Notes on Practice: Ruined Castles, Faery Doors & Patchworked Fields

July 12, 2016 - Meghan LeBorious


While everyone in New York is suffering through a heat wave, I have been wearing sweaters and still shivering.  This is my seventh day in chilly Ireland, traveling with my six-year-old son, Simon.  First, we explored the astonishingly beautiful western region of Connemara.  In Connemara, there is water everywhere.  Lush vegetation goes all the way to the edges of every puddle, lake and river, giving the impression that everything is extremely full.  Rock juts up through the green in impressive, unpeopled, ancient mountains.  Rolling fields patchworked in different greens and hemmed by squared stone walls stretch all the way to the ocean’s edge.  Textured layerings of green plants cover everything, even overtaking rock walls and sea cliffs—though in an entirely cheerful proliferation, nothing of sinister engulfment or of overwhelming insistence.

On our first full day in Annestown, on the Southeast coast of Ireland where we are staying at the house of a good friend, Simon got completely soaked.  I didn’t even bring a change of clothes to the beach because it didn’t cross my mind that he might frolic in the waves on such a foggy, cold day; but he met a new friend and they raced happily in and out of the water.  (It should be so easy for all of us!  “You are about my size.  You are willing to run with me.  You are my friend!”) Truthfully, it seems almost that easy here with adults, too.

The next day, Simon and I trekked from late morning until evening in search of a local castle.  With some trial and error, we managed to locate a nearby path our friend had mentioned that leads to the ruined palace.  As we neared the castle, the path grew narrow and steep, with vegetation enclosing us as we ascended.  Having been stung by nettles the day before, Simon moved forward hesitantly.  Emerging, we were the only castle visitors.  There was a discreet board with information in Irish, but no other signs of tourism.  The castle rose above us, overgrown and chipped away, but nonetheless impressive.  I put the picnic bag down on a flat, grassy spot, thinking we would explore the interior, then picnic there.  Ascending further, I realized there was yet another, higher, even more beautiful grassy spot to picnic that looked for miles over green farmland.  We explored the one room that was left of the castle’s interior, looking out through the window opening on each of four sides, then sat down to a picnic of Irish brown bread, sliced turkey and plums.

After our picnic lunch, we spotted a way to climb up a ledge of stones to the castle’s second floor. Perhaps against my better judgement, Simon and I climbed up and took in the views from this even higher perch.  I held my breath and kept him away from the edges, still noting that even the roof sported lush turf and abundant greenery.  Descending was more challenging; and there was a moment that I gasped with fear, but Simon followed my directions carefully and we made it without injury back to the level of our picnic.

We continued to walk along the path all the way into the next village, and slowly became cognizant of the tiny faery doors that dotted the woods.  One was a four-inch tall wooden door carved with celtic scrollwork.  Another featured tiny stairs.  And yet another—moldings and trim.  Most were at a convenient level for faeries and attached to a lower tree trunk.  We made offerings of flowers at each door and asked the faeries to help with many special intentions.  To my swelling pride, Simon included prayers for the happiness and well-being of the faeries, in addition to many prayers for him, for me, and for friends and family members.

Simon slowed down considerably as he grew tired.  At one point, he stopped moving forward and closed his eyes.  He began to move his hands slowly, perhaps imitating people he has seen doing tai chi in the parks of New York City.  He wanted me to follow him, but soon realized that for this kind of dancing, it was more fun to do it on your own.  I, too, moved slowly, my arms gently guiding my my gestures, my breath audible.  Wind rustling through the marsh grasses passed through my body.  For the first time, I noted that the direction of my gesture might not be the same direction as the energy that moved around me, but the different fields could be in harmony, like the different forces at play in a tide.  My shoulders and upper back wanted to unfold and unfurl. (Stillness reveals itself to me in stages.)

Eventually, Simon started moving forward again, and we went to try to find a shop in the village near the end of the path where we heard we could get some ice cream.

Although there are 5Rhythms teachers and practitioners in Ireland, there are no scheduled events during the time of my stay.  I am planning to undertake formal, individual practice as soon as Simon starts camp on Monday, though I am not tricked by the pretense that the practice happens only when I declare that it is happening.  Instead, I hope I will be open to all the magic that presents—especially when it is as obvious as faery doors.

July 8, 2016, Annestown, Co. Waterford, Ireland

(Note: After this writing I learned about two new instances of police killings of black men in the US, and of the rising tide of rage and mixed feelings in response.  I hope this lyrical foray does not offend anyone who is deep in the throes of agony, praying for a new dawn of tolerance and of enlightened policy.)

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