Tag Archives: Ailbhe

A Different Way

February 4, 2015

It’s a crisp February evening. I sit on a bench outside the Berkeley philosophy building, having at least the next fifteen minutes to myself before going for dinner with a friend. A breeze blows softly around me, the air smells clean, here and there a bird calls. It is almost six o’clock. An hour before, I learned that today is the 100th anniversary of the Campanile, a historic clock tower on UC Berkeley’s campus. At six PM, bells will be going off in the tower, rigged by three ingenious professors to chime in rhythm with the Bay Area’s famous earthquake fault line. The seismic waves in the earth will determine the pattern of the music, which will be accompanied by flashing lights.

I have come from a lively seminar on free will, and though I’ve enjoyed It immensely, I’m now needing to ground and center out of head space to become present once again with the living, breathing world before connecting with the world beyond. Soon, Caoilte will be joining me. We have a challenge to discuss and some solid time to ourselves before my friend arrives. I smile to myself thinking on how delighted Caoilte is going to be to have an awesome display of modern technology occurring as a soundtrack to our discussion.

I first heard about the challenge two days before while quietly spending time with a large standing stone during an imbolc celebration. Ailbhe sat down next to me. I was in the middle of thinking about how some people have apparently learned to bend spoons, which is not really what I was intending to meditate on. Silently, I greeted Ailbhe who looked thoughtfully at me and then said abruptly, “How would you feel about bending, as if you were a spoon that could be reshaped to reflect the most light? We will hold you safe until the end of it.” She sent me a picture of several people carrying me in their hands while I went through some kind of transformation.

I could feel the time I had to meditate was almost up, and soon the space around me would no longer be quiet. Baffled and not at all persuaded of the merits of her suggestion I simply said, “It sounds wholly disagreeable to me. But I don’t understand what you mean.”

I am once again turning over what Ailbhe said, not becoming any wiser for it, when Caoilte appears and sits down next to me. He waits patiently while I finish moving into a softer, more reflective focus and take down the shield I use to help shut out the chaos of this world during my long day. Now I can see him clearly, and for a while we sit together, looking at each other, understanding each other without speaking. He is asking how I am and I answer in the otherworld way, letting go of any defensiveness, allowing myself to be seen. I make the gesture for acceptance.

Now, Caoilte gets up and is standing in front of me. He surrounds us in a white light, so I won’t take in any energy that isn’t mine while we’re talking. “Ailbhe says you’re not yet sure whether you want to do this challenge with us,” Caoilte begins, “Why? What are you afraid of?”

He can see how I am feeling and asks the question sincerely, without judgment. Still, this is when staying out of the way gets difficult. It occurs to me that ethicists like to talk a lot about honesty, but tend to skip over the fact that being completely honest quickly dislodges you from your comfort zone. That is beside the point now, however. I meet Caoilte’s eyes: “What Ailbhe said reminded me too much of some sort of intense alchemical transformation or shamanic initiation, and I’d rather run and scream than do either of those things. Unfortunately.” I have the urge to apologize for this, but Caoilte shakes his head, so I continue, “I thought I was already enough, so why become something different? Besides I don’t want to become a shape shifter or be unable to physically recognize myself once I’ve changed form.”

There is compassion and thoughtfulness in Caoilte’s eyes now. I can already tell that whatever I took Ailbhe to mean, I was at least mistaken in part. I’m very glad about this. After a moment Caoilte says, “I can understand how you might take Ailbhe literally, as you were just in a physical challenge with her. No, this is not another physical challenge. Ailbhe and I will be doing this with you together, and the changes are energetic ones. Let me try to explain it a different way.”

Now between us there’s a picture of a dark looking space, and out of this space Caoilte pulls tiny shimmering threads of light, which glint against the night sky. Each light strand has a different color which I can’t see, but implicitly understand is there. Now, Caoilte is unraveling the strands of colored light and reweaving them, then placing them back in the darker space. As I look on the dark space becomes illuminated with the colors previously opaque within it. Instead of lying hidden in the space, the light is suddenly drawn out and brightly shining through, every color radiating out in a myriad of directions. It is stunningly beautiful and I catch my breath, in awe of what I’m seeing.

“This is what we mean,” Caoilte says, “This is about energy, changing, reweaving the patterns that keep your light absorbed in shadow, so your light doesn’t remain hidden, so that gradually you can reflect more and more the radiance already within you, to shine for yourself and then out into the world.”

“Oh!” I say, grateful for the clarity, viscerally relieved. “I’ll agree to that! I’m up for energetically changing shape, it sounds fascinating.” And more than that, which I show in intention, I understand now how I can both go through with the change and still be enough, because I am not becoming other than myself, but aligning more and more with who I have always been.

A look of pure enthusiastic joy silently transforms Caoilte’s face. I can tell he is wishing he could shout “Okay, let’s do this thing!” This is the first time it has occurred to me that shouting isn’t possible in the otherworld. How frustrating!

And, although I now find that I’m having to suddenly console my small self who’s not particularly fond of transitions and change of any kind, Caoilte’s excitement is infectious and it feels like my eyes light up. I am full of curiosity, wondering what on earth will happen now (or perhaps, more fittingly, how out of this world it’s going to get.) Again, I am holding my hands out palm up accepting my place here on the next step of this wild, wondrous journey. And then the Campanile performance begins.

Sleepless Night

Why does the fog come
With sleep lurking at its edges?

It descends on me,
I never ask for its cloying hands,

Lifting me slowly, unnoticed,
Until I emerge somewhere on a path of wandering,

Not knowing how long or for what reason.
Perhaps I was not strong enough yesterday:

I did not go on marching into my future
Without heed of my exhaustion.

Still, rest mocked me through the night,
There was no respite for waiting.

Sleepless, I read about imagined people whose sorrow
Sifts like silt somewhere through my DNA.

The people might be fictional,
But the history happened.

Why revisit hungry eyes, pleading faces
Filling the void, frozen in fog?

I already relived them before,
Angry at my helplessness in the face of time.

I can do nothing for two hundred years ago
To quell their desperation and my own.

Their hands, their eyes, their words
Sound and look and feel like mine.

Flailing through this mist of many origins, I cry out,
Searching for you, needing you here.

You come, soul sister, Take my hand,
Touch the top of my head as if consoling a disconsolate child,

Showing me how to feel passed the sadness,
And return to myself, steady and grounded.

I fall asleep at dawn, enfolded gratefully in your arms,
The song of light wrapping us in peaceful calm.

The Night Watch: Caoilte’s Song for Ailbhe

Hushed the night, all in their sleeping,
Dark, with misty cloak, draws near,
I the silent vigil keeping,
O’er you, and many dreaming here.

With the wonder of a child,
Among the trees these wakeful hours,
I will watch the land born wild,
This wood and all beyond, is ours.

In the shadows I am here
Beneath the hearth fires of the sky,
Though creatures creep where nothing’s clear,
I will see they pass us by.

Alone, the night song all about me
Soft spun, woven threads of moon
Rise, as if a tide within me
Spilled over with these thoughts of you.

Soon enough the day’s bright dawning,
Soon to wake the world astir,
And we with sun’s flight take our wandering,
I’ll see you just the way you were.

Swift the days in endless passing,
Uncertainty, our path wound through,
But long since this brief moment’s lasting,
I will ne’er be far from you.

One Night At a Berkeley Pub

At the Starry Plow, , a young man sings “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”
It’s the first time I have really listened to the words:
Tales of the ravages of the first world war
Exhausted, I wistfully wish he’d picked a different song tonight.

But when the verses are over and the chorus repeats
Again and again, my attention starts shifting.
To the ten people standing in the isle
Standing in a line, silent as a grave.

I’m the only one to notice them,
Held transfixed by the grief that haunts their tearless eyes
And within such sadness, I lose my bearings,
Their solemn sorrow startles me.

This is not what I expected.
Too many emotions that contradict each other
Course through their bodies, as they let the music move them.
Too much to be present to, but I try.

And then forgetting to make sense out of it all,
I fold my hands and sit still with them until the song is over.
Together, they wrap their Arms around each other,
Holding on tightly, as if bracing themselves against emptiness.

As if, by trying to appear as one,
They could quell the different struggles taking place within them each,
A weary story etched upon their faces,
Between us and the silence, and with the silence it remains.

If I were alone I’d cry for those whose tears cannot fall.
My friend asks me, “Aren’t you going to drink your beer?”
But I am far, so far, far away from here.
Feeling what they’re feeling, I can’t move or speak at all.

The song done, I wish that I could comfort her, my troubled soul sister,
Beside me now, determined to regain composure,
And though I cannot hold her, I can reach out and enfold her,
Never alone, I whisper, a single space is ours together.

Voices From Cnoc Alúine

Caoilte

I will raise mountains to the sky
I will cover Islands with the sea
And I will gather broken things
And weave them quietly through dreams.

I will sing forgotten songs
And lift my voice, though none join in
And I will come by wind and rain
To see the lost live once again.

Ailbhe

Who will count the landscape’s scars
The path is red, blood of old stones
Shards of time, earth mother’s bones:
Once more found, are we never alone.

I

I will journey on the seven tides
To find the reason for your cries,
And I will sit in surrender to
The sadness welling up in you.

For you who are so very dear,
I will hold the far more near
And shed a single, weary tear
For all the dreams that flew from here.

Oisin

The great conversation is not halted
By the sun burnt desires of the taking
I am here in all that is,
What lies broken, all awaking

Do not cast a cry from the tallest trees
For what was never meant to last
Has not future met it’s origin
Has not the child come home again,

Striving for beyond,
And held the strands of the pattern in weaving between her fingers,
To become the song of sunbeams whose streaming laughter lingers?

In your hand you hold the vast and through it learn to soar,
Patiently within you, for child, it is yours.
There is no turning back, only turning, earth and seasons turning,
A time for growing and relearning.

Time to realize we’re all some mother’s child,
Time to honor and continue to rekindle
The wild look in your eyes,
And the color of belonging, green and blue and wise.

Did you really think there would be a single one
Who would not make it to the other side?
Change, the knot
That cannot be undone, it lies

Between our orchestra of longing,
And the whole with fractured facets rearranging.
And among chords played, between silences, we fly,
Letting go of all that’s left behind.

Life shimmers like a firefly’s light,
Transient and tenaciously, we dance what’s yours and mine.
Life leaps in joy and wonder into everything,
Glowing then for all it finds.

Life strikes out in frenzy through forever,
And for that, ever, ever shine.

*This is in response to my friend Ali Isaac’s post, “Almu, The Home of Irish Hero Fionn mac Cumhall,” which you can read here: http://aliisaacstoryteller.com/2014/05/15/almu-the-home-of-irish-hero-fionn-mac-cumhall/.