Mullinavat to Carrick-on-Suir
Before the halfway point I imagine I could throw in the towel. Before reaching the halfway mark is like wrestling the opponent who has me in an irreversible submission hold, giving up saves a whole lot of pain. But going past the halfway mark, well, is a different matter. To quit after completing half of the trail would be like huffing, puffing, and sweating profusely all the way to the very peak of a steep hill and then telling myself, even though the rest of the way is downhill, I’m done. Today is awfully close to the mid-point of my walk across Ireland. It feels like I’ve gone too far to let go of the spiritual, emotional, and physical journey now.
I met three young lads in Piltown. They were old enough to be interested in the two young lasses they were talking to on the sidewalk and old enough to get into trouble. As I walked by I said hello and one retorted by mockingly asking why I would be hiking through Piltown. I said I was on my way to Currick. One of the boys moo-ed like a cow and then did his best impression of a rooster. In a silly harmless way, they meant to make fun of me and impress the girls. But I’ve heard it all before, I was amused, only internally, and kept walking. They decided to follow me. “Can we hike with you?” they chided. “Sure,” I said. One said he couldn’t hear me. So I stopped, turned around and faced them, “You can walk with me if you like.” I knew they just wanted to talk.
“Why you going to Currick?”
“I’m walking across Ireland. I started in Dublin and I’m finishing in Kerry.” Got three set of raised eyebrows and I knew we could chat. One had a shoulder in sling, injured playing hurley he told me and yes I know the game. One asked about all the rings on my fingers. I get the same question in America. As advice, the three warned me about the lads in Currick. “A different breed,” they counseled. I assumed maybe they learned such things in a match on the pitch. I told them I would “mind myself.” The talker of the group put his head down as to acknowledge something said to them and not about myself—it is an Irish way of speaking I have learned from the wiser men I have listened to along the Way. The encounter made my day.
My conversation with the young has abounded in Ireland. Asking directions, meeting in pubs, chatting in the restaurants, everywhere I turn I am greeted by the old and the young. Two young women we met at dinner tonight were very interested in Cathy and me and our journey. They were curious to hear our story and then free to offer good advice about the Ring of Kerry, Dingle, and the Burren. We will heed the counsel and mind their words. I could only imagine the one young redheaded lass could have been my own grandmother at twenty. The young worldwide desire the same thing we all crave—someone to listen. I have considered myself somewhat of a listener, but walking alone, listening to the silence of the Irish countryside has deepened my soul’s capacity to breathe in the meaning of sound and to swallow the power of the word.
I could not stop my pilgrimage now—tomorrow, I imagine, will bring some new Word to experience that will enhance my power to hear another person, the Spirit, and the Raven.
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.