with Cate Macfarlane and Lyn Barritt
Our first gathering was always going to be an interesting exchange of how we had arrived; some crossing the Celtic Sea, others the Irish Sea and more flying in over the Atlantic Sea from the west to our home for the week, a modern spacious house near the town of Ennis and not too far from The Burren. We soon settled in to enjoy a week of companionship, helped celebrate a special birthday, enjoyed sunshine and very little rain.
On Sunday, following a leisurely breakfast and Church attendance, we spent the afternoon at the archaeological site of Dysert O’Dea, marvelling at the skills of those who fashioned the Romanesque church door, St Tola High Cross and wondered how will those who come after us view what we have left behind. We wandered the wild flower-strewn lanes and tracks, and thought of hunger and famine still present in the world to-day. This whole area is rich with archaeological and ecclesiastical ruins, more of which we were to see at Kilfenora later during the week.
Recognising our need for silence and solitude in our busy, activity filled lives and world, led us to sojourn to Inis Meain (middle one of three Aran islands),for a day which started with the appearance of a rainbow. Focused on our theme, we shared reflections from Henri Nouwen and admired the Harry Clarke stained glass windows in the Church. Some of us then found the unusual almost square shaped stone-age fort, others a place to sit and wonder and the more restless decided to walk around the island. This soon proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated, eased only by the sounds of the sea and sighting a dolphin!
Wishing to explore this stonescape of rocky limestone slabs of what people know as 'the Burren' back on the mainland (variously described in appearance as moonscape or a stack of pancakes), we stepped our way through rocky outcrops, heard a cuckoo, saw skylarks, amazing wild flowers including varieties of orchid, mountain avens and hart’s tongue fern. Cattle, donkeys and goats moved to let us pass (encouraged by St Francis among us). We detoured a little to the remains of the 6th century Monastic Temple Cronan and were silent for a time ….
We had tea at the Burren Perfumery and a little later, refreshment at the hostelry overlooking a disappearing lake … such tranquillity.We enjoyed walking in The Caher Valley along old drover roads and tracks, and delighted in seeing small heath, fritillary and common blue butterflies to name but three; and always, an enchanting vista. The ruins of Fermoyle penal Chapel provided welcome shade for a lunch stop, as we remembered religious persecution long past here, but not so in some parts of the world.
What a sight, the Cliffs of Moher rising from the sea! Some brave folk walked the coast- hugging track, passing lonely deserted cottages; others strolled the less hazardous walkways always looking for creatures from the sea to emerge. We ventured underground for the next spectacle … in the depths of the caves carved by underground rivers in this area, the amazing Great Stalactite of Doolin … such wonders in our world, left us in awe.
All to soon our time together came to a close. We enjoyed a meal out and a concert in St Columba’s Church before bidding farewell and thanking God for a marvellous week the following morning.
“The secret music of nature is concealed in stone.” (John O’Donohue)
Compiled by Cate Macfarlane with grateful thanks for guest contributions.