What We Need

One of my favorite musicals is ‘Mame’ the story of flamboyant Mame Dennis, whose life motto goes something like:”Life is a banquet and most poor people are starving to death!” Her fabulous life with her wealthy friends is interrupted when the young son of her late brother arrives to live with her. They cope with the Great Depression and the on set of world war in a series of adventures.Truth be told it is on my bucket list to perform this role on stage before I make my own grand exit. Don’t mark your calendars just yet!

In one of the scenes the characters of this play is lamenting the state of the world and wallowing in all the negative things happening around them. To this Mame declares that what they need is a ‘little Christmas’. Of course, being a musical, a song ensues in which they remember all the small but joyful things they love about the celebration of Christmas. This singing leaves them breathless, laughing, and wrapped in the joy that comes from being together with those you love and care about doing the simplest of things. Even the most cynical of characters is lifted above their ordinarily somber selves.

As this day, October 31st, Halloween has approached, I have thought a lot about Auntie Mame. I have thought “What we need is a ‘little Halloween’!” This holiday in which kids rule the day, on which we throw all attention to nutrition right out the window, is a day we have set aside to not take ourselves too seriously. Houses are decorated with pumpkins and ghosts, vampires and the things that go bump in the night. All throughout our neighborhood houses have orange lights twinkling and bats and other flying creatures suspended from the now naked trees. It all makes me laugh just thinking of it.

It seems to me that in these days when we are nearly overcome with the fear mongering that wears the mask of political advertising, we need the harmlessness of pirates and clowns, princesses and superheroes arriving at our doors. We need the gift of fresh faces looking up and shouting as they have been coached at home: “Trick or Treat!” Holding out their bags we have the opportunity to not only put in a sweet morsel or two but to say to these young ones that they matter, that the world is a wonderful, gracious place, that their fears are held at bay by family and stranger alike.

Of course Halloween is just an extension of an ancient holiday celebrating the time believed to be those days when the veil between the seen and unseen, the living and the dead, is thinnest of all. These are the times when some will place favorite foods of departed loved ones out so they will once again be reminded of their good days on earth. These are the times the Christian church set aside as All Soul’s and All Saint’s days. They are important days to remember the fragility of life and the goodness of those who have graced our lives. Important, important things to do.

What are your plans for this Halloween? Will you don a mask or costume to greet those that arrive at your door? Will you look into the eyes of those young ones and offer them blessing, blessing against all their fears real or imagined? Will you allow yourself to laugh and enjoy the sheer silliness of this ritual of giving candy to those who show up as hero or fool?

I pray that you allow all this to happen and more. That you, that I, allow these days of glimpsing the seen and unseen to create a blanket of comfort and rest for our living. May we honor that place within that just needs a ‘little Halloween’.


Go Against Yourself

There are times in any life that seem to be spinning at a speed faster than can in reality be lived, truly lived. I may be teetering on the edge of just such a time. Since returning from Ireland only two weeks ago, I am finding myself remembering the sweet, greenness of that place as if it happened years ago. Perhaps it is a symptom of the times in which we are living, the frantic pace of these pre-election days. Others may be having this same swirling sensation, this feeling of being in a boiling pot into which more and more ingredients keep being thrown. Somehow I would gain some comfort in knowing that it is not just my experience but that others are also trying to grab onto a solid thing that will steady them.

On Thursday, I was blessed to spend the day listening to the deep, rich words of poet David Whyte. To be a part of this day bathed in beauty and reflection only resulted in pointing out my own spinning. When confronted with the questions he asked through poetry and his own storytelling, I nearly became undone with my own lack of reflection, my own constant movement. Questions like: What story have you been repeating that isn’t true? How invitational is your identity? How invitational is your work place? What do you need to do to drink from another well? What are you being asked to step into?

These are not questions to think through while driving in rush hour traffic or downing a fast food lunch. These are insomnia producing, middle-of-the-night, wrestling questions. They are the kind of questions you put in a backpack full of provisions to take into the wilderness. And yet, these questions and even more have been stuffed into my already full ‘things to be reflected upon’ space. At this point my brain, my body, my spirit, feels like one of those overstuffed bears you can buy at the mall. The seams are near to bursting!

What is needed is some good old down time, some mulling time, some staring into the middle distance time. I am not sure when this time will come given the coming days but I am reminded of another saying Whyte dropped into his vivid telling of story. In remembering a time when he and his good friend John O’Donohue were together, he told of a time when he told friend that he was thinking of giving his own father a gift of money. O’Donohue asked how much? When Whyte responded with a sum, O’Donohue encouraged him to give twice the amount. “Go against yourself, David!”

Go against yourself. It is not a phrase I had heard before but it stuck with me. Go against yourself. Take what you would normally do and expand it or do the opposite of what you might. Take what feels comfortable and go the extra step. Take what is a small gesture and make it a grand one.

I am thinking of what it would mean to go against myself in all this spinning. What would happen if I, if you, if we, simply sat down and took a good,long,restful time of reflection? What if we went against ourselves and allowed the questions, the really important questions, to spend time in us until we lived into an answer that brought newness, something we hadn’t planned for or ever expected? What would happen if we turned off all the messages coming at us and instead spent time with what is already residing within us?

In these days, these precious days that are after all our lives, may we each find times of going against ourselves in whatever way that means. May the end, which will come sooner or later, not find us still waiting to reflect on the way the sun shone on the water, that particular day, when we walked with a beloved companion on a rocky shore in the greenest of places.



Yesterday I sat down to have lunch all by myself. This is a rare occurrence and being an extrovert it is not something I prefer to do. Instead I like to get a good dose of energy from the people around me while ingesting the nutrients of my food. But there were fewer people in the office yesterday and others had gone off to do lunch on their own. So I was eating solo.

Sitting down in our church library with my bowl of soup I picked up a copy of the magazine Christian Century. I must admit,unlike many of my colleagues, it is a periodical I rarely read. But one of the titles on the cover caught my attention: The Power of Poetic Preaching. It was written by a husband and wife, Elizabeth Myer Boulton and Matthew Myer Boulton. Since it is not often you see the words ‘poetic’ and ‘preaching’ in the same sentence,I was intrigued. I was not disappointed by what I read.

When it comes to Christian preaching,then, sermons should protect people with words. In intimate, visceral, vivid ways, preachers should name and contradict the disarming lies and then replace them with equally intimate, wondrous and wearable forms of truth. Sermons should stir us to stand firm against death-dealing forces wherever we find them………..Sometimes poetry is the best defense we have.”

These words cut through me like a knife. I suppose this is the time for confession. I am not a big lover of listening to preaching. How I found myself in this faith tradition that holds it in such high regard, I do not know. I much prefer silence or making music or seeing something visual to unpack the scripture in worship. Preaching most often feels one sided to me and I long for dialogue. And yet I realize that the majority of people who come to church look toward this central part of the liturgy. Look forward to it. Count on it. Hope for it.

Over the years I have found myself hanging around in churches, I have heard some mighty sermons. I have also heard some that have left me scratching my head. Still others have broken my heart. And though I have never thought of myself as a ‘preacher’, I do take on that role at times. While I may long for conversation I know there are people who equally long for someone to unpack the scripture, tell the story, connect it to their life and bless them on their way. Someone to preach.

Yesterday as I read these words I became enthralled with the work of preaching in a new way. To protect people with words. To take the power out of lies and offer people wearable forms of truth. To invite people to put on the armor of poetry. This all seems like such holy work that I am knocked off my feet with the hopeful possibility of it.

It seems to me we are a weary people these days. We have crawled out of some terrible economic times. Some are still crawling. We have questioned some of the very core values we held dear, many which shaped our identity as a people, as a nation, as people of faith. As we are bombarded by messages of half-truths or out right lies, many of us are walking around in the fabric of our daily lives with glazed eyes and dulled minds. As we try to make sense of messages whose purpose is to instill fear and despair we feel manipulated by words that, if we took the time to analyze them, would make us question their power.

And so I look for the preachers, ordained or otherwise, who will make an effort to protect with words, those who will offer wearable forms of truth. I will look for the poets who can, in the turn of a small phrase, offer a defense. I am reminded that in one of the apostle Paul’s letters he uses the phrase ‘put on the clothes of Christ’.

May it be so. May it be so.


Moments Laced With Heaven

“……..You know, I must remember,
until my last breath goes out
to ask. To try, every time, one last time

to confirm the native
human intuition that heaven
is never far away at all,

that it’s just a door or a step
or a whole short life to get there.”…….

~ David Whyte

The past several days have been a whirlwind of trying to re-enter my real, every day life after being in another rhythm, the rhythm of travel. This living out of a suitcase has its merits. Things become very simple when you have only a few pieces of clothing and all your worldly possession fit into a small, compact container. Re-entry requires dealing with all the other stuff, literal and figurative, that are the on-the-ground, not-traveling life. I am fully aware that both states are pure gift.

Returning to the work I do in helping plan worship I have found that the scriptures we are exploring come from the book of Job. Never light reading! And I have also been privileged to be working on a day long event with poet, author and leadership consultant David Whyte which will happen next week. So, I have been reading his work again which led me to these few lines from his poem titled ‘September 2001’. The poem is an account of arriving in an airport hotel in what I imagine are the days after the September 11 attacks. He finds himself surrounded, as most airport hotels are, with concrete and parking lots for as far as the eye can see. He is searching for a place that is green, a place where he can get some respite from the travel and the asphalt. When he asks the hotel reception clerks about such a place they quickly say there is no such area near by. But another person overhears and breaks in to tell him of a preserve he can get to.

Reading this poem I was once again reminded of how the natural world, Creation, was a balm for me in the days of confusion, questions and fear that lingered over us all in September 2001. But what struck me most about the poem is his imploring to the reader to ask for what they need, to step out of the rhythm of life and to put themselves in the care of others. This was a gift that I found in my recent travel experiences.

So often I walk through the world just trying to figure things out on my own. I am determined to always appear as if I know what I am doing. Even in places that are unfamiliar I move ahead, often not looking side to side, as if I know the path or the hidden gems I most often walk by. I assume it is some quirk about not wanting to appear without confidence, wanting to believe myself knowledgable. But doing this often causes me to miss out on some amazing opportunities.

And so on this recent journey I had decided before hand that I was going to ask more questions, risk appearing like a tourist, place myself in all the vulnerability being in a foreign place can offer. What happened was amazing and led to real conversations with people who were so happy to share their lives, their ideas. It resulted in going to places that had not made it to the itinerary and the discovery of both beauty and the ordinary. Many led to the moments of heaven that are interlaced within each and every blessed day. When we are awake. When we ask the questions.

Are you looking for some moments laced with heaven? Perhaps they are just a question away.


A Missed Season

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.”

~Joseph Campbell

While I was away, autumn came and went. I knew it would be so but the fact of it still surprised and saddened me. Spending nearly three weeks away from the familiar landscapes called home, one should expect to see changes when you return. What I realized is that I did not see the majority of the trees burst into golds and reds and oranges. I came home to bare branches and mounds of brown littering the ground. The ravine near my house, the one I watch as it goes from fullness of summer life to the brilliance of autumn splendor, is now a nest of naked branches reaching heavenward. Only a few oak trees hold onto the now fading red of their fall fashion.

These last few days I have been wrestling with the jet lag that comes from flying six hours out of one day and into the same one that has not yet arrived. This is something that messes with the body, the mind and the spirit. I find myself hungry at the oddest times and yet, when I do the math, realize that it is breakfast or lunch or supper time in Ireland. And so to be in this already altered state and to have missed autumn is a double whammy.

This morning as I opened the door to allow the Big Black Dog his first romp of the day, the smell of winter lingered in the air. I have to admit it was a pleasant scent….one that already conjured up the opportunity for big bowls of soup and a good book read near the fire. I tried not to think about the colors I missed and the rhythm that has been interrupted.

Yesterday I sat near one of Minnesota’s many lakes eating my lunch. Chili. I watched as runners and bikers and walkers moved quickly in the cool afternoon air. At one point my eyes were attracted ahead of me to a movement that was beautiful and welcomed. The wind had picked up and caught the leaves of one of the trees still holding onto the life of summer. Slowly they fell, without a sound, swaying in the breeze of this day, this autumn day until they slept on the ground below. Their act of letting go, letting go and falling, caught something deep in my chest.

This is the gift of autumn. This reminder of the letting go of the life that has been to make room for the resting and the waiting of what is yet to be is what this season offers. It seems I had perhaps not missed autumn after all. The message was still present and willing to wake me up, to ask its yearly question: What must be let go? What beautiful or terrible thing must slip out of my grasp, or the grasp of this world, so something new can come into being?

Sitting in my office, looking out at the enormous oak tree which continues to offer its wisdom to me season after season, I can see the brown, dead and dying leaves holding on and holding out for the next mighty wind to bring about a letting go moment. I will watch until this beautiful, twisted beacon is bare. I will watch as the snow flakes fall. I will watch as the buds burst open with green once again.

This is the wisdom of Creation. This is the gift of the changing seasons. This is the invitation of letting go and trusting what is yet to be.


St. Kevin

It would be safe to say that in my nearly three weeks in Ireland I have heard some mighty stories. Most of these stories have not been told by museum guides or tour leaders. They have instead been told by regular folk that have served me food or given directions. Hoping not to generalize about the Irish but it has been my experience that those I have met jump right into telling their story, their life story, in a fullness I have never been privy to before. They have done so with great detail and a genuine openness that has messed a bit with my Minnesota reserve. All in all, I have found it refreshing and a blessing.

I have also heard some amazing stories of faith, of people now called saints, who traveled to some of the most remote landscape I have ever seen in order to live a life closer to God. Following the model of the desert fathers and mothers, these women and men created communities that continued to shape and give new life to the faith stories of Jesus. I have loved imagining what their lives must have been like and have been humbled by their commitment to live lives of obedience and prayer.

But I have to admit that I have been most drawn to the story of St. Kevin, a saint I must admit to knowing nothing about until a few days ago. St. Kevin settled on a little outcropping overlooking a valley called Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains in western Ireland. There he helped build a monastery and several dwellings that became one of the largest religious communities in Ireland. The story is told that St. Kevin always stood when he prayed, his arms held out from his sides and his palms lifted upward toward heaven. He often did this while standing in the freezing cold waters of the mountain lake.

One day while he was standing there praying, a bird began to build a nest in his outstretched hand. St. Kevin kept on praying. He did so until the nest was built. So as not to disturb the bird’s new home, St. Kevin stayed put, praying. The bird then laid eggs in the nest. It is said that St. Kevin continued to stand in the cold water, arms outstretched,praying, until the baby birds were born and took flight.

It’s a wonderful story, isn’t it? Of course, like all good stories about holy people, it can leave us scratching our heads and wondering at the fact of it. Also like all good stories about holy people, the facts of the tale are not as important as the truth of it. The truth of the story is that St. Kevin had the patience to stand still while something was being born in his presence. He had the good sense and faith to know that he was witness to the miracle of new life. Over time those who had known St. Kevin must have seen in him a prayer life that was gracious and never ending so to have continued to tell this story over and over again made all the sense in the world.

As I leave this country that has given me such riches, I think the story that I will most treasure is this one of St. Kevin. In these times in which we find ourselves, it is my hope that, like St. Kevin, I will not shy away from prayer that takes me to the places of discomfort. My deepest desire is that we all can be present to what might actually be coming to birth through those places that seem most desolate and remote in our daily life and in our world. And in all the places where nests might have the slightest opportunity to be built, that patience can prevail while the new life comes into being.

Outside the path that leads to what is believed to have been St. Kevin’s mountain cell, a sculpture stands watch over the lake, watching and waiting for what is yet to be.The trees stand all around, arms outstretched toward heaven. Praying.


Holy Wells

I beg you.
Don’t ever stop looking
because what makes the world so lovely
is that somewhere it hides a well,
a well that hasn’t been found yet.
And if you don’t find it,
maybe nobody will.”
~Macrina Wiederkehr

A few days ago I came across this poem that really implores the reader to keep eyes open. I jotted it down so I wouldn’t forget it. While in my normal daily life there are few literal wells to be found, I am walking in the land of many wells. Wells that carry the name of the saint who is believed to have stood at the lip of a body of water and by their blessing and the hopes and faith of those who came to also stand with them, the wells were believed to be sacred. They are wells that still can be seen scattered throughout the countryside. Sometimes there is a formal sign that points the way but other times it is a scavenger hunt to find them tucked away in farmland or just on the other side of a stone wall.

Holy wells were a part of the ancient Celtic spiritual life. People gathered round them for the obvious gift of water but over time they were believed to have powers beyond the act of quenching thirst. When the Christian church began to take on a greater structure and those who sought to conquer,or at least influence, these people who knew the Holy in land and sea,the building of churches often happened directly over the well that had been important to their practice of faith. This well was often found just beneath what became the altar of the church. There is much to be thought of in such an act of trying to absorb what people have held sacred and make it become something for another purpose.

But here in Ireland the holy wells can be still be found. More importantly the evidence of them still being places of importance to some group of people can be seen. While traveling with our band of pilgrims we visited St. Brigid’s Well. Tucked behind a stone wall at another more well visited site, we had to do some sleuthing to find it. But once we knew its whereabouts we were able to walk quietly to the waters that had once drawn other pilgrims to stand and pray. Nestled in the branches above the well hung small pieces of white fabric or tissue, a practice that has continued through centuries of offering prayers and then marking the place.

St. Brendan’s Well was not such an easy find. We drove high over the moors of Valentia Island, down paved and winding roads until the pavement faded away into tracks made muddy and uncertain. There had been an official-looking sign which began our search but after several miles the search seemed futile. Then we saw a sign tipped over and falling to the base of a post. Parking the car and heading over the muddy ground we carefully placed our feet where we could trying not to sink into the now boggy soil. Avoiding all manner of animal evidence along the path we finally saw a stone structure rising out of the ground. Walking closer we saw that others had made this long trek before us and had left mementoes to give visibility to their prayers.The spirit of St. Brendan who was believed to have sailed the seas even as far as North America to tell the story of the Good News had been remembered at this site for who knows how long. Keeping the practice of circling a holy well three times and offering prayers I walked with muddy feet saying the name of one of our dear ones at home who is facing surgery.

Who knows what all this can mean? I only know that if countless pilgrims have done this before me, who am I to turn my back on such an opportunity? Somewhere the world hides a well and sometimes we are blessed to find it.


What Scares Us

A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us. ”
~Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare Us

Every now and then it might actually be good for the soul to do something that scares the day lights out of you.My sense is that choosing to do a frightening thing might make it easier to deal with the experiences that come along that you have no control over, experiences that leave you shaking in your boots. Somehow when the choice is ours to tread on such ground the task becomes something powerful and has the ability to inform the other roads less taken.

Today I fulfilled a kind of bucket list wish. I climbed to the top of an amazing rock fortress that climbs out of the Atlantic just off the southwest coast of Ireland. The place is called Skellig Michael and was a fortress and place of prayer for monks from sometime between the 6th – 8th century until the 12th century. The domed stone huts shaped like beehives still sit at the top of this amazing volcanic rock. Pilgrims have traveled to this place for centuries braving wild seas and treacherous climbs. Today my husband and I were among them.

We left early along with eight others from several countries on a small fishing boat. The morning was overcast and the temperature cool. Climbing onto the boat I was stuck by the fact that, unlike what may have been a standard practice in the US to tell those on the boat about safety, we simply headed out to sea. I scoped out where I thought the life jackets might be and hoped they indeed were. The sea was mighty and the salty water sprayed us all the way out to our destination. Rolling this way and that I stood my ground though a small fear lived at the pit of my stomach.

When we arrived at Skellig Michael, we all climbed out onto the slick, rocky steps that would begin our long journey upward. The waves crashed against the boat and sent it to and fro near the rocks. Looking out in the frothing water, two seals looked back at me. I took it as a blessing and began the trek up the rock path. At first this walk was easy with stone walls and chain links giving a sense of perceived safety. But soon the stairs became uneven and curved in and out in a circuitous pattern. The wind whipped around our bodies and I dared not look down for fear of either losing my balance or not having the courage to go on. At one point I sat down and allowed the others to go ahead. I needed to get my grip. Finally I turned and crawled a few steps on my hands and knees until the wind subsided and I felt I could continue on.

Reaching the top I stood with the others in this amazing settlement of stone dwellings. Crawling inside you got the sense of what it might have been like to live here, atop this mountain of rock jutting out of the ocean. The silence enfolded you in a peaceful blanket. I received a glimpse of what it might have been like to have created a life of prayer here.

And it was prayer I needed on the way down. Several times the trajectory was too much for me and I had to sit and scoot down the steps. I thought of the wisdom of the sheep I have observed over the last days who hug the inside edge of the cliffs on which they graze and mirrored their example. My fear was held at bay by singing quietly to myself so I would not look too far ahead and would stay in the present moment. Perhaps the monks had done the same.

I am sure it will take some time before I can process the depth of this experience. But I am completely sure of the humility it engendered in me. To be in a place that so embodies the power of the earth is humbling and has the gift of putting the human in our rightful place. To come face to face with fear and to come out on the other side reminds me that in the scriptures the word for ‘fear’ and ‘awe’ are often the same.

Today I know this in my body.



It is a fact. As humans we are a tribal species. When separated from the tribe we know we form a community with those with whom we find ourselves. And so it has been as our band of thirty-six pilgrims have traveled through Ireland together. Just ten days ago and yet what seems like a lifetime of experiences, we left the familiar and came together with excitement, trepidation, anticipation and, for some, downright anxiety. There were those who were old friends, who had known one another through years of common experience. There were couples who had traveled with one another and know the other’s little quirks and eccentricities. There were those who were a stranger to many and at least one or two who were only really acquainted with one other person.

And yet now we find ourselves in that lovely state that happens when people have a common, rich experience. We have formed a temporary tribe that has been our pilgrimage experience. There are those who have come to make new friends and those who have renewed relationships that had meaning in another time in their lives. We have shared the exquisite beauty of the Irish landscape together and looked for the face of God. Most often we have seen it in the face looking back at ours. Memories have been made, photos have been taken, gifts have been purchased, laughter has has been shared. And prayers have been spoken, prayer after prayer after prayer.

Today we will visit our final abbey church, one dedicated to St Brigid. St Brigid whose gifts of hospitality and hearth, a love of home and animals, whose sign is fire, will be our final stop as pilgrims on this leg of life’s journey. We began as individuals, immigrants from our respective tribes and will be welcomed as a tribe by the spirit of St.Brigid.

Over these days we have visited many monastic sites. These communities built to welcome and house the faithful were places where tribes were formed, named and sent to tell the good news of God and to offer the invitation of the Way of Jesus. Over hundreds of years they have been places where strangers have arrived at doors not knowing what the next day or the next moment might bring. They have met people they were drawn to and been put off by those who did not fit their view of the world. Some stayed and made the place home and others ran away as fast as humanly possible. Those who stayed became a part of the tribe that etched their lives into the stone and peat, in the very landscape itself.

And tomorrow this pilgrim band who have shared so much will depart and head back to the tribes that await them. Stories will be told and photos will pass from hand to hand. We will try to breathe life into our telling. But we will at some point realize that what we have known cannot be heard with a full knowing by those who were not a part of this traveling community, which is alright. Because when we want the stories to be fully heard we will return to the tribe that gave birth to them. They will most certainly understand.

Blessed be.


Right Eyes

It seems that sometimes we walk a path acutely aware of those who have passed this way before. Those of us who have lost a loved one will move into a room and some smell, some sense within the room reminds us of that one who was once quite visible at our side. A certain food that arrives on our plate can stir the memory of the one who so enjoyed it. For me it is pie. My father was a lover of pie and I never eat it without thinking of the sweet spirit that he was and I enjoy the eating even more because I feel as if I am sharing it with him.

Our days here in Ireland have been filled with knowing that we walk among the saints of those who have gone on before. To walk land whose memory is so long, so deep is a powerful and humbling experience. To place one foot in front of the other on ground that has been toiled and built for the purpose of continuing a faith story older than Christianity, places a person on hallowed soil and in a place between times. I have felt this over and over……as if I was suspended between the visible and invisible worlds.

Of course, the Celts called this experience a thin place. A thin place is a one in which heaven and earth are so near you can almost touch them. It is the experience of knowing, a deep knowing, that we walk among those who have gone before and those who are yet to be. To experience a thin place takes a certain presence to the here and now. It takes a certain letting go of all the little details and whirligigs that most days are the food of our thoughts.

In his book The Art of Pilgrimage, Phil Cousineau offers these words of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke:” Suddenly one has the right eyes.” And so it has been. For many of these pilgrims with whom I have been traveling, there have been many experiences of ‘right eyes’. Some are aware of it in this moment and others will know it upon on their return. When the dust settles and the bags are unpacked, they will have a feeling, a sense that will come over them and they will remember. A valley. A mountain. A gravestone. A church. A face. A smell. And the veil between heaven and earth will seem permeable.

An impression I have had over and over is how the Irish people live with this sense of the depth of time all along. Perhaps it is because they can look out a window or walk down most roads and see the past so firmly planted in the landscape around them. They can speak the name of St. Kieran or St. Patrick or St. Brigid as if they were a distant relative they simply haven’t seen since the last holiday. Speaking the name of one of these ancients is often included in the greeting of hello. Over the days here I have come to wonder if this connection to all those that have gone before leads to their unceasingly pleasant outlook and happy spirits.

We have now arrived in Glendalough, the place of the two lakes. It has long been a place where pilgrims have traveled to visit the monastery of St. Kevin. Last night after we arrived I walked a few short feet from our lovely, old hotel which is situated next to one of the clearest streams of water I have ever seen, over to the cemetery and ruins that we will visit and learn of today. Moving through the green grass and towering trees I breathed in the clear air of the Wicklow mountains. The mist was just beginning to move in to settle over the valley where, for a few days, we will make our home. I moved from stone to stone reading the names of those remembered by family and now by those who never knew them. Saying their names softly under my breath I was suspended on the Great Breath and knew I was not alone.