"You won't see hide nor hair of them before five o'clock."
"She's taken them off for a long walk around the lake, to punish them... and herself..., she'll be in no fit state to drive when she gets back."
And with that he finally shuts up.... and to my great delight and to Annie's relief and amazement, he drifts off to sleep. Annie's seniority in years, seemed to offer her no protection from his demeaning condescension.
Everyone else is quietly speculating about the background and 'brand' of the three blue robe clad 'spiritual beings' in the Izuzu camper van. They don't seem to be from a silent order, but how I crave for silence in this place. Through the centuries, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, has been a place of monastic life, a place of community. It is no longer a functioning monastic settlement, it's crumbling but well preserved ruins are one of the top tourist attractions in Ireland.
In its heyday as well as being a place of religious activity, it was a centre of 'political' power, a bustling 'city' of commerce, ...it probably had the equivalent hangers on that are here today, ice-cream sellers, purveyors of postcards and nicknacks, umbrellas for the rain and factor 50 suncream for exposed flesh.
Today it is located within the Wicklow Mountains National Park and on the Wicklow Way most of the pilgrims have been replaced by day trippers. They hang on the tour guides' words about Romanesque ornamentation, St. Kevin's relics, burial places of kings, round towers and speculation about their purpose, but that's all a far cry from the purpose of a place where ascetics 'retreated' from the world.
Some lived in community, adhering to the monastic 'horarium', through which the day and night were divided into regular prayer times. Each had their own brother 'anamchara' literally meaning 'soul-friend' to guide and support them as they sought to faithfully follow God's path. Others lived apart as hermits, but all were consciously trying to 'mortify the flesh', struggling against sins of gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, pride, envy, etc. For some their lives were lived in contrite spirituality of prayer and fasting, but others were more severe, scourging themselves through flagellation, prostrations, and denial of many basic human needs.
.....as his walking party returned the sleeping 'unordained Abbot of the picnic bench', awoke and began spitting out critical admonitions to his 'partner' and her returning group of young student 'followers/guests'. It became apparent that Annie was his partner's mother and she looked on helplessly as the tongue lashing further deflated her daughter's spirit.
It seemed apparent to me, that he didn't want to be there and he was going to make sure his 'love' paid for that inconvenience... with humiliation, with scoffing, with sneering, she would be belittled, denigrated and embarrassed in front of family, friends and strangers. This was true mortification... not of the flesh, but of the spirit. The look of dejection on her face was witness to the many cruel rites and sacraments administered by this 'soul-fiend', this cruel cleric - no anamchara.
...then just at that moment, the purpose for my sojourn in that place came to it's conclusion. I was caught a little unaware, because suddenly my own sweet Anamchara was beside me and was ushering me towards our car. As I turned to leave, my parting glance wasn't towards the 'abbot', but was a tripartite smile of understanding exchanged between Annie, her daughter and myself.
I limped slowly away towards the car, and any pain I was experiencing was vanquished by the echoes of tender compassion in my Anamchara's voice, echoes that have resonated with me over the last two and a half years... Pain can be experienced through our physical or our emotional senses - I've become acutely aware that at times when I have struggled to continue being human, it has been the deep affection shared between soul mates that has sustained me through trauma and distress.
I have experienced that angel coming to me... echoing the Vox Hibernia... "The Voice of Ireland". That voice which has sustained faith and learning in the world, but in it's purest form has brought anamchara . . . . love that nourishes life.
In the coming weeks, I will speak more of the pain I'm working through... I will speak of Tuesday 29th March 2011, one of the days on which I went bang. I will speak of shutting out the pain of acid etch on tooth enamel, of enduring strains and damaged muscles without others being aware... or as we would say in Belfast "I tholed thon hirple' - "to endure something without complaint or resistance, to be afflicted and to suffer trouble".
Trouble... now that's another thing Belfast is good at.
Sunday 4th August 3013
Location: Glendalough Upper Lake, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Typed and expanded at: OurOwnHamptonPalace, Co. Dublin. Uploaded from: 80 LarksFlying, Belfast