by Bob and Margaret Nally
“Help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown. Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with you.” (prayer to St. Brendan the Navigator).
We have just returned from Ireland. It was good to cover the ground, the spaces and places where the pilgrims on the journey will be together in September.
The delights of fine weather, clear roads, interesting people, depth of history and a sense of peace added to the experience of the journey. The travel demands an engaged energy – the storyline of the people is from pre-history until this present day. We wander thought ancient sites and modern cities emerging from years of conflict to feel a people filled with resilience and hope. Restful nights are essential.
The food is delicious and plentiful. Every day starts with a big breakfast, cooked fresh from local ingredients such as eggs, local sausage, bacon and pudding (another form of sausage), local tomatoes, mushrooms, porridge and the best soda bread you can imagine. Lunch can be simple – Irish homemade soup is flavourful and filling. You will be cajoled to eat the local pie with fresh farm cream or to drink yet another cup of tea before you depart. Local fish, lamb or beef are very tasty and well prepared. The cooks are versed in alternatives for those with food restrictions and preferences and handle any concern with grace.
Clothing that is light but warm is necessary. Footwear that is sturdy, waterproof and could hold the landfall is important. No need for dress-up clothes or fancy footwear as we stroll through Monastic sites, city streets, hillsides and sea-shores. Rainwear is necessary and useful. Packing a scarf and hat for warmth and perhaps light gloves for chilly nights would be a good idea! You might like to leave room in your luggage so that you can purchase a lovely, warm, handmade Aran sweater.
The land is old, hilly, uneven and beautiful. The cliffs are high, wild and windy. The shores are rocky and the waves roll thunderously towards the land. The sheep seem to outnumber the people, the cows are serene and gentle, and the green fields seem ready for planting. Bushes and trees are blooming and buzzing with bees and birds. Strong and beautiful horses are honoured in this country.
Conversations have melody and melody has meaning. The music seeps into everything. Heartache, loss and sorrow are jollied on their journey with songs sung loud and with heart.
We are excited to think that this experience will be meaningful and we are hopeful that at the end of the journey people will have travelled both an outward geography as well as an interior landscape of discovery.