her sister curses her with a word of power and she dies and is hung from a hook to rot. She is rescued and arises from the Underworld three days later.

She isn’t a whole person until she becomes vulnerable before her dark sister, dies and returns to life. Inanna’s story is a template for those wishing to be whole. There is sacrifice. We leave the trappings of the ego behind–all of who we think we are must be removed. The ego is stripped of its power, which feels like death. Then we return, cleansed of ego and born into our true self.

Making the journey to the inner depths can be disorienting. All of who we think we are must be surrendered. We learn to be okay with uncertainty. The Unknown becomes a friend or fiend depending on our attitude.

The journey to wholeness isn’t easy. Often I have questioned the reason for going through such painful excavations. Years ago I was given the answer and it continues to be true and grow in power: The clearer and more open I am, the more I can truly live and feel the life force within and around me. The subtle energies of Nature can be felt clearer. The communion with wildlife is sweeter and stronger. I am a clearer channel when I clean my Underworld.

Sometimes it can feel like self-punishment…this relentless quest for wholeness. Ultimately I am simply discovering the treasure that was buried by pirates who plundered and pillaged long ago. Thankfully I have left breadcrumbs in the form of photos, videos and writing.

The following note was written by me on the title page of Matthew Fox’s book, Original Blessing. It is dated October 6, 2005:

It is an outpouring of God from my depths that comes out of me, that demands attention, and I know that surrendering to this passion to express God’s love through me is the only path that leads to happiness for me. When I allow God’s awesome beauty to move through me and express itself through my thoughts and words I am transformed. I become something greater than I imagined I could be. Writing about these transcendent experiences is my salvation. 

Until I saw myself happily talking into the camera on my phone, I didn’t realize how much I have changed…I don’t recognize who I have become. The descent has taken a heavy toll. However, I feel a growing flame of friendship with my self that is hopeful and reassuring and holds within it the promise of light-filled adventures of joy and beauty.

“And one day she discovered that she was fierce, and strong, and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears.”–Mark Anthony

May we have the courage necessary to explore not only our individual darkness but our collective darkness that is now exposed for the world to see.


As I was adding photographs to the blog post an email dinged in…it was from the sweater market on Inishmor. It felt like a little pat on the shoulder from the Ancestors saying, ‘we are proud of you…we support your journey.’ That’s where the descent began….that’s where the deep healing journey kicked into overdrive.

 

Véineas agus an Ghealach

Véineas agus an Ghealach

Pre-dawn in Árainn, Ireland….I’m still dreaming of being there.

I woke at 5am and rushed to put on my cycling clothes along with a Smartwool undershirt. It was the first crisp day to ride of the best riding season of all on the Alabama Gulf Coast….which is ANY time the humidity drops below 80% and the mornings are crisp.

As I pulled onto the highway with my bike loaded on the back of the car, the sliver of the crescent moon hung very low in the eastern sky with venus in perfect alignment beneath it. The crescent was horns up with the dark of the moon creating a perfect circle above it. And there was a red planetary body to the right of the moon. The triangular alignment was spectacular. It made me think of a delicate silver moon necklace with a small chain hanging down dangling a brilliant diamond beneath it.

All the way to the state park I watched the beautiful firmament. Stars twinkled and all seemed to point to the incredible dance of the moon, Venus and Mars.

When I stepped out of the car, the chilly wind caught me by surprise but not nearly as much as the constellations shining so brightly overhead. I attached lights to my bicycle, put on my shoes, helmet and jacket and took off into the darkness.

One of the many, many moments of bliss I discovered within myself in Ireland.

Immediately I recognized the feeling and it was the first time, since returning from Árainn, Ireland, I felt it. Stars, chilly air, darkness, nature…..ah…..laughter erupted as I pedaled. It was awesome to be able to find my bliss again and find home in my skin.

After such a powerful time of travel and adventure, there is often a time when the big energy that built with the experience collapses and life returns back to a place that wasn’t so awesome. But the changes and leaps made in Ireland continue to propel me forward. The energy of change and growth remains strong and the renewal gained there is clear and bright.

Véineas agus an Ghealach….Venus and the Moon reminded me how my wild woman self loves stars whether under pine trees with a humid breeze or on rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean. May I continue to dance with wild abandon to the untamed heart within me.

An Lá Foirfe, II

An Lá Foirfe, II

All day…at every turn….the vision I cultivated during the week manifested over and over again in real time. It took sincere effort to be open to receive such splendor and beauty….a real inner stretch was involved.

I stood up to leave Dún Dubhchathair and offered sincere gratitude before I walked back across the fields of karst. And I might have asked for guidance on the way back as there was no trail….just acres of rocks with small patches of grass interspersed among the gray limestone and I had to walk over a kilometer back to the exit point…a stile in a rock wall surrounded by rocks and rock walls.

I made it out of the field of crazy rocks and down the hill to my bike. The pack carrying my camera was quite heavy so I opted to return it to the B & B and take a cycling route I knew from walking the long distance from Kilmurvey House on the other end of the island.

The coastal road provided a nice opportunity to stretch my legs and trust the rickety, rented bicycle wouldn’t fall apart on the downhills. I wore my helmet and bright green cycling jacket. And the cycling nerd in me also packed my headlight and taillight. One of the funniest moments of the trip happened on that ride.

I turned around near Kilmurvey Beach and was enjoying a quiet ride back to Killeany. In the distance I saw three farmers and one of their wives standing in a pasture chatting. All four heads turned and watched me….lights flashing, green jacket, helmet…as I approached and followed me as I passed. No one said a word but I laughed at their facial expressions. You see, a lot of bicycles are rented by tourists and in the week I was on the island I saw only three or four helmets…which is really scary considering the narrow roads, rocks and wide tour vans. I’m still wondering what those four islanders said after I passed….She’s probably seen the drivers here….She must be American… This isn’t the Tour de France. 

By the time I arrived back at Joe Watty’s pub, the final ferry had taken the tourist crowds away so I parked my bike and had a seat at the community table. The local elders were enjoying the evening. It was a Saturday night, after all. There was laughter, a bit of drinking and merriment of the nicest sort. I felt so happy to witness such friendly banter while enjoying a delicious meal and dessert. The raspberry and rhubarb crumble is the best dessert I have ever eaten….anywhere. And it wasn’t just because I had skipped lunch.

After cycling back to the B & B, I decided to end the day by walking up to Teampall Bheanáin–where my pilgrimage began a week ago. But this time I left the big camera and walked lightly. And I didn’t stop at the chapel. I walked all the way to the ocean.

And another surprise unfolded with yet another magnificent view of high cliffs and sea and rocks. I sat on the rocks and began my goodbyes. The weather was turning the next day and the winds were due to pick up the following afternoon so I had changed my shuttle ride and ferry to the morning, instead of later in the day.

It was difficult to start my goodbyes. I sang to the sea. Thank-yous poured from my heart. There was great sadness yet a feeling of incredible support to return back home and continue my work.

As I came down the steep hill from the chapel I felt immense energy coming with me. I felt taller and felt the support of the Ancestors…like Silver Lights. It was a tremendous energetic presence. And it stayed with me as I walked down the street, into the B & B and all the way home. It was like I left something hidden on Árainn long, long ago knowing I would find it when the time was right.

Drifting off to sleep that night I felt the white horse against my face, her warmth and sweet, horse smell made me smile. The energetic presence that had followed me down the hill surrounded me as I journeyed into the dreamtime.

With the strength of the Ancestors I walked with courage into a chaotic world as I left Árainn. Rocks grounded me to Mother Earth. The sea carried me on waves of power. Wind lifted me to heights I could scarcely imagine. Fire of the sun lit the way.

I don’t know what I most miss of Árainn. Sweet bird song among thickets of tightly woven shrubs; craggy, sheer cliffs dropping into the sea; prehistoric stone structures constructed 3500 years ago; green, thick, lush grass; wind that whips and flattens everything in its path; rain that falls in sheets as it moves across the island; soft sand that feels like powdered sugar under bare feet; the sea….the land…the Spirits.

It was a foggy ferry ride back to the mainland of Ireland the next morning. It felt appropriate to hide Árainn in the mist, in the magical mist.

It’s not about changing the world. It’s about opening more to the wisdom found in Nature….its cycles, seasons and persistence speak to me.

Go raibh maith agat, Árainn…..Thank you, Árainn.

An Lá Foirfe….The Perfect Day.

An Lá Foirfe, I

An Lá Foirfe, I

The first day of my solo adventure was the absolute perfect weather day. Skies were beautiful blue with white, puffy clouds and the temperature was warm. It was quite a shift from the blustery wind and rain from the previous night.

The only plan I had was to rent a bicycle and take my camera along on a ride. The intention was to see what wild places called my spirit and follow.

I felt drawn to the end of the island I had not yet explored so pedaled until the road terminated and leaned the bike against a rock fence. The stile in the fence led to a nice path leading through a rabbit-filled meadow. I had no idea where it went but it looked inviting so I unpacked my camera from the pack and set off on foot toward the sea.

The grasses along the hills were lush and heavy. A part of me wanted to lay in them and rest in their softness but the path called to my adventuresome spirit.

Before too long the flat rocks known as Glasson Rocks appeared. I remember reading about the tragedy that occurred there in 1852. It is the place where 15 men were swept into the sea by a small tidal wave while they were fishing.

While researching my route later, I discovered the little valley near the rocks is known as Gleann na nDeor, the Vale of Tears. It’s where people used to watch ships leave filled with Irish people leaving for America. I can only imagine the sadness the land must still carry from the tears shed there.

The path followed the intersection of land and sea and the gentle slope of the land as it grew in height. Not far from Glasson Rocks there was access to rocks that were underwater at high tide. I carefully watched the sea before entering the tidal zone and found myself asking permission to enter. The power of the place was palpable.

I slowly moved below the cliff through wet rocks keeping my awareness on the sea and the height of waves. I experienced feelings of awe at the beauty mingled with respect for the sea and a slight tingle of healthy fear of rogue waves. I didn’t linger there as my intuitive voice was urging me to find a safer location to appreciate wild nature.

There might have been a heavy sigh of relief from my guardian angel after I found higher ground. The grassy path felt like an old friend and I settled into the task of climbing through the rocks as the incline took a turn toward steep. But the scramble up through the karst and grass was worth it.

The 300 foot drop into the sea was breathtaking. All week I longed for a vista such as this. I had seen similar views but only from a great distance. I felt such joy that this magnificent place called me to it. I simply had to surrender, listen, and follow the call to find it.

My camera was busy documenting the place while my spirit was absorbing beauty so absolute I found myself shouting thank you to the rocks and sea. I felt the rhythms of sea and tides and waves in my bones as joy cascaded through me like water on the rocks below cascaded back to the sea.

When it felt like I had taken-in as much beauty as possible, I turned back to the trail and began the descent. But more beauty awaited as I passed places that looked completely different from the ascending point of view.

At one point I stopped to photograph the angle of cliff and sea, the turquoise ocean contrasted beautifully with the dark rocks. As I was looking through the viewfinder on my camera and pressing the shutter, a  rogue wave leaped at least 20 feet over my head. I had seen no waves that high on the way up nor while I was observing from the top. It was a strange feeling to realize that the location of the wave was where I had walked below and experienced such uneasy feelings.

I’m not sure how I wasn’t completely soaked but not one drop of water touched me….or more importantly, my camera gear. And even more importantly, I wasn’t in that dangerous place beneath the cliff when the unexpected wave crashed onto shore. But I understood why my internal warning alarms were loudly screaming at me while I was down there.

After a few moments of jitters, I continued my walk down and around the point of Árainn. Back through the rabbit meadow I went, through the stile in the rock wall, to my waiting bicycle.

I cycled back to the B & B to shed layers as the day was warming rapidly and I was very much overdressed. The plan was to go to the pub to eat lunch but as I cycled toward Killeany, I saw a historical sign that read, Dún Dubhchathair–The Black Fort. It felt like a magnet pulling me so I quickly turned left onto the little lane and pedaled. Lunch could wait.

The ratty mountain bike I rented wasn’t the best bicycle but it did okay on rocky, unpaved road as I left pavement and continued pedaling. Eventually I had to abandon the bicycle along the rock fence and hike up the remaining incline.

When I reached the top, the historical marker was pointing…but what direction? The entire landscape was a field of karst with grass growing between the gray rocks. Hiking was challenging with close attention having to be given. There was no path. Just a general direction and no fort in sight.

Again, I followed the pull of the sea and eventually found the remains of the fort; however, it wasn’t the fort that was so spectacular–it was the fields of karst and the sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean. Once more, the yearned-for spot called me to it. I was nearly ecstatic. It was difficult containing the emotions that wanted expression…. gratitude…. joy…. excitement… happiness… peace… exhilaration… appreciation… wonder… awe.

I reflected on my desire to find these places of wild, spectacular beauty all week. I wanted to photograph them. And for me the process of photographing places offers a deeper connection to them as I open myself to more than the seen and invite the unseen essence and energy of a place to speak to me, whisper its secrets.

It was challenging to comprehend the magnificent gift that was unfolding with every step of the journey on that perfect day. As I sat in solitude and stillness at Dún Dubhchathair, I pondered the process of manifestation. With an open heart I visualized exactly what I wanted all week. I had no attachment to it yet felt the longing build–I want to be where the sea and rocks meet…I want to see it…feel it…photograph it. It was a physical experience of longing, like wanting to reconnect with a long-lost lover. So why was I so surprised that what my heart most longed for came to pass? All day…at every turn….the vision I cultivated manifested over and over again.

An Lá Foirfe…The Perfect Day–Part I

 

 

Oilithreacht

Oilithreacht

The structure of the five day Celtic Spirituality retreat allowed gracious time to explore solo. Our group spent quality time together but many hours were spent on my own where I connected deeply with the land, sea and sky as well as the elemental energies of the special island of Árainn or Inis Mor, Ireland.

When the retreat was over most everyone of our group of twelve left the island on the 5pm ferry with the exception of one couple and me. I moved to a bed and breakfast near Killeany. After settling in I walked the 1.63 miles into the small town to meet them at the pub for dinner.

I left Joe Watty’s pub filled with good food and memories of companionship but ready to be by myself. Rain…cold rain…and wind caused me to pull the hood of my rain jacket close. For a moment I felt lost and lonely after several days of delightful connections. On that walk in the darkening night in the cold rain I felt like a Pilgrim beginning a new journey, happy to have the freedom but small, cold and alone.

But those feelings lasted only a few moments and lifted just as the rain stopped. I walked on with appreciation for new beginnings and anxious to spend the next two days exploring that end of the island.

One of the closing rituals we did in the workshop was to write a blessing for ourself, for the journey of our life. I share it as a blessing for all who walk the path of the Pilgrim, ever seeking deeper connection with the Divine….within and without.

May I allow the wind to guide me as I release the fears that keep me small.

May I embrace the beauty of my heart and know the home it creates for me.

May I dance with wild abandon in celebration of my Spirit.

May I leap upon the Sacred White Horse and journey with Her through star-filled skies, able to see into the darkness and call forth the dawn.

May I share freely of beauty through word, song and images as Nature calls me deeper into Her embrace.

May I honor the strength and courage within me and accept the help of others, both seen and unseen, in the fulfillment of my promise to Mother Earth.

May I dive into depths of the sea and listen with an open heart to the Voice of the Sea and Her creatures and share the message that longs for expression.

May I become intoxicated on the fragrance of the Rose that blooms within my heart and stagger in delirious dance ever-toward the Spirit that calls my name.

Oilithreacht….Pilgrimage