The soundtrack of my time in Newfoundland was the foghorn. Thus far, the soundtrack of my time in Co. Sligo, Ireland, is a field of cattle lowing.
Last week the calves were separated from their mothers to be weaned. The sadness of the mother cattle crept across the fields and into our yard for an entire week. The main point of weaning, I found out, is to allow the mother to calve every year. More calves = more meat for slaughter. It was a horribly sad sound to live with–the constant lowing of an entire lot of cattle. During that week, every time I poured a glass of milk, or the night we had Shepherd’s Pie, which contains ground beef, I felt slightly sick to my stomach. So much sadness from separation came before I took that sip of milk or bite of beef. It was an odd thing to contemplate, and I realize how connected and complicated these cycles are.
Today, as I was walking, I saw two sheep skeletons lying on the hill—a pile of pale bones and a trail of pure, white sheep fluff funneling behind it. It was an odd sight to witness as hundreds of living sheep were grazing around it.
Personally, I’m realizing what a challenge it is to move from a self-set schedule to a communal one, which requires a little bit more of everything—patience, participation, pardoning, playfulness (and that’s just the p’s). For the past three months, since I’ve had no work, I’ve been able to set my own schedule and fill it with whatever goodness I’d like. I realize how much I like having the option to “play it by ear” and “go with the flow” of each day. That being said, I’ve often felt lost in this type of unbridled freedom and have been looking forward to the rhythm of monastic living, which is taking some getting used to. It’s all good, it’s just different.
Despite the difficulties of change and settling into a new place, I’m finding much goodness.
It’s good to be in a place where having biscuits and tea 4 times a day is totally normal and animals are easier to grow than crops are. It’s nice to see green space instead of parking garages and sheep instead of cities for a change. All is quiet except for the occasional call of a cow or sheep and the steady streaming of river running through the grounds.
In the past 2 weeks, I’ve enjoyed the hard yet rewarding work of gardening, cooking and sharing a meal with 12 people, preparing hermitages for guests, hosting 36 teenagers for a day at Holy Hill, and accompanying 23 primary school students on a field trip to Dublin and back! Whew! It’s been quite busy here.
I’ve been asked to revive my musical talents and play piano and flute for mass. Bringing a flute to my lips for the first time in 10 years—and remembering how to play!—was an incredible moment of surprise.
I’ve done a lot of walking and wandering around these wide open spaces, including the beach, which is very close.
Today we climbed the historical mountain of Knocknarea, a major place of ritual and meeting in the Neolithic era, and home to the megolithic tomb of Queen (Maeve) Meabh, a figure in Irish Mythology, who is rumored to be buried upright, mounted on her horse, fully dressed for battle and facing her enemies.