The week began with an invitation from a visiting priest, Father Matt, to sink deeper into the silence, to enter into the stillness that takes us to the boundaries of our human existence. That sneaky little phrase has stuck with me and I’ve found that living it out, or entering into it, is as difficult as it is beautiful.
At the beginning of the week I took a moment to think about where I am in relation to this pilgrimage and these travels and I wondered, yet again, what I might do upon my return home.
After writing down every question, concern, and curiosity in relation to life after traveling, I decided to step outside for a walk to help me get out of my head and into my heart. What I saw surprised me.
I saw a pair of canoes beneath a cedar tree, sitting out a season until summer returns.
I saw an empty, idle wheelbarrow.
I saw the garden that I had been working in all week, all cut back and quiet, as all of the perennials were put to sleep for the winter.
I saw an entire flock of sheep lying down in a field. This is so rare! Usually, they’re constantly grazing.
From these four images I understood, once again, that I don’t need to do anything, at least not yet, in terms of planning for the future. Sometimes, the sheep said to me, we have to lay down and rest.
Content, I turned around to head home. I stopped at the crossroads and smiled at yet another (not-so-subtle) sign: the smallness of the hermitage nestled into the folds of the foothills of the Ox Mountains, like a little Monopoly piece for play. Of course, my problems seemed petty from this perspective.
Yesterday I turned 28, but the birthday celebrations carried on all weekend.
On Friday, we gathered for pizza, craft Irish beer, and a movie.
On Saturday, Nicole asked me about my 28th birthday reflections, which I began to ponder.
On Sunday afternoon we shared our weekly meal together. Then, a few of us headed into Sligo Town to hear a live traditional Irish session at McGarrigles.
We were shown endless hospitality; the owner went across the street and bought cards for us, we were given more free drinks than we could count, and conversations with new acquaintances felt like catching up with old friends.
The night was magic. We danced, sang, and clapped along to the tunes of Irish jigs and 4/4 reels. At one point Julia sang a beautiful version of Carrickfergus as Peter strummed along quietly on his mandolin. For the next five minutes, I reveled in the unfolding spell of a boisterous bar gone silent as fifty strangers were lured into the story of a single song.
We had dinner at an absolutely fabulous Italian restaurant, Rugantino, and wandered through the wet streets of Sligo before we returned to McGarrigles for more fun.
As I lost myself in another Irish reel, I recalled the invitation from the beginning of the week to sink deeply into the silence. I realized in that moment, in that small Irish pub in Sligo, where celebration and century old songs are played from memory and shared in spirit, that I was being taken to the boundaries of human existence.
Silence, celebration… same thing.
Yesterday, on my actual birthday, I awoke to bright sun and pink clouds after days of continuous rain. I took a long morning walk, a guilt-free nap, opened birthday packages via Skype with dear friends and family and joined Julia, Christy and Nicole in the kitchen for happy hour while they prepared a delicious birthday dinner, homemade sweet potato gnocchi.
We sat by the fire, eating a delicious bavarian chocolate cake, as everyone read a favorite poem or piece. I read a creative nonfiction piece that I have been working on for the past three weeks and have just recently submitted.
Christy and I ended the night by wandering outside to watch shooting stars until our necks hurt.
I went to bed with an answer to Nicole’s inquiry about my 28th birthday reflections:
I dwell in possibility.