Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Gate

I have a relationship with the gate.

That's what I thought when I looked at it, after having returned through it from a day spent beyond it. We four travelers, Bed and Breakfast'ers, had set out that morning toward Abbey Island by way of "three fields down, then turn left," and what awaited us took the entire day to explore, to behold, to digest. The previous day, that gate was only a feature in the garden of Moran's Seaside Farmhouse, Bunavalla, County Kerry; its blue painted wrought iron was but a fresh, shiny charm amidst all that garden green and against the backdrop of emerald sea.

Yesterday, I had no relationship with the gate.

I was surprised to be thinking this, but thinking it I was, and the thought felt dramatic, like a revelation. The previous day, I had no idea I had a modest future beyond it. I had no idea it would lead us to pristine coves, white sands, paradisaical tranquil and turbulent waters. I had no idea that we would "save" a beached brown and cream bottle-nosed
dolphin, only to return three or four hours later to watch it trap itself again, as if determined to perish. Neither did I know that it would be my "stupid white coat," my ill fitting and fashionless lightweight but supremely effective windbreaker that we would wrap and drag her with, that would, in effect, save the day--at least for a time.

Friday: this was our last day of our week spent in the West of Ireland--what I'd come to call "my last hurrah" here on Eire. Come morning, we would drive the express route to Dublin--"No stopping!"--to turn in the car at the rental place before their 4:00 closing time. We had started with Galway, moved on to Connemara, then down to Dingle, but Kerry was the piece de resistance, this final day in particular. It's not every day you get to minister to a dolphin, to cradle it in your forearms for a time, to come to its aid. The rest of what we found that day seems much less remarkable in comparison. But even days later, I feel profoundly affected by the whole of that time beyond the gate. It strikes me now as its own little lifetime: beginning, middle, and end. And it strikes me as precious. So I guess it shouldn't be any surprise to me that the gate would become an emblem for it, portal it was to that lifetime, however infinitesimal, which stays with me as any life well lived: it lives on. The gate was the giver; I received the gift. Or, rather, gifts: Ogham stone, Daniel O'Connell's home, my first icy plunge into the Irish Atlantic, the Abbey of Abbey Island, mud and thorns, wind and sky and stone the likes of which we had not yet so intimately known. After our day out there, and once we'd returned, everything beyond the gate looked different to me than before. I had known of course that there was life beyond it; I just didn't know it had anything to do with me. It's like the stranger at a party who becomes a true friend. What if I had never approached her? What if we never spoke? The gate was no longer irrelevant to me, and the world it gave onto was now and forever more than the object of a gaze or the subject of a pretty picture.

It's odd perhaps to feel changed by that day, but I do. Or maybe it was the whole week, a cumulative effect that leaves me feeling closer to the earth now, closer to its primitive nature and to my own--or at least more aware of it. The stripping down (coat, scarf, fleece, socks, sneakers, undies), the icy plunge perhaps best demonstrate this: I did not just look, as tourists will look at her, I did not just admire her; I touched her, I let myself be touched by her. I slipped into her. The earth opened herself to me, and I stepped in.

I realize now that I was in relationship with the gate from the first moment I encountered it. It stood making its invitation, which at first I neglected to accept.

"The world is your oyster!"

We say this to those embarking on a new life--graduates, for example, with their fresh diplomas in hand. But the gate has reminded me: at every turn we are on the brink of a new life, whether or not we recognize it. That's how it feels to me right now, at least, caught as I am between two worlds, two lives that I know of (my Dublin life, my Boston life) and others I do not know of.

Trinity is calling. And the Chester Beatty Library is calling. St. Stephen's Green and The Winding Stair and the River Liffey are calling. Iveagh Gardens and Phoenix Park and the Botanic Gardens are calling. Cow's Lane and South Anne Street and four or five museums are also calling. Puffin Island's call is the loudest of all. I have three weeks remaining in which to answer them all. But whether or not I can or do answer them all is not the point here. The point is this: I didn't realize I hadn't engaged the gate until I'd gone beyond it and returned.

How many new worlds have I unwittingly let pass? How many open invitations have I unknowingly declined? What have I deemed irrelevant to me that offers unimaginable, wondrous new life? Where am I drawing shallow boundaries when there could be none?

I feel that I engage deeply with life, but today I ask myself: how much of this life am I touching, really? I so want to touch it all. I so want to be touched by it all. And I am, when I am. And I am not when I am not.

gate photo courtesy of A. Gabiron

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Love, One Heart

With thanks to my neighbor Craig for passing it along, I give you this Stand By Me video, a work of art and excellence produced by the folks at Playing for Change. Take five to treat your eyes, your ears, your heart to this most magnificent manifestation of the One Love we are in our worldwide community, our human family. What a gorgeous reminder it is of how universal is the language of music--dance too, for that matter!

If you haven't heard of the Playing for Change project, check it out. In their words, they are:
...a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.
When I looked around at what they've been up to, I found several music videos they have produced. But it is the one I share with you today that I found far and away the most affecting: I'm moved to tears each time I see it.

What makes it so? Why is it this video alone that touches me so? When I watch the others, I see musicians from around the world playing and singing the same one song, seemingly at the same time. When I watch the Stand By Me video, I experience the one Life that we are: various particles of one whole, each moving in concert with the other. For me it depicts what is actual versus what is possible: the harmony that IS, the unity that IS, the Love that IS, the peace that already IS.

Love hugs, kudos, and thanks to all involved in creating and giving the gift to us that is this sparkling depiction of Life at its best.

Here's to the One Life, One Love, One Heart that we are!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I love Easter for the resurrection. What is it and its season all about if not rebirth, the dead coming alive again, as my father did in last night's dream.

He lay there--his corpse, that is--and my mother kept feeding the body, trying to get him the liquids that she assumed he needed. It was a ministering like I saw her give him in his last hours. Alongside this scene, there was my living father. He is always a younger version of the father I remember when we meet in dreams like this: bright and smiling and slim, his hair more dark brown than grey. This time he was doing something he did a lot of for us: fixing things. He had a talent, I daresay a genius for fixing things. This time, he handed me a brown leather pocketbook that he had restored for me. Had the strap given way? Did a buckle fall off? I don't know what he did to it exactly; I just know that he held it out to me whole. It hung from his fingers by the shoulder strap. He was pleased and I was pleased, and I said, "I don't want you to die, Dad. I want you alive again." Which was a silly thing to say because he was already alive again, handing me my purse, in perfect repair, and he had already
died: there was his corpse alongside my mother to prove it. And I was wanting to tell my mother that she could stop feeding that corpse because my father, her husband, was alive and well and standing right here just as clever as ever.

How's that for an Easter dream? And what is this if not an Easter poem, a "spring beaut[y]" in
its own right:


And now my spring beauties,
Things of the earth,
Beetles, shards and wings of moth
And snail houses left
From last summer's wreck,
Now spring smoke
Of the burned dead leaves
And veils of the scent
Of some secret plant,

Come, my beauties, teach me,
Let me have your wild surprise,
Yes, and tell me on my knees
Of your new life.

~Jean Garrigue

"Do you believe in the resurrection?"

My mother puts such questions to me from time to time, concerned as she is about the status of my relationship to "my faith"--or, more specifically, my redemption: will St. Peter let me pass?

"Of course I do!"

That's what I'd say if she asked me today, with resurrection everywhere in sight. The hard brown shells of the larches are a blur of spring green. The mountain woods are awash with the clearest of fresh falls and streams. The sap is rising in the trees and in you and me. It is a wonder and a glory and worthy of praise indeed.

Amen, alleluia.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

April Fool

It surprises me, surprise

that the front yard cherry I caught
despite pale light not
one week ago is
the blooms I mean
the merry March manifes-
tation of spring they are, at least
until the host
roots, trunk, limbs, stems
themselves pass—as if
it would, could
like the likeness I have made of it