Monday, October 8, 2007

Irish Loving

It has been a loooooooong time since my last update. A lot has happened obviously so I will try to speedily update on you on what has been going on in the last week or so. Bring you up to the present.

Way back when...Sept. 28th to be exact which was not this last friday but the friday before we left high leigh for Cambridge and passed through Little Gidding. A little community out in the middle of the sticks where T.S. Eliot visited and later wrote about in his poem Four Qaurtets. We were served with that signature hospitality of this place and had tea and biscuits and visited the chapel. We sang the Doxology, which we have come to love on this trip. I feel like we are always singing it and it was lovely just standing in this small wooden chapel, the rain was falling outside and we were just praising God with such simple words. It was a cool moment.

The weekend in Cambridge was okay...we didn't do a whole lot. I think I was tired from the previous week and just needed to relax. We did go to the evensong at Kings College Chapel and that was a highlight.

I realize I probably just left out a lot of details over that weekend...but I don't want to write a super long and boring novel for you right now. Consider this the Cliffs notes.

So last sunday (not yesterday..but a week ago) We came to Ireland. We flew into to Dublin and took the city by storm for a few days. We did all things "Joyce-ian" (I'm talking James Joyce here). We walked along Sandy Mount Strand crushing sea shells under our feet just as Stephen Dedalus did in that great Joyce novel: Ulysses.

We also stood on the tower that inspired the opening scene of that same novel. A guy named mark with a perfect irish accent gave us a tour of Dublin pointing out all the street names and shops that inspired Joyce's writing in Dubliners. There is something really special about reading a text than seeing the places in real life.

We stayed in Cassidys Hotel on O'Connell street. This was really the ritz for us. Soft white comforters, hot showers, flat screen tvs. We were spoiled and we loved it. Not to mention the DELICIOUS breakfast buffet. I've come to love the tradition of baked beans at me-it's good.

We pretty much had freedom to explore the city, and we did the best we could. Eating out, sitting on the monuments that stood in the middle of o'connell street and watching the people pass by. Walking over ha'penny bridge at night....strolling through temple bar district.

We also saw the Book of Kells. Which was a real highlight. It is an illuminated and illustrated text of the 4 gospels made by monks in the 9th c. It is on display at Trinity college. Quite an amazing exibit. It must have taken soo much patience to make. truly amazing. you only got to see 2 pages, but they had a whole exhibit explaining the process of making it so it was well worth it.

NOW we are up to last wednesday....that is when we left Dublin and took a long coach ride to the west of Ireland, the county of Kerry. We stopped at Glendalough (Glen-da-loch) and The rock of Cashel. Two very impressive places. Glendalough was a site of a monastery and the rock of cashel was the site of a cathedral.

We stayed in cottages (tonight is my last night in them) right next to the river of Kenmare. Kenmare is the town we are in. The cottages are really cute. We have kitchens and living rooms and wooden floors. I've loved cooking my own food for the past week. We made some delicious meals. We mostly just read yeats here and hung out in town. Star gazed down by the water a few nights. It is nice to be away from the city. Feel some peace and quiet near the water.

The greatest thing by far we did here is go to Skellig Michael. It was truly a unique experience, as our coach driver Tim pointed out the morning we went (last friday). You can only get there by boat as it is an island 8 miles off the coast of Ireland in the atlantic ocean.
(side note: you should really google/wikipedia these places just to get some more of the I am sure I don't have time or space to tell you about here)

anyway...we took a little fishermans boat over the rocky waves (thank God for motion sickness medicine) and climbed up the 700 foot mass of rock that juts out of the ocean, known as skellig michael. it was an island that was used for a monastic city sometime in the 6th c. The ruins are still there, most of the stone huts still in tact. We walked inside what was once the chapel...everything dark and damp.

There was no gift shop, no postcard sellers or fish & chip stands. Just these ruins and a few chosen tourists like oursevles who chose to brave the rocky ride to see this place. I like knowing that this place is so set apart that people rarely make the visit. That it is a sacred place in that fashion...that you have to seek to find it.

It was truly a "breaktaking" experience (both literally and figuratively) The steps going up were tough to climb but the view at the top was worth it. Miles and miles of ocean. A small island right next to skellig michael, little skellig is a bird sanctuary. When we got close you could see thousands of bird circling the skies and landingin all the different cracks and crevices and ledges. They looked like snowflakes spiraling to the dark rocky surface and sticking there. A bird-capped island.

I will have to put up pictures later, but really even those can't come close to what it looks like. I think it is something you just see for yourself. And to think that monks lived there. That they braved those waters in a row boat not a diesel powered fishing boat--it really is amazing. Makes you think of the sacrifice they made, how devoted they were to God. how important He was to them. How much they understood the Holy. the act of being set apart. the sacrifice of self-denial, but the richness that comes from that. food for thought.

I guess I can end there. We leave tomorrow for Galway & Sligo and this weekend we will be in homestays in Belfast!! I can't wait to see more of Ireland, so far it has been a wonderful and rich place.

love you all.

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