Last week I was in Ireland, a country I’d never thought much about visiting. But now I am in love.
Before my departure, people told me, “You’ll love it there! The Irish are so friendly and have a great sense of humor.” Seemed like a broad generalization but they were right. Everyone I met was genuinely friendly. I took a particularly hilarious bus tour of Galway billed as “See the Sights of the Medieval City.” Yes, we saw the landmarks, but the majority of the tour consisted of our guide’s running commentary on the activities of the people and animals we passed.
Ireland is also a very allergen friendly place. The menus have a code of 1-15 with each allergen assigned a number. The numbers are listed under the items on the menu with notes about whether or not the dish can be amended. There were plenty of gluten free options and any time I asked for one, I was met with an easy smile instead of the not-so-subtle American eye roll.
The majority of my time was spent on the sacred island of Inishmore off the coast of Galway. It’s a small, windswept place of grass and stone; massive cliffs and wild waves; ancient churches and beehive huts where solitary monks spent their days. Population – seven hundred. The family of the man who drove us from the ferry to the B&B goes back 7 generations on the land. While the islanders all speak English, Irish is their mother tongue.
I went to the island because I was invited by Christine from Abbey of the Arts to assist with a retreat which involved setting up chairs and tending to the candles. They called me “Keeper of the Flame.” The rest of the time I participated in writing, song, dance, gentle yoga, long walks out of doors, and delicious, home cooked meals that included fresh baked gluten free bread and desserts. Did I mention how easy it was for me to eat there?
Within all the blessings of food, landscape, and people, the biggest gift was joy. My phrase for the year thus far has been “trust joy.” On the first day of the retreat it occurred to me that I wasn’t delving into the inner work from a place of crisis and heartache. Just joy. I spent the six days free from anxiety.
Joy is a state that transcends happiness. The capacity to remain open and attentive to the difficult emotions and circumstances is key to living a joyful life. And yet, there are times when the ebullient nature of joy supersedes a heaviness of heart. That’s where I was last week. Trusting that the good can and will continue to unfold. Not everything falls apart.
Amidst the rocky island landscape bloomed a multitude of enchanting wild flowers. They inspired this poem. May it bring you joy.
The Language of Wild Daisies (after Kim Moore)
Be cheerful, they say.
If we can manage to bloom
on this island of grass and stone
and whipping wind that lashes us
with cold from the sea,
so can you.
In your everyday cares
of meaning and money
build within yourself
a cone of sunlight,
a center of happiness.
Construct it out of sticky pollen and sweet nectar,
Gifts received. Gifts shared.
As for your petals,
stay soft and daring.
Be playful. Add a touch of pink to the tips.
Know they are held in a cup of love,
a stem of gladness,
a wide base of leaves open
like your palms
ready to catch sunshine and rain.
Above all know this.
You are not alone.
We are a wild magnitude
and there is plenty of joy to go around.
Photo © Melinda Thomas
*** To see more photos of the trip, follow me on Instagram @benedictineyogi