Scattered over the land are the preserved ruins of the past, a history of a valiant people being overtaken by brutal forces time and time again, only to persevere and retain their cultural and ancestral identity. These ruins are viewed in awe and silence, a reminder that we have been who we are for a very long time on this planet, that we don't suffer fools gladly and yet we embrace anyone willing to be a friend and ally. We find them in the peat fields or on the next pub stool, but we cut through the distance and realize that yes, we know them, they are our family.
I wax poetic because the land and its people demand it. There is no other way to approach it. It exists, like an adult playground of sentiment, family and spirit.
When I say spirit, I speak of the human will, our ability to get through the difficult times, to maintain our balance in routine times, and to recognize the sublime when we encounter it in this brief life. I do not believe in the religious definition of a soul, the soul to me is our brain and our genes working overtime to find meaning in our journey upon this spinning globe. I believe we are really the embodiment of our ancestors, moving forward to deal with the era assigned to our care. That is the afterlife; that we venture forth, continuing on in the form of our descendants, and through them we are still of the world.
I have no doubt that in the future we will find more and more about the memory that is stored, culturally and with regard to location, our roots and home, in our genetic DNA. I have felt it, we all have. That knowledge you've been somewhere before, that you know another individual well though just having met, that things are happening the way you wanted them to happen, rarely.
In Carraroe near Sligo in the west of Ireland, deep in the wood, there is a holy site known as Tobernalt Well. It is an ancient place for reflection and healing, older itself than the Celts and dating to the Fifth Century, the four hundreds. Imagine what it has seen and suffered. Tobernalt means well on the cliff, and is an Anglicized name from the old Irish language. Nalt can be a joint or body part, and indeed the waters there are for the pain that life puts the body through. In the Eighteenth Century, when Catholics were persecuted and priests were hunted as blasphemers, the site grew into a shrine to which people would travel from all over Ireland to attend secret masses. Yes, they were the ones performing clandestine rituals in the forest, close to the land. They feared for their life yet they gathered to share in their beliefs. Again, the human spirit persevering in spite of all odds against it.
We are close to persevering through a time of isolation that has tested all of us. We look to whatever we think of as our spirit to be certain that we endure. Knowing Ireland has helped me to navigate my life with more reverence.