Tag Archives: Fianna

As You Have Whispered the Memories of Ages

The central fire blazes still
With long charred sticks, we eat our fill
Our forest home awash in light
Hemmed in by the black of night

A singer and a song in weaving
Crickets listen, make no sound
I watch the shapes of flames in leaping
An abandoned board game on the ground

Two run off into the green
Two dream beneath a bracken bush
Another sleeps against a log
As singing intertwines with song

A clearing in the old wise trees
A place that now you’ll never find
I see as if it were yesterday
These were my own, this place was mine

We leave the rocks, a ring of coals
We gather up our sleeping rolls
We call the dogs, the hunt unfolds
Vivid shadows from such days of old

We sing the sunrise when we wake
Two brave the stream, jump off a rock
One stands beneath the arch stone gate
To ask a sign for trails sought

Several run to scout ahead
One recites the deeds of friends
Beside them I do all I can
And hum the hymn of sea and land

I breathe in vast and endless sky
The rolling hills so far away
I track the ground with well-trained eye
And wonder what the sky larks say

Pristine and full of mystery
The land yet scarred by history
Above me only stars
Around me everything is ours

In awe of how I’ve lived this long
In twilight now the new day spun
The birds go quietly to rest
To rest we sing the sunlight down

By the playful flames that warm us
Oh we the wanderers all
Without somewhere to call our own
Yet unquestioningly we belong

The fire bright we circle ‘round
The wild boar is cooking now
We thank the shining ones, this life for life
That we might live, another night

I can almost hear the curlew’s cry
And the many voices of our family
We pass around a mug of beer
And thank the gods that we are here

Tell me what else can I say
I see as if it was yesterday
Faces etched in fire’s glow
If I was there, I’ll never know


Along The Road _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 7

It was Friday, two and a half weeks after I first offered to Caoilte that, as the fianna had no permanent place to live here in the actual world, they could call my small but functional place home. I was exhausted. There were just so, so many of them. Every couple hours when I was home, there were around four groups of five or so who’d come through, and most likely more when I was sleeping, and more when I was gone. They were very respectful and, being disembodied, very quiet. But I was sharing space with them, and it’s very different keeping up a place for many rather than just one. I did end up with some alone time, but never knew for how long it would last, or whether, if someone showed up, there would be something expected of me to do.


There were a few times I’d thought of letting Caoilte know this wasn’t working for me, but wasn’t sure whether he’d be understanding or not. I also was extremely stubborn, and every time I came close to actually attempting to contact Caoilte, I’d decide that I could at least attempt to get used to living like this, as everyone else seemed to be, (everyone else had, it seemed, been living in close proximity in groups even in the otherworld, and weren’t phased in the slightest.)  I certainly wasn’t going to give up the minute I felt tired or it became difficult to make good on what I’d promised to do. After all, I’d offered my hospitality, and it would be bad form to change my mind this early on. Besides, I could not imagine a fian backing out of a difficult task, and although I wasn’t a fian myself, I was in some sort of relation important to them or they wouldn’t have included me in the first place. So, I decided to keep learning from the experience, be grateful that I got to meet so many people, and keep up my practice of casting circles around me if I wanted the kind of privacy which would render me truly invisible.


On this particular Friday, I was frazzled not just because I’d been entertaining somewhere between fifty and a hundred people, but because it had been the kind of week where I was running into all sorts of obstacles due to my disability. This is a sighted world, and often it isn’t made for me, or at least that’s how it feels. I’d spent hours trying to make the correct formatting on a single poem on the blog. I was trying to finish an a cappella album of music, and as if attempting to record it whenever neither the refrigerator nor the Amtrak trains were running wasn’t enough, I also could only get Audacity to work with sighted assistance. The person I paid to be my assistant was ill and couldn’t show up, which meant I spent five hours that Wednesday including transit and wait time going to shop alone to Trader Joe’s, rather than the mere hour and a half it would have taken with a sighted guide with a car. For all the negative impact cars have on the environment and the planet, the freedom they offer is often taken for granted by those who have them and longed for by those who don’t. Someone without a car, whether sighted or blind, simply has fewer options in the world as to where to travel, and how much to get done in one day.  And ordinary activities such as meeting a good friend for lunch or doing something spontaneous must always be weighed against the hours and hours of transit time and the meticulous planning involved.


Being blind confounds these limitations, and adds more to the growing list. When the bus driver forgets to announce my stop in an area with which I am unfamiliar, I not only have to walk an extra five or so blocks but also, usually, get lost. It’s way too easy to be late somewhere because the bus is late, there’s construction, or a light has stopped working. Sometimes buses pull up in the middle of the street, and I miss them as I don’t even know they’re there. Sometimes four or five buses pull up at a stop at once, and it’s necessary to literally run from one to the other and back asking each driver the name of the bus and hoping, if that’s not the right one, that I can find the right one before it leaves. In other words, it gets very complicated, very quickly.


It was that kind of week, one with which I am all too familiar, in which I was being told or shown, implicitly or explicitly, that I would have to miraculously reattach my retinas if I ever wanted to participate in the kind of living the world had to offer me. The alternative would be to completely adjust my own expectations and goals, so that they fit the limitations the world was prescribing for me, and I of course found such an option intolerable. Yet the problem really did seem to be that I did have expectations and standards, and it was not just the world that didn’t measure up to them: I did not meet my own expectations either.


Given all this, when I installed a new version of Audacity onto my computer and the sound was suddenly muted, rendering every capability it had useless to me, I lost it. A muted computer means I can’t work on anything. It’s akin to having your hard drive go out, and every project you’re working on is suddenly gone. The difference, to my mind it seemed, was that whereas the problem with a hard drive is internal to the computer, the problem with muting was internal to myself. If I could only see, nothing would have been amiss for more than a few seconds. Retrospectively, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time feeling sorry for myself: but that is what happened.


I did have the wherewithal at this point to get out of the house. I decided to take a walk down by the bay at Aquatic Park, hang out with nature (the great equalizer of all beings) and soak up some sunshine. Perhaps the light outside me would blaze out the darkness that was threatening to swamp the space within me, threatening to convince me I was actually worth nothing despite appearances, and that giving up my expectations entirely was the only option. Somewhat miserably I made my way across the Amtrak tracks at breakneck speed as to not be caught on them if the bell went off, and wound my way more slowly down the cracked tree-rooted sidewalk to the path by the bay.


The bay at Aquatic Park is actually a lake. Building up the area had caused some of the bay to be cut off from the rest by filled land (not landfill, but legitimate land that was used to displace the water.) It’s an incredibly difficult challenge to stay angry while birds are calling, ducks are splashing about and quacking, children are shrieking on a playground, and trees are rustling in the wind. I decided it wasn’t a challenge worth taking, so I let go of the anger. The anger of course was more with myself than at any one in particular, and the more I lost myself in the surrounding world I love to which I’ve always belonged, the world of earth and wind, water and trees, laughter and song, I forgot the meaningless chatter of the world of illusion that humans have constructed which had never been able, let alone ever had the intention, to adopt me.


I was now no longer angry, but disheartened and sad. I felt sad because so much of my life in this world is spent alone in isolation, partly due to my disability, and partly due to one of the occupational hazards of being a philosopher. Sad because many people are so afraid of blindness that they would rather exclude me than ever consider whether there would be value in getting to know me. Sad because this manifest world often shuts me out, and I am not the only one who experiences this kind of banishment caused by prejudice and discrimination. As I walked, I thought about how so many people, for varying trivial reasons, from race to ability, gender preference to objectifying standards of appearance, are given the message to find their way elsewhere. There are only a few groups of people for which this world is truly made, but none of those who have been rejected have ever thought to band together, to find commonalities among their differences, including the fact of their differences, and create the communities they long for. (More on that later.)


I thought about how I was sad because most of my ways of belonging rarely, if ever, fall within any shared reality I have with others in this world. Some part of me still remembers the world I would have gone to at six months of age if I hadn’t wanted to see what life was like instead. A part of me still recognizes that world as home, and has never adapted to this one. A part of me has always belonged their more than here.  As an adult, I walk both worlds, one foot in each of them, belonging holy to neither, and for that I am a wanderer. In a way, it was no surprise that I wanted to try to create once again somewhere between this world and the next a place where other wanderers like myself are welcome. I’d still like to do that, actually, but not at my house.


As these thoughts went streaming as they always do through my head, I continued walking through the park, watching the motion of the water, feeling the branches of trees waving over my head, and noticing all the people who were also walking out on this beautiful autumn afternoon. That is when I saw Oisin walking toward me, not particularly on the road. I looked up, and our eyes met.   Much passes between people without words. And so it was then, an exchange of all each of us was in that moment, which would have taken embodied humans several days to talk through to the end.


He walked over and took my hand. For a long time we walked in silence this way, I between Allegro and Oisin, connected to both of them. The quiet calm compassion that Oisin has for all living things seemed to wrap around all three of us, and I felt at peace, more at peace than I could remember ever feeling. Any sense that I was less than anyone had simply vanished. Any trace of feeling like a wayward orphan who neither fit in, nor could make sense of the world had vanished also. This was unconditional acceptance, and I knew I was blessed to experience such unconditional belonging while in this world. It is the belonging we all share in the world beyond, and it was not just mine to look forward to, but mine to have, here and now.


Holding hands with an otherworld person is a unique experience. It’s obviously not like holding hands with an embodied person. Unlike human hands, otherworld people’s hands are cold and also obviously lack any density or definition. Though my hand felt cold, it didn’t actually drop in temperature, and it felt almost like it was about to fall asleep without the unpleasantness of actually falling asleep, like there were currents of energy coursing through it. I was fascinated by the experience. Somehow we could reach each other across worlds, world boundaries notwithstanding, as if, I thought, such boundaries were only precursory or nonexistent.


When I’d completely become grounded and he thought I was all right, Oisin let go of my hand and started walking a bit ahead of me, now actually following the road. I smiled at that. In order to hold my hand, I realized, he’d had to walk through the reeds and other plant life lining the path down to the water, and at some points he would have been actually walking in (on?) the water. I was impressed, though I suppose it made no difference where he was concerned. No embodied person could have pulled that off. There were advantages being an otherworld person, I mused, even if you can no longer enjoy manifest world food.


We’d been walking together for a few minutes more when a thought occurred to me, one which I admit I’d never before considered. The thought was this. Here I was, walking with Oisin, and he not only was from another world but had lived long, long ago. Surely he’d know things I never would have imagined, and I hadn’t thought to ask him any questions. I could ask, I realized, any question I wanted, though I might not get an answer to every question I could ask.


For a moment I thought hard about what kind of question I’d ask such a one. Perhaps not a question about his, or even our, past, I decided. I did have endless questions about the past, but felt that any answer to such questions would be information only, and I wanted to ask something of more permanence than mere information.   I realized too that like most people he wouldn’t be able to answer a question about the future, mine or his. I wanted to ask an experiential, not just factual question. One that could transcend languages and time, cultures and conceptions of the good. I already knew we had some philosophical disagreements, and wanted to avoid them at the moment.


When I’d finally settled on a question, I asked it in pictures. “Oisin,” I asked, “Can I see the world through your eyes? Can I experience the world as you experience it?”

Extraordinary House Guests _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 6

It was after five when I came home. Like usual, I fed the dog, put on a pot to boil water for dinner, and checked my email all without turning on a single light switch. (Its a great way to conserve energy for anyone interested– at least I think so.) I put on the Clannad Pandora station and sat down for a quiet dinner alone. Allegro had just come from snoring on his fleecy mat to wander pensively into the living room. I turned my head. And that was when I realized I was not alone after all.

I blinked. Two otherworld people were sitting on my couch, slightly in awe of the plush furniture, pretending they were not staring. I noticed anyway. I can never feign indifference on them, but fortunately it works in the other direction as well. To this day I do not know their names. My dinner was on the table, so I returned to a decisively manifest world activity which I had already realized I would have to enjoy while I could. Otherworld people can’t eat, and sometimes they glance longingly at whatever I’m happily consuming, unable to relive the experience themselves.

After dinner I ran around the living room with Allegro, throwing his hedgehog for him to fetch. His nails clacked and skidded along the hard flooring as he repeatedly failed to get traction. Fur flying, tail wagging, he ran around and around in a seemingly tireless frenzy and I mused that perhaps he was in the mood to see who would tire first, and that he bet it would be me. Fifteen minutes into it, however, he suddenly stopped moving so quickly. By this point, I was letting the loud music drown out the increasing amount of noise being made by all.

Besides the hedgehog squeaker “with its original grunter sound” per the apt description from the manufacturers, nails clicking, and the occasional bark, I was taking full advantage of my opportunity to run like a maimed leap frog and holler and yell for purely legitimate and nondestructive reasons. I mean, if I wanted to change careers and do something excellent for the blind, I’d devise an accessible adapted version of caber tossing or Hurley. The psychology of the human need to be inexplicably and spontaneously loud is poorly underdeveloped. (The interplay of Hurley and the human urge to holler and throw things in a perfectly acceptable manner would be a great thesis topic. It would even lend itself to a horribly punny title such as “The Interplay of Personality and Play: The Role of Hollering Loudly in Both Hurley and the Expression of Human Nature,” but I digress.)

So, Allegro slowed down, and then stopped chasing the hedgehog altogether. I, however, only partially paid attention to him and so continued to run… right into an otherworld person. The only plus side to this kind of collision is that it doesn’t hurt anyone involved. It still requires a great deal of awkward extrication and apologies especially as it’s possible to partially run through, rather than hit and bounce off of, a being made of energy: and I still felt the need to not let on about just how startled I was while offering muttered sheepish explanations as to why on earth I was leaping around like an idiot and loudly stating incoherent noises like “eishtay!” which means nothing at all (Allegro doesn’t care if it makes sense, right?) This otherworld person was already vanishing when I finally got to look at him, and I can’t blame him for that. I only got to see his shadow, and nothing more.

When I made it into the kitchen to retrieve the hedgehog, I saw yet another otherworld person. His presence so close to the hedgehog explained why Allegro hadn’t gone to fetch it. I added this to my list of reasons why my guide dog is wiser than I am.

I managed to avoid a collision and was ready with a bit more politeness this time. “Hello,” I said, “Nice to meet you.” Then I thought for a moment about what, exactly, might be needed regarding otherworld hospitality. Was this person going to stay here, or not? Showing him around, giving him a cup of water, asking him to sit, getting some blankets and fixing a meal if he had traveled a long way and was hungry… these are things that otherworld people simply do not need. Finally I asked the only polite question I could think of, “Do you like this style of music? Is it too loud? I can turn it down if you want.” At least he could hear and enjoy the music, I thought.

The person, whose name I still don’t know, would have laughed with me if he could. He sent me a picture which indicated, “I spent my whole life listening to Celtic music. Of course I like it. You should play it as loud as you want to, it doesn’t bother me either way.”

Satisfied that I had made this person as comfortable as possible, I tried asking his name, but like most people I would meet he had either forgotten his name or tried sending it to me spelled out in Irish which failed miserably. So I shrugged apologetically and indicated that I needed to clean up the kitchen and start winding down for the night. He stuck around, but visibly vanished so that I no longer saw him. Otherworld people have that ability, I’d come to understand. It takes quite a bit of energy for me, and them, to project and see images and so often they are in their more natural invisible state, though still present.

When I turned off the music and was preparing for bed, I had yet another quandary to consider. There were at least four people hanging around my place. I couldn’t tell if they were the same as before, or another group of four passing through. Although I was sure I’d see a few women, it was statistically more likely I’d see men instead, and so far that was the case. I had realized, slowly, somewhere in the midst of the evening, that I was seeing fianna members who were passing through on their way to wherever they were headed, which I told Caoilte would be fine with me. However, there was a person hanging out in my room, and I needed to change into some pajamas. Ah, details and the minutia of everyday living.

“Um, hey,” I asked wondering when I’d stop feeling awkward, “This is my room and I need it to myself. Could you go hang out in the living room over there instead?” I pointed right, out the door, mulling over whether I had insulted his intelligence by pointing or whether I ought to assume that a person who lived in Ireland 1800 years ago wouldn’t know English, or whether it mattered in the slightest. I’d forgotten he wasn’t embodied and voiced the request aloud.

He was saying in sign, “That’s fine, I understand,” and disappeared. I sighed with relief.

But now, I wondered, should I close the door? If I’d had five or so physically embodied people over, I would have certainly closed the door as well as kindly kicked them out of my room. But this was my space, and I lived here alone… did I really? I thought so, two days ago. I thought about how I had to keep the bathroom door open for years, even when I was occupying it, because whenever I closed the door my cat would meow with ear-piercing angst and scratch off paint on the wood with her perfectly positioned predator’s claws. Darn it all if I was going to start closing the door and acting like I had roommates when I’d chosen to live by myself for a reason, and anyway these weren’t the sort of roommates anyone else would notice. It was around this time that I flashed on the memory that, while they were alive, the fianna were quite used to living with and around large numbers of people. Privacy, especially in the individually-boxed-and-packaged way we’re used to experiencing it now, was a luxury they may have never known. They’d already know how to meticulously respect people’s boundaries and occupy themselves elsewhere if anyone needed time alone.

First and foremost, I decided that as a flesh and blood person of this century, I had a right to have priority over what boundaries we’d set. Unlike the others, I was decidedly not used to living with cohorts of five people, especially if their members were constantly changing, and even if they were consciously showing up in groups that were much smaller than the nine to twelve who usually stayed together. I was, admittedly, very grateful for their thoughtfulness on that point. Second, I’d take the opportunity to see how my house companions handled the situation. As a rule I don’t tend to trust people simply on the basis of affiliation, though with Oisín and Caoilte as their friends I already trusted them more than most. Even so, it was imperative to me to be sure they would respect the boundaries I had. As it happened, I very peacefully spent the night without any visitors venturing into my room, though there were a few more groups who came through the other room unseen during the night. They didn’t bother me.

The next day was quite similar to the first as far as sharing it with my otherworld companions was concerned. To be honest, after a week or so, I lost count of how many people I saw and I stopped feeling like I had to somehow entertain them all. But, on day 2, I was still constantly looking around to see if anyone else had arrived. Whenever I came home from an appointment or from an outing with my seed group, I opened my front door more slowly than usual to make sure it wouldn’t hit anyone and peered around to see whether or not the place was empty.

That night, after bringing home my take out order of fish and chips, an otherworld person sat across from me at the table. He was one of the ones who couldn’t help staring wistfully at my meal. I felt bad that he wouldn’t be able to eat it, and that I couldn’t offer to share it. I attempted to let him in on how it tasted by sending a picture of what it tasted like. Just in case you want to try it, it’s nearly impossible to turn taste into a visual image, but especially when you can’t see.

I’d changed up the music on Pandora and was now listening to country (don’t hate me.) I hadn’t listened to country music in a long time, and it was making me want to get up and dance. I hadn’t moved much that day, and I often feel like a day without much movement is a day in which I’m slowly dying.

My dinner guest had vanished, and I looked around self-consciously at the room for signs of life. Other than Allegro’s ever-present, easy-going, joyful spirit that always fills my surroundings, I was surprised to see no one. I ran over to the sliding glass door and closed the blinds. Now, if I look like a fool trying to run, I look like an even greater fool trying to dance. I either bob around aimlessly (but in rhythm!) or move so fast against the beat that I’d fall over if I stopped unexpectedly. I wasn’t sure whether I could control whether an otherworld person saw me dance, but I wasn’t about to take the risk of some actual world person having a glimpse at me through the window. I wondered briefly what people who lived in the second century would think about country music. Should I only play music they like while they are here? How long would they be here? How many are they anyway? Would I ever meet a woman among them? These were the questions that flitted through my mind as I stood in front of the stereo, unsure how to proceed, once again a bit overwhelmed and baffled by all I was experiencing.

Then, I deliberately forgot about otherworld goings-on altogether, and threw myself into enjoying the moment, in this time, in this world. I reveled in still being able to take up space in the most uncoordinated of fashions, able to mercilessly sing along (loudly) with the songs whose words I knew, able to stomp and clap my hands and turn my head and grab a very excited Allegro’s two front paws and whirl around with my surprised canine dance partner. Grateful that I was still able to laugh at myself and listen to the simplistic lyrical babble about love and staying out too late and blue jeans and motorbikes and teenagers sneaking out together, and homes that families owned for generations, and hot sticky summer afternoons, and katydids, and honeysuckles, and learning what it takes to grow up, and the sorrow of having to say goodbye, and the exquisite unconditional outpouring of joy on holding your newborn child for the first time. In a nut shell, what it is to be and live human.

We all have our place and time in the world, but this is the time and the world that is mine. I danced, my hands forming the meanings of the words, unconsciously weaving the words of energy and motion into the descriptions of the here and now. If others danced with me, I never knew, but by the end of it I would have welcomed them to join in in whatever their way might be.

In My Own Voice _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 5

 To all who have been following this thread, I think it is time that I speak in my own voice.  I fictionalized my experiences because I believed I would reach a wider group of people, and because I felt I needed extra protection against the few people out there who could make my life difficult if they found out who I really am.  I have thought long on it and decided that making these experiences my own, which they are, is an essential way to live by my own values.  Being true to myself is much more important than saving myself from trouble that most likely will not happen.  Also quite practically, the experiences I wish to tell of that follow don’t make as much sense if I had them happen to a sighted character.  If people really like my character I can certainly write some interesting stories about her that did not actually happen, and because I’d be making it all up, I could make her life much more interesting.

Sláinte Mhór,

Eilish Niamh


November 21, 2013


The wind is howling tonight.  I can hear the leaves scraping in frenzy several stories down beneath my bedroom window.  The wind tosses an aluminum can around the courtyard.  It’s dull clunk against the pavement resounds hollow, a drone against which the mournful, swirling air eerily harmonizes.  The wind is an entity to be reckoned with:  a feral cat stalking the sky, a fierce wolf yelping for her children, a creature all of itself born of the freedom fog which crouches, which watches, which waits.  I hear it’s keening, and I silently keep vigil with That Which Watches.  It is a vigil I do not remember entering into, but I am fully present with it now.


The wind mirrors the wild turbulent waves—of air or water it would be hard to guess—that spill over, overflow, break relentlessly on the threshold of body and soul, my body, my soul.  I do not live in a still and placid time.  And yet—and yet the tide, it has turned.  It has already turned and returned and is charting a new course in turn.  And though the wind gusts and forces trees to bend with it, plasters my hair against my face when I go out to relieve the dog, speaks of ghosts and the secrets of landscapes and hums with the expectant chatter of the seekers of possibility, it seems important to pause and reflect that, when the tide turned, there was not a sound. 


Silence is the greatest teacher.  At the heart of every person is a profound, poignant, persistent, passionate, peaceful, and present silence.  It is the place to which we first and foremost belong.  I have come home to that silence.  But as with all things, every place of solitude and stillness contains the door through which we step to belong to everyone and everything else that is.


Yesterday I met over a hundred, you the first fianna of Éire.  I looked into each of your eyes, I put my hand in your hands.  You looked into my eyes and there were no uncharted spaces.  From the depths of my soul, or perhaps just of soul, beyond my ken here and now, I called you.  I dedicated my life to actualizing, no longer running from, the wild heart that beats so assuredly within myself. 


I answered your call,  I leapt to standing, to stand, and I sobbed, I sobbed in grief for what is forgotten.  I sobbed in joy because much is not forgotten.  I called those I know by name and all the many whose names I know not.  Separation is a myth, an illusion.  What is, is.  I am, I am, and we are. 


You walked past me in twos, and placed your hands under my own.  I could feel your shadows pass me by.  I knew the ones who stood arm and arm with me, and lingered longest.  My hands radiated with the energy of the collisions of worlds.  We heard each other, we understood each other, and the stillness, the silence, it spoke for itself.  Words were unnecessary and cluttered and did not happen, and even now I struggle to find words to express how, though I am more myself than ever before, I will never, ever be the same.


I am convinced I recognized you, that I feel I know you, like my own brothers and sisters, like I will know my own children.  I recognized within myself that same wise and wild, empathic and enfolding, passionate and peaceful, ferocity of being, that willingness to face and accept the dangers of growing, that we all share, if only we would dare acknowledge it is there.  I shouted Is Mise Eilish Niamh, and I shouted the truth against the world, and in this world and the next I keep the principles you hold dear, for they have always been mine also. 


And now I have looked up from writing, from wading through these mere mirages of meaning, words, that do not do justice to experience.  Caoilte is standing here, he who so often walks between worlds.


“You already know this, but we wanted to remind you not to imitate any of us,” he says.  “You must be fully who you are, yourself.  This is what will serve you well, and be well with us.” (I know I really need such reminding as it is taking me a while to fully believe the truth of it, that I am enough.)  Caoilte continues, “There is still hope for our future.  Not as many listen now, but the song that you can share to leap it’s way into the world will be better heard in these times when the hills sing to no one.  You are welcome with us.” 

He says this not in audible words, but in gesture, as if he embodied the words.  As if words were motions that could be danced gracefully, full of the depth that gets lost in their telling.


And I say, though it is perhaps inadequate, “Thank you.”  Actually I do more than say.  I make the gestures, the signs of gratitude, in the language of the other world.  Motion that is almost dancing.  I have watched how those of the other world turn the raw threads of a universe in which nothing is at rest into beautiful patterns imbued with meaning.  I learned at least how to dance “thank you.”  And so, a bit less gracefully, I embody the gratitude I wish to convey and it is more powerful than mere words could ever be.


Then I reflect for a moment and add, “You are welcome here, too, always welcome here Caoilte, son of Ronan so long ago, different and the same.  You and the others are welcome to come through here on your way to wherever you are going.  I know what it is like to not have a home of your own, to be a wanderer.  Though you belong now to another world, your people are welcome here with you, so that you know there is a place in the manifest world which you can call home despite the when or where of it.” 


I truly empathize with that displaced feeling that must come with having no permanent place to call your own.  In the desert, I was like a nomad as well, and thanked the gods everyday that I finally found a place that was mine, that I landed somewhere.  I am simply so excited to get on with the rest of all that will happen, to throw myself into a beginning, learn and be all I can, grow even if it’s difficult, that offering my hospitality seems like the least I can do to give back in kind… and I’d do it anyway, I know.


Caoilte shrugs.  “It is yours to give and that we gratefully accept.”  (Now I am unsure whether he looked amused, or took me completely at my word.  I was definitely clueless about what I had just signed up for.)


Then I am alone again.  Then I sit staring at the wall, listening to the wind shake the night into a restless awareness of itself, but I am somewhere else.  The wind continues it’s tearing apart, but now at dusk, the new day is in it’s infancy, and I am peering out at a world that is impossible to see as torn apart.  It’s a world within which I eternally and intricately belong.  A world to which I know now, I have always belonged. 


I think, I used to not know a thing about being grateful, not until everything that has happened these last few months.  When I look within, no divisions remain.  I am not just grateful, I am at peace.  I am not just in unfathomable awe and wonder at how I live, literally, with, for, by, because of others.  But I stand in amazement by the side of my own hearth fire, knowing it is my own self worth and acceptance that made any of this possible. Being myself, fully, utterly, unapologetically and so much much more than what I ever could be, beyond myself, more, because separation is a lie, everything is part of the pattern, the endless knot woven whole out of all that is, this is the truth against the world.  The world discovers dualities, dichotomies, schisms and distinctions, categories and opposites.  I not only believe or think, but know, have seen, witnessed, been present with and aware of all otherwise.  It is.


One Among Many _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 4

Aoife slumped onto the hard wooden floor of her apartment living room.  Her eyes were threatening to spill over with tears.  She was not crying for herself, but for a local person named Robin who had almost died.  A teenager had stabbed Robin, who looked like a boy, because Robin was wearing a skirt in public.  Onlookers had done nothing, save one who finally called the police and helped take the twelve year old to the hospital.  Robin identified as asexual, neither male nor female, and while Robin’s parents were very supportive, obviously not everyone was.  Robin’s assailant found the child’s choices unacceptable enough to attempt murder over it.  Of course Robin was not the only one to be a victim of hatred and prejudice, only supremely lucky to have not joined the statistics of the dead.


Today, there had been a service to raise awareness of the need to accept and tolerate everyone whose body (by choice or no) failed to meet the relentlessly insidious cultural mandate for external normalization.  In other words, it brought awareness to just how pervasively normal it was to reject, shun, or make invisible anyone whose body did not conform appropriately to the mainstream standards of gender, beauty, wholeness, or ability.  Aoife had been more than moved by what she witnessed.


As a child, Aoife had spent countless school recesses isolated and alone.  Her peers did everything they could to stay as far away from her as possible.  She had all five senses, two arms and two legs, and could walk, but her accident at age two had done a bit more damage than simply make certain tasks harder for her to accomplish.  It had also disfigured her face at a time when facial reconstruction had not even reached its infancy.  Her school peers wouldn’t let her forget how different she was.  Isolation was better than outright bullying, she was often told as an adult (if the subject ever came up.)  But Aoife’s struggles to fit in as a child served to attune her particularly to the pain and anguish felt by all those who experience ostracism, exclusion, prejudice, or sometimes even contempt and hatred.

As she sat listening to people tell story after story of discrimination and loss, pieces of a puzzle she had not even been aware of, whose formation had been long in the making, all fell into place.  The stories all had different content, but it was clear to Aoife that the structure of the stories, the why and to whom of them, was eerily similar. 


There was a  mother who lost her baby after a care giver shook her for daring to cry.  There was an elderly woman who’s first husband died for the color of his skin.  There was a woman who told of an intersexed child who committed suicide after her family disowned her when she told them that she identified with the gender they had not picked for her at birth.  A widow of one of two conjoined twins related the deaths of her husband and his brother at the hands of a religious zealot who felt that witnessing another couple’s intimate moments, something the conjoined twins had to do by necessity,  was a punishable mortal sin.  There was a young man who told of how his sister had overdosed on meds after enduring relentless threats and bullying on Facebook.  People told stories of being denied housing and jobs due to disabilities, and of friends who were killed because they were transgendered, or gay.  They sang their stories.  They danced their stories.  And through song and dance, young and old alike wove a tapestry of sorrow sewn with the seeds of ignorance, discrimination, and fear.  Aoife saw the patterns of thread common to them all: the systematic rendering of unusual embodiment as defective or deviant.  She saw   souls shatter for their appearance, recognized the silencing of those who dared speak the truths of difference. 


She allowed herself to surrender to the grief, having as she did permission from the others around her who were equally affected.  She ached with empathy, full of a despair that threatened to overwhelm her spirit.  More than these, however, was the overpowering need to act.  The need consumed her, hummed within her just below the murmur of her blood, seeped into the marrow of her bones, called out to her like a lost and wailing child.  We are all the same, came the cry from where inside herself she did not know.   We are all connected.  If one is not accepted, none can take solace anywhere. 


The discrimination faced by those with disabilities was not specific to a group, not different in kind from racism or sexism or homophobia.  The destructive messages to young girls in magazines were not teen issues but human issues.  Working for the rights of some while continuing to discriminate against women, look down on people from different classes, dispise a religious group, or fail to respect children continued to create the illusion that interdependence was less than a law of nature.  More than ever before, Aoife believed, she felt, she knew that separation was a lie.  It occurred to her that if our fears, prejudices, isolation, ostracism, and rejection were so interrelated, surely our belonging, tolerance, acceptance, curiosity, thoughtfulness, and respect were just as inextricably linked.  The world in which she lived was an interwoven world, one in which every sound, every action, every person altered everything around her simply by living.  The pattern had always been there, she realized.  It was the change in her which allowed her to see it now.


Aoife had not spent the entire past month living in such emotional intensity.  She had gone to today’s event with a friend, a friend she hadn’t known a month before.  She had met Ashlee at the first meeting of the druid seed group she’d attended.  It was a group of women who would become her second family.  Ashlee also had an ability to see and speak to otherworld people, and the two hit it off immediately.  Before the meeting was over, they had already set a date for coffee.


After ordering a hot chocolate and an espresso respectively at the quaint local Starbucks, Aoife and Ashlee began a lively discussion of their families, childhoods, life goals, and professional lives.  Finally they turned to a discussion about otherworld beings, how they saw them, and what they were learning.  Ashlee had an affinity with Sequoia trees and often had such long, patient, enduring conversations as those which are characteristic of trees:   The kind that unfold and enfold, rather than trip on words or hasten to a conclusion.  She could speak to the spirits that inhabited a place—a river for instance—and learn from them just how much damage human pollution was causing the water and the animals depending on it.  Sometimes when she closed her eyes, Ashlee could see the stars as if the milky way was imprinted right there on her eyelids.  She knew the memories of roads, the history and origins of wooden decks.  She knew what it was like for a bridge to feel the sway of a fierce wind, and that even the mountains could breathe. 


Aoife was entranced by her new friend’s recounting of all this, and felt wonder at the awesome and breathtaking experiences given to her.  Finally Ashlee asked Aoife about her experiences.  Aoife began with the faery folk she had seen as a child, the small noble people who danced in clearings and glades, lit the trees at twilight, and sparkled like jewels in the creek that meandered through the woods.  She told of meeting Athena who had taught her that wisdom and weaving were one and the same.  “Everything is interconnected.  Those who believe otherwise, are not wise.  Wisdom is knowing the difference between that which is part of everything else, which simply is, and that which appears separate which never was.” Athena had instructed.  Aoife lost count of how many times she needed to be reminded of these words.  And then she told of coming home after her time wandering the desert, and how she had met Oisin and Caoilte.


“That’s incredible,” Ashlee said a bit wide-eyed.  “So Caoilte taught you to stand tall, and then offered to run with you.  Did you get to run with him yet?”


“Oh yes, we ran together twice now,” Aoife said with a smile in her eyes.

“And…” Ashlee asked expectantly. 


“Well, I suck at running, so Caoilte ran super slow, slow for him that is, so I could keep up.  We ran out on one of the trails through the woods, up a hill and then down near a creek on the other side.  It was a very beautiful part of the woods, but I was too busy trying to breathe to pay attention.  I held out for about five minutes before feeling like I would pass out.”


The two friends laughed at the image.  “You don’t look out of shape,” Ashlee offered helpfully.


“By some standards I’m not, but the last time I ran any distance, I was ten years old.” Aoife explained.  “Fortunately Caoilte took pity on me and we walked the rest of the trail, and if he thought anything about my less than meager running ability he never said anything.  When I suggested that next time we run a much steeper path with lots of exposed tree roots zigzagging across it (because I still felt like I should attempt to meet a good challenge,) he cautioned that it would be highly impractical.”


“Well he definitely sounds sensible to me.  I certainly wouldn’t be able to run that trail, I know the one you mean,” Ashlee replied thoughtfully. “So where did you go on the second run?”


“The next week we ran the same easier trail again, except that this time Caoilte tried giving me some tips on how to move while running—how to land on my feet differently than if I was just walking, how to move my arms in rhythm with my steps more parallel to the ground than at my sides, that sort of thing.  I valiantly tried, but the suggestions only had the effect of making me look like a renegade puppet in desperate need of outside intervention.  I couldn’t make any of my movements flow naturally so I kind of just bobbed around with aimless exertions of effort.  Caoilte and I both laughed at the absurdity of the situation then, and he was quick to assure me that it really didn’t matter because the whole thing was just supposed to be for fun, which it was.  We walked for a while before I turned to him and asked a question I had been pondering for a while.  My curiosity could no longer be ignored.  I asked him whether there were more modern people who had, after death, joined with those fianna who became guides.”


Ashlee listened intently.  She was fascinated by her new friend’s ability to talk so candidly with otherworld folk as if they might have belonged to this world, still.  “You mean there might be people throughout all the generations after the fianna lived who would want to take up with them after they died?”


“Well, not exactly,” Aoife admitted.  Caoilte made it clear that no one was actually a member of the fianna, the way they might have been in the second century.  In the other world, such hierarchies and class distinctions were meaningless and nonexistent.  He had explained this after once again changing expression from curious to serious in that characteristic way of his.  Aoife said, “Caoilte shared that yes there are many people who become guides, and a few who not only dedicate themselves to assisting others in the manifest world once they cross over into the other world, but also take as their own the three values that we live by: the truth in our hearts, the strength in our hands, and fulfillment on our tongues.  And then of course he added that the whole thing was phrased slightly differently in the otherworld where nobody actually had tongues or hands and the notion wouldn’t make sense.  He has this way of being solemn without taking himself or others too seriously, you know.  He went on to point out that such an otherworld arrangement made it possible for people who had been any age or gender in life to be counted with them, one among many, and made a point to assure me that the otherworld was all about equal opportunity.”


Ashlee laughed at that.  “Seems like people continue to learn and grow, even after their time here is over.”


“Absolutely,” Aoife agreed smiling as well.  “I don’t think I ever mentioned myself in any of this, but here is the rest of what Caoilte told me.  He said, ‘just because Oisin and I sought you out doesn’t mean you have any obligation to join us.  We never compel anyone to do anything.  We are all free persons, and how you choose to live, whether or not you want to be counted with us, it is entirely up to you.  We’ll keep sharing what we know with you whether you are one of our own or not’.”


When Caoilte said this, Aoife had been full of gratitude and great respect.  Here was this person who, perhaps for the first time in her short life, was showing her at that very moment the meaning of unconditional acceptance.  She had never had such acceptance from her family.  For sure, they loved her, but their love always had strings attached.  She was lovable if she did what her mother wanted, accepted by her father only when she could pass as normal.  If she ever disagreed with her mother and stood her ground, there would be hell to pay.  If she ever failed her father’s lofty expectations of her, he would withdraw affection—subtly, in ways that were noticeable only to Aoife and imperceptible to the outside world of casual observers and acquaintances.  Aoife did not like to think ill of the dead, but her relationship with her parents had been difficult, fraught with mixed messages, guilt trips, expectations that she alone could fill any number of their bottomless needs, or give them the belief in themselves they sorely found lacking within.  Here was someone she hardly knew, letting her know in no uncertain terms that she wouldn’t be expected to put on some kind of performance, pass a test, prove herself, twist herself into a pretzel, act a certain way, be a certain way in order to gain acceptance and belonging.  It was difficult, but once again Aoife found herself forced to believe Caoilte and trust this knew and strange thing, unconditional acceptance, since he wouldn’t have said something he didn’t mean.


“Was that something you were thinking about?” Ashlee was asking.


“Was what something I was thinking about?” Admittedly, Aoife’s mouth had been speaking, but her mind was busy sorting through connections, making observations, presenting her with scenes and pictures and possibilities, and she forgot what she was specifically talking about.


“You know, joining them,” Ashlee said matter-of-factly.


Aoife felt oddly threatened by the question so she said curtly, “No of course not.  I’m a druid.  The fianna are warriors, and I have chosen a path of peace.  Besides, I’m not dead.”


But long after she left the coffee shop, as one week ran into the next, she wasn’t so sure that being a physically embodied druid and living the truth against the world were at all mutually exclusive.  In fact, a voice she was too frightened to acknowledge was whispering in her inner ear, when it came to the three principles the fianna lived by, it was very, very possible that she was already living by them herself.  She certainly did not have to be dead in order to better align her life with values she already personally held dear.  She was no fighter, but then if the otherworld was as interdependent as she felt it ought to be, physical fighting was right out anyway.  Still, she hated danger and didn’t care to be physically injured or thrown in jail.  She avoided protests like she stayed clear of spiders. If she were ever asked to do something like that, she would never make good on it.


All of this was true and yet… and yet hadn’t she been a child advocate since she was three years old?  Hadn’t she  spent years speaking out around the country for those who could not raise their own voices?  Didn’t she unhesitatingly give what she could to whoever was less fortunate to herself?  She simply thought of such things as ordinary and not worth counting in the course of things, but that pesky inner voice continued challenging her to her complete dismay. 


What kept her from running, that very instant, from the thoughts quietly taking up their positions in her mind, those thoughts she wished fervently she could just ignore, was the very fact that nothing at all was expected of her.  If Caoilte and Oisin had promised to protect her, it was done with no expectation that she do anything. It was the same, she mused, when she had wanted to help them as a child.  She had no hidden motives, no  expectations of her own.


And over the next few weeks Aoife pondered another thing that Caoilte had said.  While showing her a running technique during one of their entertaining excursions, he had paused and made an observation which Aoife figured was meant to apply to much more than running.  “It’s okay to emulate someone when doing something knew, everyone has role models,” he’d said, “But never imitate anyone.  If all you do is strive endlessly to be like everyone else, you won’t ever be who you are.”


Now Aoife sat on her floor trembling, thoughts of the day’s discrimination awareness service overcrowding her already frenetically occupied brain.  It was only a matter of minutes until these feelings, these thoughts, the almost futile attempt she had made to integrate all that had happened during the last few weeks, this bewildering suspicion that she was completely over her head, all came crashing together, hurling her out of any last chance of composure.  When shaking and rocking herself like a child who had almost gone unloved wasn’t enough, she jumped up and paced the floor in tears.  When that wasn’t sufficient to express her terrible sadness, her undeterred determination to change what she could, gather the shattered points of light within every last living thing, never mind how absurd that was,  and piece them whole, do what was needed, whatever was needed… she began to shout. 


She was glad of two things then: that she lived alone, and that finally after years and years of silence and her nonconsensual apprenticeship within the confining perfect wall flower guild, she had found her voice again.  Even if her words were merely tones, “aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh” and “Om” and “awen,” it was her voice, and that was what mattered.


Sound slowly turned into words, and words into exclamations.  She stood tall, closed her eyes, and shouted.   “Is Mise Aoife! Is Mise Aoife! Táim anseo.  Táim anseo I gcónaí.  Is Láidir mé.  Is Mise.  Is mise I gcónaí.” (I am Aoife! I am Aoife!  I am here.  I am always here.  I am strong.  I am. I am, always.)


Aoife’s world became sound.  It became moment.  It became one resounding moment.  Rational thought had long since walked out the back gate of her head to take a long leisurely stroll down the path of the familiar.  Aoife was.  She was, always.  What lived in her then was something much older, wiser, eternal, knowing, and unfathomably mysterious.  The kind of ineffable but indomitable spirit that sent logical syllogisms and the tenants of empirical science cowering into old dusty corners, suddenly uncomfortably aware of the limitations of all that is ascertainable and finite.  All Aoife ever was, truly was, emerged like a butterfly breaking out of a cocoon that had become too tight, too small, insignificant.  It has been said that the woman who looked then out of Aoife’s blazing eyes, who stood tall, whose tears were spent, who addressed the world as one who had always known her belonging in it, whose voice pierced the silence that had long overstayed it’s welcome, was a soul as old as the mountains, as vast as the sky, as fragile as flesh and bone, as vulnerable as a two year old in the back seat of an overturned car.  She. Was. Her. Self.


Now, there was a moment, right after the man who had first chanced across the fianna’s cave in that story twice blew the dord fian, the ancient hunting horn of the fianna.  The voice of the man’s soul had called to him a third time in that moment, called him to complete what he had started, told him all that was needed, to blow the horn the third time so that those who had slept for so long could finally awaken, could finally return to themselves.  The man heard but did not listen, knew but was too afraid to understand, and so he fled, never looking back.   He did not look to see what had come of his choice to fear, he did not look to see that he had turned on none other than his own soul, he did not ever dare to face that what he was so deathly afraid of was himself.  The fianna had no need to be awoken, but he had such a need, and for him, at least, it never happened.


Uncertainty, fear, doubt, these things had no place within the woman who stood transformed, transfixed, in the middle of her living room near the coffee table.  She did not need to ask after what she could do.  For she did understand.  She would finish what was started.  She would see the dawning of the three.  When next she spoke, it was only truth she uttered.  When next she spoke, she asked only for what was already hers to claim.


I call you, first among the great fianna of Éire, who fight with deed and song
I call you, you who are eternal in the world beyond the world
I call you to awaken from the depths within us
I am the one who touched the earth with my hands
I am the one who turned my face to the sky and wept for what I had almost been again
I am the one who looked within and wept for not fully being who I am
Blood of my blood and bone of my bone,
I remember you, the clay out of which I am formed belonged to the landscape from whence you came
Out of all I’ve ever been, from time beyond time
From all dormant places locked inside
I call you to arise, rise, rise,
Blaze out from behind our eyes
I, the soul of ages, the spirit that now within myself resides
I will embody that  voice that cries: “I need you, I call you, and it is time.”
I call those I know by name
Those whose lives within our lives remain, I remember.
Those whose lives we never sang, I remember.
Those whose journeys never crossed the white lines of printed page, I commend you.
By star and stone, by earth and sea and sky,
Hear me, hear the three things that I live by
The truth in my heart, the strength in my hands, fulfillment in my words
As a child of the oak I ask to put my hand in your hand and do what is needed
Reach into the recesses of my belonging and cry the truth where most it needs be heard
Answering  foremost as you do to Bríd, whose healing fire shapes and mends you
The source of all divine from which we all were spun
Woven into existence, kindled by the radiance bound not by any world
I stand beside you as a free person, my own unique shining person,
Those whose truth against the world unfurls,
I will serve the cause of justice with you, and live without regret or fear
Be fully, beautifully, exquisitely, wondrously here.
I combine my lot with your own, In this world and the next
For I am, and my song has etched itself into the fabric of all that is
In whatever way I am able, even if right now I do not understand
I will stand, stand with you, and do all I can.



Silence. Stillness.  So silent that Aoife could almost hear the earth turn.  So still that the rhythm of her breath, in and out like the tide, continued only as a vestige of motion.  She had only done what was needed.  She had had no expectations.  What may or may not happen next she hadn’t the foggiest idea.  She felt cold, the kind of cold that came to claim her whenever she expended a vast amount of energy.  She was a bit dazed, stunned even.  She blinked.  A few times.  Besides blinking however, she stood perfectly still.


When they came, they formed two lines, Aoife between them.  She might have said that she looked into their eyes, but it was they who stared unblinking into hers, and they saw, she felt, not just who she was now but all she had ever been.  They sought and found the measure of her name.  She also did not blink, as much as was possible, and to her bewilderment she matched their gazes, she did not flinch or move or look away.  She stood by her words, she stood on the truth she had always known.  Nothing more was needed.  They saw, and she was everything she had said, and more. 


She could not put her hand in theirs, literally.  Having a body where they did not made it a rather complicated matter.  They compensated effortlessly.  She watched in astonishment, profoundly moved, as each put their hands under her own.  She noticed as they passed her how she could not tell their gender or height or glimpse what they wore, or if they carried anything.  They did not come looking like one might have expected.  Such formalities were meaningless to the soul of the world and the pattern of interconnection that they were inextricably a part of, that Aoife was inextricably a part of with them.  As they saw only spirit when they looked at the woman who wished to be one of them, as a druid, oak’s child, so they did not bother with appearances with her and she, too, saw all they had ever been.  In pairs they moved past her.  All she could see were the two walking past at any moment.  All she could feel was the radiant energy that ran like current through her hands as they “held” them, the collisions of two worlds.  She would never know exactly how many passed her, but it seemed to her that at every quarter minute there were two more.  It seemed to her that when she felt surely there would be no others, more others appeared, endlessly.  They did not stop long with her, except for the two who turned, and stood arm and arm with her, looking out with her at the others, and she knew she would have recognized Caoilte and Oisin, even if they had not stood with her the longest.  Later she would learn how she stood there for at least twenty minutes.  Long long after, once her analytic thoughts had reluctantly, begrudgingly returned home to their familiar head, she would calculate that at about two people every fifteen seconds within twenty minutes, she would have met one hundred and fifty people.  The sheer number of them made her head spin.  But it was not how many, but what it felt like to look into their eyes, and be well met by every one, that she would always remember, that everything she ever was would always remember.


Once she was alone again, stillness settled back in around her.  Stillness, and awe, and a sense of joy, like returning home.   She could have been overwhelmed by it all, if she wasn’t also more exhausted than she had ever been in her memory.  Peacefully, gently, she fell asleep and slept for many, many hours.  She would not wake until the sun was halfway to the center of the sky.  She drempt of stillness.  That still bead at the center, that had changed everything.

When Two Worlds Meet: part 1

There was once a young woman named Aoife (pronounced Ee-Fa.)  It is said that her name means radiant beauty and long ago many with her name were strong heroines.  Aoife however did not know this.  She also did not know, or in fact she positively denied that, she was beautiful or strong. 

In 2006, Aoife was accepted into a graduate school in her field.  Although the school was prestigious, it was not a place for her to prosper.  Right before attending the school, both her parents died.  Her younger sister was attending college and her younger brother was out trying to find work in an ever tighter economy.  And so, even while dealing with their own tremendous grief, the three siblings decided the best thing to do was to sell the house and use the money to further their individual futures, whatever they may be.  Though Aoife thought about deferring her graduate program a year to cope with the loss of her mother and father, she also knew there was no home for her to return to.  She would have no place to land while processing her loss and not be faced with the harsh reality of making ends meet.  She would be more secure in the grad program than trying to make it in the “real world” and so she went ahead and attended that fall, feeling more empty and displaced than she ever thought possible.

To her dismay, Aoife found that the landscape of her new surroundings at the school mirrored the raw and barren, thorny, and parched landscape of her heart.  She grew up among cliffs and ocean, and everything she knew and loved was green.  But here, here the sands oozed red like blood, canyons gaped open like mouths fiercely begging for a rain to quench an eon of thirst; here the wind gathered itself and rumbled across the earth like a living animal.  Here,  people promised themselves in strange awkward moments that a scientist somewhere was at that very instant creating a pesticide that would get rid of the vast infestation of dust that took over their houses, floated in films onto their dishware, scurried into their clothing, sifted into their ears and mouths, settled into their souls.  For like the parched clay within Aoife’s heart dried out and hardened from the intense heat of her anger at being alone, and the tumble weeds she allowed to grow over that calm quiet pool where she used to belong to herself, the outer landscape around her was a vast inhospitable desert.  There was no place inside or out to which Aoife belonged.  She was, in the most immediate and eternal sense, a girl from nowhere.  She had no home, and for this reason, through the years at that school, she wandered like a nomad, like one of a lost people yearning for a promised land without the benefit of believing that a god would grant such a place to her.  And as things go, no god would grant her such a place after all.  Still, also as things go, she did not remain deserted in a desert forever for it is always possible to remember that you’ve never ceased belonging to yourself.

This she was able to do, but only after she put down the sickle of anger she used to cut all the new shoots of possibility growing inside her before they ever had a chance to blossom.  She did not find her way out of that desert back to the ocean and the water and the green trees before she unstopped the dam she placed cutting the water off from it’s path, and let a reservoir of tears fall onto the thirsting earth of her bones like the river it once was and needed to be.  It was only then that she came home to herself.

For six years, Aoife wandered the desert, and it was at the end of the sixth year, just before the dawning of year seven, just before her time as a selkie out of water ran out completely, that she moved back to be near her siblings near the ocean and among the trees.  It was there that she grew, and it was there that she healed.

Now before Aoife’s journey into the desert, she had had a gift that most people never have in their lifetime.  Unlike most of us, she could, as a young girl, see the fairy folk who dwell in the hills walking home before dawn as to hopefully not be seen.  She could have long conversations with the small nimble beings who dwelt in and among the branches of trees, and she could speak to guardians of the stones.  She had often walked through the woods when no one else was around and saw the creatures that glowed like fireflies twinkling in the air, or would stand quietly with a passerby from another world, each silently taking in a sunset.  As soon as she left for the desert, this strange and uncanny ability of hers vanished.  Yet it returned when she finally returned.

So it was not surprising to her that, one day just after dinner while she was drying the dishes (for surely, the most extraordinary things occur at the most ordinary times,) she sensed someone behind her patiently waiting to get her attention.  Turning around, Aoife noticed him almost immediately.  He was over six feet five inches, with long curly blond hair, large searching blue eyes that were old, such old and farseeing eyes, and his eyes looked into hers and he saw through her.  In any case, it felt to Aoife like there was nothing those eyes did not see once they searched her own.  He had, she noticed, very strong hands.  He appeared somewhere just before midlife in age, if age indeed mattered at all in the world beyond the land of the living.  He was wearing clothes that appeared handmade, and he wore a very large belt with a sheathed sword hanging from it, and carried a shield with a pattern on it that Aoife couldn’t place, though she did notice that there wasn’t a single straight line.  Between the way he looked and was dressed and the things he carried, she could tell he was of Celtic origin but beyond that she had no idea.  She wondered briefly if there had been any soldiers in the generation or so before her grandmother was born.  Her grandmother told her how her family had lived in Ireland for centuries, before times became too hard and she and her mother and brother emigrated to America.

The person who had suddenly materialized in her kitchen didn’t seem to have any issue to fight over with her, for which she was seriously grateful.  He seemed friendly and kind, if gravely contemplative, and certainly formidable.  Aoife mused for a moment that it was extremely lucky of her not to be an enemy of his.  She found it hard to actually make eye contact, but decided it would be less of her not to and so she had.  For a while they merely looked at one another, and then not sure what to do Aoife turned to finish scrubbing the pot in the sink.  Cautiously she peered around a few minutes later to see if he was still there, but she saw only the tiled counter that served to divide the kitchen from the rest of the one bedroom apartment.  .

For the next few weeks, the stranger began stopping in to talk with her or check up on her, exactly which Aoife couldn’t always tell.  Although the stranger didn’t share his name with her, she began having conversations with him.  Not surprisingly to Aoife, she learned he had been a great warrior in life.  Besides this, however, she also found out that he loved poetry and music, valued all the simple day to day things that made living interesting and meaningful, said much in few words, was very solemn and serious, loved nature and all the places that were wild and especially those undefined places where boundaries are crossed between land and water, tree roots and dirt, where fog ended and clarity began.  Sometimes they walked out in the woods together, and he would smile at children as if they were his own.  Aoife wondered if he had children.  He also would often appear wearing different outfits from the time before, and lately only wore wool clothing, carrying nothing with him. 

Finally one day while they sat together on a hill watching the sunset she asked him who he was.  She considered this otherworldly person to be her friend, however strangely they met, and indeed she had one more friend in the otherworld than in this one.  Aoife still had her siblings to talk to, but still hadn’t made too many friends.  The man smiled and agreed that that was a good question to ask, and admitted he had completely forgotten to mention it since he had been alive more than 1500 years ago and who he actually was versus what people thought he should be were not the same.  “Names are important,” he said, “But they’re more than a hindrance than a help when it turns out you’ve heard of the person before and what you heard isn’t very accurate.”  And with that, before disappearing, he instructed Aoife to wait there a moment, as there was someone else he also wanted her to meet and they could introduce themselves together. 

So, somewhat baffled, Aoife stood on the hill staring out at the night sky with nothing around her but the wind and a sprinkling of trees and wild flowers, and it becoming pretty cold outside.  She almost decided to walk home, convincing herself that she was crazy to be out here about to meet more people that the majority of the entire population on the planet wouldn’t be able to see, when a large mist settled on the hill and the man she’d been getting to know walked over with someone new.  The other man was shorter than the first, but only by a few inches so he could hardly be said to be short.  His hair was more brown than blond and was also curly and long.  He had eyes that were brown in some kinds of light and hazel in others, was very thin, and had exceptionally long legs.  Unlike her friend’s somber, almost stern quiet eyes, the second man’s eyes glinted with curiosity and wonder.  Aoife surmised that he could be quite serious when needed but that he preferred to find the humor in life and that he never lost that playful awe at the sheer immensity of living and the miracle of existence that most people lose touch with when they grow older.

“Well,” her friend was saying, “I am Oisin, the son of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, and this is my cousin, Caoilte Mac Ronan.”

Despite herself Aoife began to stare at them.  She then realized that she was staring and that was probably rude, and quickly looked down at the ground so that she would stop staring.  She then thought that staring at the ground was the kind of thing a person would do if they didn’t want to meet with a situation head on so she went back to looking at them.  This all took about two seconds.  Finally she remembered what to say when you’re meeting someone.  “Hi, it’s very nice to meet you.” she said and added, “I definitely heard of you.”

The three shook hands and then Caoilte said, “Most of what’s been written about us is interesting and entertaining but it’s greatly exaggerated and sometimes quite false.”

“What he means is that you won’t be able to learn who we really are from reading accounts of who people think we are or wanted us to be.” Oisin added in explanation.

Aoife nodded, a bit overwhelmed.  She found she was trying to process what she was seeing and hearing and it was all a lot to take in.  It just never occurred to her to be prepared for meeting well known people from the past who lived in the second century.  At the same time, she realized she was also attempting to excavate a long forgotten memory that she felt was relevant, but she couldn’t quite uncover it.  Finally she had it: there the memory was.  She had been eight years old.  Her grandmother was telling her  stories that were told to her when she lived in Ireland as a child.  There was a story about the Fianna of Ireland, and how they never died but instead were sleeping under a spell in a cave waiting for the time to come back and set right all that had gone too far.  Her current self wasn’t too thrilled with the implications of the story simply because it was too much like believing in some savior who would fix other people’s problems for them.  However her past self, as she recalled it, believed every word of the story and she had spent days afterwords despairing over the fact that tons of people were stuck in a miserable dark forgotten cave and couldn’t get out of it.  She hated caves as a child and thought death was probably preferable to chilling, literally, in some dark secluded yawn of earth somewhere.   She had confronted her grandmother about this and insisted that it wasn’t right, now that they knew the story, to not go looking for the Fianna’s cave to at least try to get them out of it.  Her grandmother had laughed and smiled at her and said she shouldn’t take the story so literally, but her eight year old self had determinedly learned that the cry they used to give was the truth against the world, and there were a few nights when she looked out her window at the starry sky and shouted “The truth against the world!” three times hoping that would be slightly useful.  It wouldn’t have been one bit useful, she thought now, and smiled despite herself.

“What is it?” Asked Oisin who had been studying her expressions thoughtfully.

“Well, um, it’s just that as a child I grew up believing you were stuck in some lonely dreary cave somewhere and, quite obviously, you’re not,” she explained hoping she sounded mostly articulate.  “Once I grew up, I stopped believing the story was actually true, but for some reason I am still very glad to be completely certain that there was no truth to it at all.”

“No, we aren’t stuck in a cave,” Oisin agreed, “In the life beyond life, we assist those among the living who ask, for we would never presume to assist someone who feels it would be unwelcome.  We protect those in the manifest world who need us and act as guides to them.” After a pause he said with an amused look in his eyes, “That said, no one’s ever tried as hard as you did to get us out of a cave had we been in one.”

Aoife’s face turned red. “Oh no,” she said dismayed, “You actually payed attention to my childish howling away?  I was just a really silly impressionable eight year old.”

“You were a very empathic and kind eight year old who tried to help people you never thought you’d ever meet whose lives you had no reason to care about for longer than it takes to hear a good story.” Caoilte corrected.

Aoife frowned.  This was all turning into a very memorable and strange night, for sure, but something was nagging at her.  Some question she needed to ask.  Some part of all this she did not understand, and the not knowing of whatever it was made her uneasy.  Finally she voiced the question that was vexing her, that would not let her go.  “Why?  I mean, why are you here talking to me?” I’m this random misplaced grad student who doesn’t write the greatest songs, is only decent at poetry, and can’t run to save my life, she added to herself.  “You can talk to anyone you want, why me?”

“Why not?” asked Caoilte.

Aoife shook her head, but she could think of no rejoinder to that response.

Oisin then looked at her with complete seriousness, almost earnestness.   For the first time that night they looked into each others’ eyes.  “The world is starving for meaning,” he began, “We need you to bring meaning to those who find  that, while  all they could ever imagine or want surrounds them, still they are left malnourished for they lack any sense of purpose to their lives and lose sight of all that is most important to them.  We need you to be one of many who show all you meet compassion and acceptance and demonstrate in all you do that we are all interdependent and need each other to live well.   The world yearns after love.  You have more than enough romantic love in all it’s various dramatic guises, but I mean the love families have for their children, seeds have for sunlight, rivers have for motion, nature has for itself.  The kind of love that knows no limitations or boundaries, that knows only what is true.  The kind of love that allows people to be strong yet kind, independent yet vulnerable, able to meet everyone where they are for who they are.  People are afraid of themselves and their own voices.  People have forgotten the power that lies buried inside them.  The cave your grandmother spoke of is the harsh and lonely place most human beings consign the very measure of their names, and exile the majestic and mysterious, radiant light that might have guided them in this manifest world.  They leave themselves to languish there ineffectively casting eerie shadows at the barren walls that over time they and others have built, mistakenly believing that these walls keep them safe and hold them exempt from age, pain, or despair.  They couldn’t be farther from the truth.  They choose fear and run from who they are.  We need you to embody that wild and earnest spirit you always have been, to shine in this world and remember who you are, and be one of the voices in the world who helps others remember all they’ve ever been.  In the past you learned how to make yourself small.  Yet that is one of the problems in this fragmented weary world:  choosing to be small, believing it is your greatness and strength and whole authentic vast self that others won’t ever be able to accept or approve of.  It is the smallness in this world that lets it die, a little at a time.  Stand tall, for if you did not deserve to be here now you would have never been.  Being fully alive is our right.  Dream of the dawning of a world without fear.  Dream of a world where everyone can give voice to all that lies within them, so that your children will live the wisdom of their beginnings, so that they learn never to let others steel their originality, so that they come to greet each other as free persons and live by the wonder shining out through their eyes even once they’re old.  Even now, that tiny spark, that quiet voice hidden inside, could burst at any moment, and from the heart of every silence, rend from it the truth it yearns to cry.  Be that voice.  You have the power to decide exactly how you want to be in the world, so don’t ever be afraid to speak your truth.”

“We will protect you and guide you.  We ask only that you remember us.” said Caoilte.

“The truth against the world.” Aoife replied in a voice that was almost a whisper (somehow speaking loudly didn’t seem appropriate just then.)  It was all she could do.  It was all she could say.  The three looked at each other for several more moments, and then Aoife was alone on the hill.  It would take her weeks to process what had happened.  It would take her months to begin to tangibly live out any of the Fianna’s words in the actual world.  What she did do without difficulty is vow to remember them and share her experience in whatever way it would best be heard.

Yet this is not the end of this story, for it was not the last time Aoife spoke with Caoilte or Oisin, and there were more to meet besides.

Visit the following link to download “The Call of the Fianna,” by Fionn Tulach, formerly known as Fiona Davidson. This is the story of the Fianna’s cave told by one of the finest modern bards living today.

Being Complete

There is not one word that can name the shallow tide pools
Or rocky crags, wind blustering by
And blue, deep flowing, growing blue
A whirlpool of color in the vastness of this sky.

There my self of many faces passes by
The red beneath blood deep within
And blue around me reaching out across the thresholds of my skin
There but for her shaping hands go I

Molding new ground for my weary feet
There but for their ancient eyes
And strong tall forms, long streaming hair, glinting shields
And for me finding all of me, I might never have been whole.

I duck inside the shelter of my own light house
As vast as sunrise, as wide as mountains
As old as time
Home at last I sweep the floor
I’ve left my golden shiny things outside.

The only thing that matters now is the unconditioned joy of living
The streams of giving poured out from their hands
I once asked why, fragmented my soul against stone to understand
But now  newly formed and unknowing
I am content to stand, belonging to myself  beside them
Hand and hand.

Where haunting melodies of Lír’s children linger in the silence of the night
Where the Fianna’s hunting horn lies buried,
Where I can still follow the footsteps that lead inside earthy knolls
Where landscapes reawaken and the absences of dreams leave holes

Along the path less taken
I discovered who I was
Fragile and bony, easily torn
Eternal and holy a spirit now born.

When the rains came and washed fear away into the seven seas
I opened my eyes from a long sleep of seven years
And with a gratitude more full than the universe has stars
I jumped off securities jagged ledge
And soared into the trees.

Now I do not try to name what refuses to be a certainty
Better it remain wild and unruly, like the history of landscape
Better to welcome those you dance with wordlessly
So you do not waltz into the four sided space of a definition
With no way to return as inexplicably as you have come.

Slide me into the glaring light of your microscopic gaze
Try to holler at the silence that murmurs along the edges of my life
I will sift like mist between your fingers and nothing will linger
But the emptiness you made of me

For I am, at heart, a mystery
And no one word could ever capture the unfathomable totality
Of who I am when all is said and done
Even then, I will be.