Kinsale is a beautiful port city with narrow winding streets, colorful little shops and a host of rebel bohemians. My kind of town. I explore the early morning, when the streets are empty, my preferred time to feel the pulse of place. The natural rhythm in Ireland is one that mirrors my own. Work is done here in a completely different spirit, it is has relative value, and thus does not steal the very breath, blood, and soul. There is a simplicity to everyday activity that nurtures me.
A natural foods store draws my attention. Behind the counter sits a dark haired beauty with a presence that fills the space. Karen Garvin and I become fast friends, in a matter of moments. She says to me, “you have gypsy blood, as do I.”
A healer, mother, wise woman, she has been tried by fire and made into gold. Despite the trials of a life that could foster bitterness, she is joyful and radiant! She tells me she has a good friend she knows I need to meet, within an hour he is at the door.
Alan has a boyish charm, an intelligence, wit, an orators skill, that raises the bar. He is a proclaimed hedonist, a Self led and soul taught man. We wander the streets until ending up in a field that has a commanding view of the land. A weathered blue folding chair, a working man’s throne, sits a lone sentinel in a tangle of wild overgrowth. He rolls a cigarette. Green even in winter, it is cold enough to see our breath though the skies are clear and the sun is shining.
Our conversation seems to create itself and we follow one another into terrain that opens us both. Alan shares his knowing about the Sheela na gig. He says that when the Vatican attempted to control the Irish King, the King had the image of the Sheela put over the threshold of churchs, castles and other prominent buildings a blatant, “fuck you,” to those who attempted to unseat the sovereign, the Goddess. From the beginning of known time, the Goddess has ruled this land and the King was a devoted servant; betrothed through sacred sexual union with the Goddess herself. It is said that she appeared to him as a crone, not a youthful and desirable maiden. The King by lying with her had to intentionally let go of his passions, illusions and desire for the superficial and transient, in spiritual terms, the ego. He made his union consciously with the wise and immortal, only then was he fit to be King. The Irish are legendary in their resistance to foreign invaders, even to this day you sense their fierce independence, and freedom of spirit. Alan is passionate in his storytelling, and I find myself in another place and time.
My days in Kinsale are seamless. Karen takes me to her place of pilgrimage, a truly holy place. Guagan Barra was founded by St. Finbarr, the patron Saint of Cork. The oratory sits on a little island in the middle of a lake where a pair of mated swans glide on glass smooth water. The air is mountain fresh, and fills every hopeful cell. The river Lee finds its source in the surrounding mountains. We walk in a hushed silence. In a circular stone enclosure are several little caves where the monks of long ago slept. We enter the solitary dampness of these ancient wombs, and trace our hands over moss blessed stones that have endured for centuries. Once again I am struck by the relative micro existence of this fleeting life, of the bones within my body that will someday be soil. Entering the small oratory I turn to see my beloved lady of Guadalupe in faded glory hanging above a host of burning blue candles.
Here she is, the Goddess once more in one of her many guises. I have been to her basilica in Mexico City, seen the place where she revealed herself to Diego in his near disbelief. I wear her image around my neck, a constant reminder of my true nature.
Karen and I walk in a mystical woods just down the road from the island. It is clear to me that the place is enchanted, a place where the little people make their home, where the elementals stake their claim. I feel my senses sharpen, as the air becomes fine and the light prevails. The veil between worlds thins, I step into the unseen.
Water snakes its way down the mountain side finding its way into a clear stream. Trees tower above us in emerald green perfection, wild grasses mound in a pattern only nature could create. We see a small white kleenex hanging on a little branch. It is the entry way to a dark forest within the forest. We cross a small stream, bow low through a narrow opening to find ourselves in a hallowed place. Karen wraps her arms around a tree, I sit on a raised earth. A thousand eyes upon us we merge with this sanctum. I raise my arms to the sky and I thank in whispered hush my beloved for bringing me home, for blessing my life with amazing grace. I have found my tribe at long last. Surrounded in the darkness, in the midst of day, I feel at peace.
My last day. Karen and I go to the English Market in Cork, we are going to feast! No meal out tonight, we are going to dine at her home with her two boys, her former partner and their yorkie, Joey. The market is a food lover’s mecca. Specialty shops all under one roof. We buy smelly french cheese, artisan bread, olives in every size, shape and color, fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, home made pasta, organic apples and a mixed berry custard tart, and cream. So much fun! She and I are sisters, moving in joyful tandem from one culinary intrigue to the next. I find myself wanting this time to last, to be kept alive, to be an ongoing experience. We make our way back to the car but not before listening to the lyrical sound of the pipes played skillfully by a Russian busker on the street. He looks as if he was just transported from another era where music was the bloodline of the people.
I awaken at 4:00 am. The city sleeps. I drink my cappuccino graciously made by the night porter. I unroll my window to let the darkness in. The air is crisp and sunless. I drive on the left, my arrow still tucked within sight. I want to close my eyes to remember every bend in the road, the power of the land, the way I feel in my body. Now I am transiting. A long day of three flights, several layovers, mechanical failures, and late departures. Air bound, I watch the patchwork quilt of west Cork disappear into the mists. I will make Ireland my home.
Someone asked just this morning what my most amazing moment in Ireland was. It was when a beautiful Irish, renaissance man, serenaded me in the wee hours with his musical genius. He playfully made the instruments come to life, to tell a story without words. I sat spellbound, as my heart and soul took flight with his. That moment will live in me forever…