The Gleninchaquin Park is a short drive from Kenmare. It is a privately owned and working ranch that has been opened to the public, the Inchaqin waterfall is the most striking feature that can be seen for miles. The neolithic Uragh stone circle is nearby. I take a walking trail that begins in a sheeps pasture and continues on over barbed wire fences, stone foot bridges and rocky cliffs. It eventually leads me past an early 19th century stone cottage with thatched roof, that is in the process of being restored. This area has several standing stones, an earthen fairy-fort and nearly countless burial sites. It is particularly fertile, with ancient streams, lakes and exceptional hunting and fishing, At one time it was home to a few hundred people. I wish I were camping, building a fire, sleeping under the stars…
One of the things I miss about being at home is doing my laundry. So I head to the local coin-op, where I meet Michael a local actor who instructs me on how to use the machines. He invites me for a beer while our clothes are washing. We cross the street, to PF McCarthy’s pub but not before stopping to scratch a black and white cat that stretches its back in anticipation. One is never short on friends immediately made in Ireland. We chat about this and that as if strangers we’re not. It such a relief to just communicate as one human being to another with absolutely no agenda or pretense. He came to Kenmare over ten years ago from Dublin and never left. County Kerry has a powerful allure.
I feel so completely alive and at peace. Kenmare in gaelic is Neidin, which means, “little nest.” It is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains and natural beauty that leaves one speechless. My body feels so different, so easily lived in. I have taken to driving on the left, being opposite from what’s “right,” it suits me perfectly! I listen to the Chieftains and wish I were driving in my Mazdaspeed with its Bose system. I take the Ring of Beara road, I decide to take a short cut over Priest’s Leap. I see not a single car, it’s just me and the height fearless sheep who are undaunted by my four-wheel maneuvering. It is really more of a trail than a road, and I know Beau would be loving it. This desolate land has a wild, rugged, and untouched beauty. Whatever lives here does so purposefully.
Castletownbere is a working port town with brightly colored store fronts and homes. It has become a mecca for spiritual healers, body workers and alternative healthcare practitioners. There is an eco-health store that carries much of what we have in the States. I source a small hardware store for a traditional fisherman’s cap for Beau. The keeper is just closing up to go to a funeral, in fact the entire town seems to be going. A processional is walking up the hill, followed by a snaking of cars the length of the main street. It is a sunny day, warm and windless. I wonder who has died, and how they lived. Death is still visible here where cemeteries over look villages, and the dead share space with the living. It tends to keep one mindful of the transiency of life and our own relative importance. I buy grapes and fresh dates from the farmers market. They have exceptionally good produce and my road trip wouldn’t be one without it. Walking the dock I am transfixed by the color of the water, my personal favorite, fittingly enough, sea blue-green. The town is unspoiled by tourism, it is refreshingly authentic. People in County Kerry and County Cork always raise a finger or two when driving past, a custom I grew up with in rural Nebraska. The gesture touches my heart.
The Dzogchen Beara Retreat Center in Allihies was founded by Sogyal Rinpoche he is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. One of the reasons I have come this way is to visit their Spiritual Care Centre. “A place of respite in an environment of peace and outstanding natural beauty where people of all belief’s can come to rest, reflect and find meaning in life and hope in death.” I worked years ago at the Temenos House, a buddhist inspired private care facility for the frail, elderly and dying. It had a very profound effect upon my life. Witnessing someone’s death is a hallowed initiation into the mysteries. Places of meditation, of devoted spiritual practice, lend themselves to those who are in need of inner quietude and contemplation. I have always felt the importance for such places, so that we can consciously make our transition, and reflect upon and integrate our life’s experiences. Looking out upon the sea, its nearly immeasurable vastness is the perfect visual metaphor for our immortal soul. I cannot imagine a better place to feel the expansiveness of one’s own true nature than in this sacred haven.
I drive over the famed Healy’s Pass. It is an eight mile switchback that takes you between the two counties. The mountains are dusted in snow and I feel the temperature rapidly drop. In the distance a heavy rain falls on umber hills. The natural world has always been my refuge. I feel whole when I am in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the elements. I am a nomad, and it gives me great joy to wander. I thought about that today while driving, and I realized there is nothing more deadly to my spirit than routine. I revel in the unexpected, in those things I have never encountered, it calls upon my creative ingenuity, resourcefulness and imagination. Since arriving in Ireland, I can actually feel the synchronicity unfolding, the coinciding of events, of immaculate timing. There is magic afoot and I am observing with a heightened sense of awareness. The effortlessness of being here has given credence to any skepticism I may have had in regard to Julian Lee’s prediction. He was absolutely right! It has in every respect, been like coming home…
Written: February 19, 2010