Writing Workshops, Retreats, Mentoring

Day 6 2016 – Misty Moher, the Burren, & graves – paleolithic & more recent

Day 6 – after the morning of yoga and writing in The Old Ground Hotel, we boarded the bus to travel the west coast of Ireland. Our main goals that afternoon were the iconic Cliffs of Moher and the Burren – a landscape described by one of Cromwell’s generals as: “There is no a tree to hang a man, nor water to drown one nor dirt to bury him.” But there were a couple of other adventures in store as well.

Look at just about any brochure or website for travel in Ireland and there will be a picture of the Cliffs of Moher. But it probably won’t be taken on a grey, misty, drizzly day like this one. At times it was almost impossible to see anything except other tourists. But every now and then the mist would clear a little and we’d catch a glimpse of the breathtaking cliffs and the sea below.

The Burren, in North County Clare and parts of South County Galway covering an area of 160 square km, is unique – it is like no other place in Ireland. There are no bogs and very few pastures. Instead there are huge pavements of limestone called ‘clints’ with vertical fissures in them called ‘grikes’.

The Burren is also famous for its plant life. Limestone-loving plants such as foxgloves and rock roses grow here and rock’s microclimates also nurture plants found in the Artic, Alpine and Mediterranean regions. Botanists have attempted to find out why, but no one has come up with a complete answer. Here too in The Burren, 26 of Ireland’s 33 species of butterfly have been recorded, including its very own, the Burren Green.

We’d been reading John O’Donohue in our workshops, and our driver told us that John (who died sadly very young) was buried in the area, so we made a pilgrimage to the cemetery where he was buried and paid our respects.

It is a strange and wonderful fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here. Rilke said, ‘Being here is so much,’ and it is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free. ~ John O’Donohue

Although the area may seem inhospitable, humans have been settled here since the stone age. Evidence of habitations and tombs are all around; massive dolmens, wedge tombs and stone forts called cahers, (the homesteads of farmers of long ago), survive in various stages of preservation. Churches and castles indicate later periods of settlement.

When you had an ‘anam cara,’ (soul friend), your friendship cut across all convention and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the friend of your soul. ~ John O’Donohue

One of our participants wrote a gorgeous poem about the stone walls of Ireland – like this one.

A well earned repast in Ennis at the end of the day. Afterwards, making our way through the bar at our hotel (called “the Poet’s Corner”!) we got hijacked by three amazing young musicians playing their hearts out and their fingers off. Even though we knew we should go to bed to be rested for yoga early in the morning, we couldn’t tear ourselves away until they were done. That’s the whole point to travelling, right? To really be there, to experience it. And what an experience this was.

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