Glendalough has a deep mystery. Those who are open to the soul of the land, the lakes, and the ancient ruins find themselves in wonderment long after leaving the valley. Place has presence.
The climb out of Glendalough is steep and long. Plenty of time to stop, catch your breath, and look back over the resplendent scenery. The Wicklow Mountain is not shy this day with her sumptuous beauty. The heaviness of the previous day's reflection in Saint Mary's Chapel, the slow pace of the climb, and the stunning beauty of the landscape held our group in a hushed silence. The long days of pilgrimage were having their effect.
We found a three-sided hut at the mid-point in our hike. Some sat at a picnic table. A few sprawled out on the grass. Others leaned their tired backs against the inside of the tiny building built by Mountain Rescue. John found a traveler's journal placed in a water proof canister attached to the wall. Those who tended the hut had placed the book there for hikers like our selves to leave a comment. He read other's reflections while we ate our lunch. I could sense that Vox Peregrini was forming community.
A group of thirteen hikers in not a typical sight along the Way. Most hike in pairs or alone. To see so many people quietly eating lunch usually gets a surprised smile and a gentle hello from anyone who wanders by. Today, a couple in their early sixties stopped for a moment. The woman asked where we were from. We exchanged pleasantries and one of the young women in our group asked if the couple would like to hear them sing.
"In all my walkabouts, no one has ever sung for me," the man said.
Vox took their places quickly and sang, "That Lonesome Road." Our fellow pilgrims were obviously touched. I could see the man's lip trembling. I think Vox sensed something about the couple and asked if they would like to hear another.
"Why, yes of course," the woman said in a sweet Aussie accent.
The second song seemed almost overwhelming. The music swallowed the couple like a spirit rising from the soul of the earth. The man had to steady himself. The silence after the final note hung in the air like an Irish mist.
Finally the woman broke the stillness, "So who are you?" A question with so many layers.
As our new acquaintances, Mark and Roz, hiked on, John gathered the group in the hut for an unusual extended lunch time rehearsal. In the early stages of healthy community formation, each person can find their role. Johnny, an enigma of showmanship and deep water soul, suggested Vox begin this rehearsal with a moment of gathering. HIs base voice resonated against the walls of the tiny enclosure and my own body. Three times he let out an earthy and long "ohm." The group dropped into the moment.
The director whispered his instructions. "Hear the wind in the trees." The pines sung. Vox listened. "Match their rhythm." My skin tingled as Vox and the trees sang in harmony. Something more than community was emerging here. Human souls of an eon who has long dismissed the choir of nature had, in that moment, now bound themselves to the voice of Mother Earth. The pilgrimage was having her way on Vox Peregrini.
As we walked away from the hut, I noticed the group spread out a little more than usual over the next easy five miles. They walked mostly in single file. I didn't heard little of their usual light hearted chatter.
Late in the afternoon, in the corner of The Coachman Inn in Roundwood, the group rehearsed again. Sitting at tables, a pint of Guinness sitting here and there. A cup of tea. A glass of wine. Water bottles. All part of the support team that tends to the voices of Vox Peregrini. Long days filled with mountainous miles, weary bodies, tender souls. Nurtured with music of the spirit, something anew was stirring in the soul alchemy of Vox Peregrini.