Carrick to Clonmel
One of my dad’s best sayings is “You have to monitor and adjust.” Since my mom died on March 11, 2012, I’ve watched my dad live into his own motto. After enjoying life to the fullest with my mom for sixty-four years, he has had to monitor and adjust quite a lot for a man eighty-two years old. The pilgrimage of life is indeed a series of re-evaluations and changes in course.
A pilgrimage of any kind is no different and today my pilgrimage was filled with several “opportunities” to monitor and we have made some adjustments. I crossed 175 miles entering Clonmel. For those of you familiar with Ireland, Clonmel is the home of Bulmers Cider. I think the distillers of Tullamore Dew make Bulmers.
The day started simply enough. I was walking along the banks of the Suir River. Several men were fishing from the bank of the tidal river or were standing in the edges of the rapid water fly fishing, or angling. I enjoyed watching them and took a few pictures. The sport requires practice and skill and it appears to be relaxing as well. I was reminded how much I enjoy playing golf for the same reasons and how little I have played golf over the last seven years. Maybe I need a little “monitor and adjust”?
Everything was going lovely the first twelve kilometers to Kilsheelan. I decided to leave the Munster Way at a bit past mid-point and continue walking down the Suir. The guidebook and the map said this was possible. I asked five people if I could walk the river path all the way to Clonmel and they all agreed it was doable. I walked under the bridge at Kilsheelan and for the next two kilometers (a bit more than a mile) all seemed well enough though the path kept getting progressively narrower. I came to a point where the trail disappeared and I was walking in waist-high wet overgrowth. Quickly my pants were soaked. I was using my walking stick to push back the barbarous vines. Suddenly, my left foot slipped. I barely caught myself by planting my walking stick in the mud. When I collected myself I realized a fall would have slide me down into the swift and deep river. It was time to monitor my situation because the path was impassible. I adjusted by backtracking to Kilsheelan.
At Kilsheelan I had three choices. Return to the Munster Way, taking me almost ten kilometers out of my way, walk up an alternate and unmarked road, or walk down the major road to Clonmel. I choose the later. Cathy had driven down the road and felt it had enough side area to be safe. It did. Interestingly, I have been walking for thirteen days in the quiet of the Irish countryside, now my senses were being assaulted by the hustle and bustle of a major highway. I think I walked about four or five miles into Clonmel, though I’m not sure. The Irish signage is poor at best. At Kilsheelan it said it was nine kilometers to Clonmel. Then about a mile or so later I saw another sign indicating it was still nine kilometers. I later went by a marker further down the road notifying me I still had eight kilometers to go. What made me laugh was walking by three different signs at least a kilometer apart declaring it was seven kilometers to Clonmel. The last one was at the Bulmers distillery. Maybe the sign makers had stopped at Bulmers along the way for a pint or two?
The night before, along the walk, and then again tonight, Cathy and I monitored the purpose of the walk. Yes, the goal is to walk coast-to-coast, that remains the same. The adjustment comes in the route to get there and the destination of the final coastal city, these will be determined as we make our way across the second half of Ireland. Indeed, life is a series of monitoring the progress and adjusting to hopefully fulfill the purpose, even if you have to backtrack a few miles, more than once. Life is too short not to do a little angling.
Priest, pilgrim, writer, alchemist—living into the mystery, the knowledge, and the practice of sacred alchemy. I've walked across Ireland, almost 400 miles of mountains, valleys, forests, and magic. The pilgrimage was a mirror of my life's journey, coach, president, priest. Traveler of the life's struggles—from failure to re-imagination—still walking.