BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Friday, January 20, 2012

I stood by your Atlantic Sea

I should be sleeping off the jet lag. I should be sorting through the luggage. I should be doing laundry. But these last few days have filled me to the brim with everything and nothing at all. I need to download, offload and shift my emotions into a place of rest.  So here is the tale of my last few days in Ireland.

On Sunday we availed of our plan to see a wee bit more of Ireland before leaving. Claire had flown over for the weekend, and we'd rented a car to help us with the final move. First we drove down to the Rock of Cashel. It is perhaps most famous in recent times for its looming stateliness over the small town below. Regardless, it seems to be the ONE tourist sight in Ireland that nearly all the Irish have actually gone to.

It was unfortunately under a good deal of scaffolding the day we went. It was also a day for a bitter wind. Needless to say, we weren't that impressed with the famous rock. However, despite being a cold Sunday in January, the tour buses were still arriving, definitely signalling the importance of this Irish historical monument.
Nearby is the much lesser known Cahir Castle. It was not a place that our friends had gone to, it lacked the tour buses, and was a rather cheaply priced (€3). However, we loved it. It is a well maintained tower castle with the outside walls still standing. You're even allow to walk the walls despite the lack of railings!  Perhaps that's a bit dangerous, but we kept a firm hand on our wee man.  We loved the model scale of the castle. We loved the women in medieval times exhibit. Though it wasn't ever as large as Trim, it is in far better condition and is certainly worth a visit.

We stayed at our friend (and landlord)'s house Monday night to hang out with her brood. More tears followed at our departure the next day. So we were a bit of a somber crew as we set off to on our last adventure. There are hundreds of passage tombs all over Ireland, but there are only a few that are linked to specific solar events. The most famous are Knowth and Newgrange, which are oriented to the solstices. On the other side of the Boyne Valley, in a small corner of Meath is the Three Witches. Even my friends who had grown up in Meath did not know of Loughcrew.

In the summer there are tours out to the tombs from a coffee shop up the road (Loughcrew Gardens). In the winter, hikers collect the key to the tomb and wander up the wild moors to the sacred location on their own. As we drove to the coffee shop I was full of sadness, and mournfully sang "A Case of You", as Blue had been stuck in my head for a few days... it was a surprise to discover, upon entering the cafe, that they had Blue playing in the background. Perhaps it was just a coincidence? Regardless, it was hard for me to see past the symbolism as I silently sang along. After finishing the a goat cheese and coleslaw sandwich that they served for lunch (the menu is based on what they have in the fridge), we left for our journey to the tomb.

We hiked up to the most famous of the three witches. It is hard to describe the moment. The view was so breath-taking that it managed to distract even Nikolai was we made our way up the slope of the hill. At the top there was one large mound, circled by 8 smaller passage graves that had all since fallen in. A ridge ran across the length of the hill, seemingly pointing to the other sisters in one direction and Newgrange in the other.
The cave itself was much more intricately carved than Newgrange, with swirls as well as a flower like "sun" pattern. It is oriented to light up on the mornings of the equinoxes (September 21 and March 21), with the sun's path across the chamber marked by the carved "sun" pattern. First it shines through to a small side chamber, before hitting the wall of the main chamber causing the sun to reflect off the rock surface to light up a second smaller side chamber.

The existence of such a creation seems amazing and Divine when the mounds are considered against a backdrop of history. Built over 5000 years ago, the precise nature of the solar worshipping calculations suggests a fairly advanced civilization.

There were more goodbyes at a dinner party that evening. Aisling had spent two days preparing our favorite dishes, despite the labour intensive nature of the recipes, we dined on spanikopita and moussaka.

That was our official goodbye, but my heart was still caught up on a hill in the midlands of Meath. Up on that hill I found the beating heart of a nation. It enveloped me whole, and spoke to me. Now I know that I will go back to Ireland, because I could not possibly stay away.


coletters said...

I'm sure Ireland will miss you, but Canada is happy to have you back and welcomes you with open arms!!!

John said...

Hope you're all over the jet lag. We did warn you about the Rock! And I share your enthusiasm for Sliabh na CaillĂ­.


Deaglan said...


Best wishes on the next stage of your life from all at CastleKeep Art group.

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