Inistioge to Mullinavat
Saturday, three different Irishman said to me, “Laddie, you’re carrying a mighty heavy burden.” Each was referring to my backpack. They could have said something about the size or weight of my pack instead they suggested I was carrying something much more.
So, today was a good day to set down my burden—my pride, in the form of a large green pack. For some reason I had equated “walking” across Ireland with “carrying” a large and somewhat heavy backpack with me. My stubborn pride had caused my left knee to scream with most every step and two toes on my right foot have suffered about all they are willing to endure. So, I switched to my lighter day-pack. Ten less pounds over seventeen miles sure makes a lot of difference. My knee stopped complaining so much and my toes cried less often.
I spent much of the day walking in the fog. Right now you are saying, “Gil, you’re in a fog everyday.” Today, I was in a literal fog. No seriously, I mean it. I walked in the clouds. Okay, that sounded weird or was it wyrd?! Some of the scenes I saw reminded me of a dark and frightening werewolf story. The only wolves I encountered were my own demons of getting lost.
I must admit the trail was fairly well marked, though some important Way signs were hidden in the undergrowth. On more than one occasion at a road juncture, I would spend a good five minutes looking at the map, reading the guidebook and searching in the brush to eventually discover the marker. Surprisingly, I only got off the trail once and then for a short time before I came to another juncture where I realized I had decided not to make a turn about 500 meters back, which I should have taken. Going with my first hunch has been a good judge to rely on, that and the map, guidebook, and a raven now and again helping me find the Way sign. I have now started, not only saying, “Thanks be to God,” for every Way marker I see, but also blessing it and whoever put it there.
Walking alone six plus hours a day gives me a lot of time to think. There are very few distractions, other than staying on the trail. The time has been valuable to evaluate what burdens I am carrying and which ones I need to set down.
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.