Fermoy to Killavullen
I anticipated the walk from Fermoy to Killavullen to cover sixteen miles. At about the two-thirds mark I was greeted with a sign declaring, “Please note the route has been altered.” The guidebook was following the old trail and the map routed the new path. Sixteen miles became almost twenty. Surprisingly, my body seems to be able to handle what it’s being put through. Hmm?
My reflections early in the day’s journey focused on the odd feeling that I will be finishing my walking portion of the pilgrimage in just over a week. Our time in Ireland, in the curious pilgrimage manner, is reflecting the stages of my life. The majority of my “working” life is over. A much lesser time of “going to work” is remaining, and the time after the walk mirrors the days after fulltime employment.
I was reminded again today of the simple notion of focusing on the experience of the moment—don’t run ahead to the next “activity.” What am I seeing? What am I hearing? What am I feeling? I walked seven hours in the rain. What was I feeling? I saw a family gathering firewood, illegally, what was I seeing? I saw a very large bird swoop through the air and the other birds scatter, what was happening?
Near the end of the day I flagged down a small red car. I needed to get my bearings having walked in the forest for three hours. The woman and her teenage son were familiar with the Blackwater Way.
“Your in luck,” she said. “Killavullen is just a mile and half down this road. Do you want a lift? No bother.”
“No, thank you,” I replied.
“Ah, I know your enjoying the walk. But one can only stand so much forestry. So take this road, at the T-junction, stay left and follow the white line into the village. You’re sure you don’t want to get out of the rain?”
I declined the invitation, thanked her and she and son drove off. In a mile I saw them coming back towards me, she was alone in the car and her son was driving a tractor behind her. They both smiled and waved to affirm I was on my way.
Everyday on the walk I have encountered folks and stopped to chat for a moment. We have talked about the weather, the route ahead, the distance of my walk. I have met dozens of people who I will never see again. Each of these people has impacted my life in a significant way. I have thanked them, blessed them, and prayed for them. Life is too short, the encounters too brief, and the opportunities too important not to slow down enough to enjoy what I am seeing, hearing, and feeling and remember the faces of blessings I am meeting along my pilgrimage.
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.