Tag Archives: nature

The Weary Ones

We Trudge treacherous trails
Rough mountains and the thorny plains of tomorrow
We listen as landscapes keep up their crying
Memorizing wounds and their places

Hot sun rises, leaving burned faces
Here, human hatred, there is no shade
We taste the tears of the left behind
Wander the day, sharp with remembering

Never stop building
The changes we wish for our children
Never stop moving
Toward something, anything good

Again and again feet step around boulders
Hearts heavy with sorrow
We are holding onto the edges of hope
Often simply for balance

The vision blurs
The directions weave in front of drooping eyes
We fall, but do not lie down
We stand, but are never still

Only the steps, one, and the next
Out into a sharp and staggering world
Stumble through actions
Hope the helpful ones take hold

Whatever end you are seeking
You might reach it on the well worn way
Or arrive bedraggled and bruised
Emerging from the path you forged as your own

No time for the tears behind your eyes
No time to fan the flame of anger
Now, and now, but the future is a needy child
It hollers and hungers, feed it all that you have

The Antlered Branch _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 13

December 23, 2013

By the time I finally leave the house with Allegro and make my way to Aquatic Park to go look for what Oisín and the others have left for me there, it is around 5 PM. I certainly had no expectation of anything in return when I first agreed to make my place their own. I am still just as surprised as moved that they’d secure some kind of manifest world object for me to show their gratitude. I still know little about what is possible in the otherworld, but imagine that moving physical objects to specific locations is no small matter, and it is even possible that it would take tens to hundreds of otherworld people to accomplish such a thing depending on the size of the object. Even now, I have no idea how they did it.

The walk is quiet and uneventful. Hardly a manifest person is around. The water laps softly along its bank, the birds’ songs are muted, and the trees stand silent and resolute against the sky which is slowly darkening into ever more mysterious shades of twilight. This has always been my favorite time of day. As a child, I used to cherish my time outside when the sun’s light, glowing like ebbing flame starkly against the night’s deepening presence, revealed to me a world of image that usually was lost to me. Often, I’d stand precariously on the back of a swing in the yard, frightening my parents for sure, but too immersed in the ecstatic wonder of suddenly illuminated shapes and outlined objects to care much at all about something more earthly, like safety. Besides, I reasoned as only a six year old can, I had excellent balance. I could not as well leave this brilliant light behind just to heed adults who wished me to come inside.

As with then, the fading light fills me with a silent, quiet, wild joy and I still imagine myself laughing and leaping and flying through that light, which is filling every space around me now with its mystery. I walk through this wondrous world, tracking the shadows in the wooded areas to my left where I found the picnic table that I am trying to locate again.

An older man, who I met once before in passing and know is quite lonely, says hello to me and I ask whether he knows if I’m near the turn off to the table. I think I am, because there are lights above and beyond the brightly infused sky flashing in the trees at this spot. But finding a picnic table while offroading with a guide dog is a hit or miss project. He assures me I am in fact close by, and asks if I don’t mind some company. I look around and don’t see Oisín nearby, so I agree that we can talk for a little while.

The two of us sit across from each other as he shares some of his life with me and I listen. A half an hour goes by, and now I do see Oisín standing at the edge of the clearing. I send him a picture of the situation, and he says not to worry, he’ll stay until the stranger leaves. So finally I say to the manifest man, “I am really enjoying talking to you, but I have to meet someone now. Can I be alone?”

I briefly wonder, as there are no other manifest people within sight range to speak of, if the man might think I’ve had enough and am just trying to back out of talking to someone twice my age. Fortunately, he turns out to be happy to grant me my request for solitude without question, and doesn’t appear to be taking it personally. When he leaves, Oisín walks over to stand beside me.

“There are a great many trees around here,” he observes, “So I thought to come show you to the one I spoke of yesterday.” This is true enough. Together we walk over to a tree which is at a diagonal from where I was previously sitting.
Once I am standing in front of the tree, Oisín vanishes, presumably so I can discover for myself what he’s left there for me. I have to admit that I am now feeling a bit like a kid on a treasure hunt. No point in ignoring the curiosity of my inner child now, I decide.

Cautiously, unsure if I’m looking for something sturdy or fragile, I reach out my hand. The tree is eucalyptus, like every other of its myriad cousins in this area. But the branch my hand encounters is not only very detached from the tree, but is actually made of Oak. It is placed rather impossibly around the trunk, and to this day I haven’t been able to get anything else to stay up there. I’ve tried, I admit.

Antler Branch On Wall

I take the branch down from the tree. It’s big! From one end to another is approximately two feet across. There is a section of branch which is just the right size to fit my hand around. Holding it there, the rest of the branch splits into two halves that arc away from each other in a kind of narrow semicircle. On each end, two twigs stem out giving the whole of it an uncanny resemblance to deer antlers.

I know the significance of deer to Oisín’s immediate family. His father, his son, and himself were all named for this animal, after all. As a totem animal, a concept from a culture which Oisín’s clan would have never known existed, deer are usually symbolic of inner gentleness and compassion, as well as protection. I mean, that can be quite true of them and everything, but deer aren’t like that all the time! They’re also wild, fiercely territorial and adaptable, resourceful, and don’t hesitate to answer to a challenge. When I have looked into Oisín’s eyes, I have seen all these things, and more of course. I for one think that if a totem is going to give insight into the spirit of a person,, it’s probably best to recognize that nonhuman animals can have natures as complicated as any human. I digress, however.

I imagine that if clan Baiscne, to whom Oisín belongs, had a family emblem, I am holding a representation of it in my hand. I have too many thoughts and feelings occurring at once. I am astonished and happy and wondering how many people it took to get this branch here—it’s so big. I am moved by how one physical object could convey so much meaning to me. If I had ever worried about being accepted, it looks like that worry is both unreasonable and I not only belong, but somehow have been accepted into Oisín’s family. This realization overwhelms me. It would be hard to believe if I weren’t holding tangible proof of it.

Equally overwhelming, however, is that, as I gaze at the branch in my hands, it seems to emit a soft, continuous glow, as if the very wood could radiate that divine spark at the heart of itself out into the changing clay world. This is all quite enough to take in, so I do what I usually do when I have more energy than I know what to do with: I choose a direction and take off. Full of a wild inexplicable joy that seems to suddenly come upon me, I gather up Allegro and we walk so fast that we are practically running. I’ve never run with a flashlight, having never had the need for one, but the blazing light around the antlered branch in my hand illuminates the night, casting bright shapes across the landscape. Sometimes, when I look through the middle where the branch splits in two, I feel like I am almost catching someone’s eye. I definitely do not feel like I am walking alone. There are no manifest people in the park at the moment. Somehow everything around us holds still, while we, myself and what feels like many who I cannot see but seem to be with me, traverse the trail back to my apartment. I, or perhaps we, make it home in record time, and the whole return journey has oddly felt effortless.

Once I walk through the door into the kitchen, I carefully set the branch down while I go get a vase from above the refrigerator to place it in. This is not because it needs to be placed in water, but just because I can’t think of another way to make sure it won’t fall or get broken. I’m trying to grab a glass vase precariously from a cupboard which is slightly too high for me to actually reach safely. But I’m in a great mood and not alone. This means I’m determined to attempt to accomplish what I’m aiming to do successfully, since I feel I can do just about anything at the moment.

“Don’t do that, you’ll get yourself hurt,” someone is saying with concern, and when I turn around I see Oisin standing behind me.

“You think so?” I ask cautiously, “I think I can reach up there. I’ve done it once or twice before.”

“Well, it’s not a great idea for what you are aiming to do at the moment. Are you sure you are not actually trying to do something again beyond your limits to prove to yourself that you are worthy of our company?” Oisín asks, challenging me with his compassionate, yet wildly fierce eyes. “We want you safe, child.”

Is that what I was really trying to do, I ask myself a bit reluctantly? Well, okay, yes that was a substantial if far from explicit part of my motivation. It would be too awkward and self-defeating to deceive myself into thinking otherwise.

“Thanks,” I say, and grab a chair from the kitchen table to stand on. The particular vase I need, it turns out, is behind a bunch of other smaller vases and would have been impossible to grab from my earlier vantage point on the floor. I am growing, even now, but I just have to remember that won’t translate into physical height.

The antlered branch is still shining with otherworldly light where I’ve placed it on the counter. It’s amazing in its own right, but perhaps more, well, awesome still is that I have become like family to Oisín and the fianna. I am trying to integrate this into my world and it’s happening very slowly. Attempting to sort out my thoughts, one in particular suddenly comes unbidden into the forefront of my mind. Is it possible, the thought interjects, that I have always been a part of this family and just don’t know it for certain yet? How else to explain why I’ve felt like Oisín is a long lost grandfather? Why else does he call me child? But I can’t even entertain the idea. I almost desperately shove the thought out of my head so that I don’t have to possibly face another instance in so many days of my beliefs being turned upside down.

So instead, I turn to Oisín to thank him properly. In response, he simply fills the room with light. We are, I realize, speaking without words. And in the silence there is understanding, of what is, which words don’t ever seem to capture adequately. I’m glad that I can let go of trying to put everything into language and can communicate through wordlessness. This wordlessness is, I am beginning to realize, the grammar of being, it is why silence is intelligent, and how existence speaks for itself.

Threading Over And Through: The Endless Journey

Far beyond that one, ephemeral day,
Vitality ever flies, clear and shimmering.

Within the lone wolf’s mournful howl
They heard their own cries, calling out, calling in return.

These are ones who lived beyond their sorrow,
For all in their sunrise to see.

the sunset Of their one flutter of light
Has scattered their existence.

Perhaps we will glimpse an old reflection of ourselves,
In the still and silent water,

Or perhaps, when the lightning strikes,
We will once again raise leafy hands to the sky,

Aware of the intertwining roots,
Anchoring us firmly to the heart of earth,

And the way we take light into ourselves,
A feast of the many colors.

The great charged arcs from the dark clouds above,
Illuminate the core of us from inside out.

I am here, now,
In this starlit night,

And I become the lonesome wolf cry,
You, the moon I call to.

You, shining through the mist beyond the horizon,
I find we have once again traded places.

I will shelter you from the storm,
Though its anger strikes out, I stay your tears.

The map is lost,
Though that’s not stopped any of us from making the journey,

And always I will hold you safe,
Far from bitter winds, even when it seems no one understands.

The Activity of Being

The wind breathes life into the leaves
And they are dancing,
To the music of the sunlight streaming.

High above me, the birds are not afraid
To let others hear their songs,
And with them I would wander, sharing music of my own
If only elements were all I had to live for.

So many voices, drown out by airplanes and great rivers of cars.
And the light within each creature hardly seems to shine,
Lost beneath the tides of artificial illumination
They vanish as we take what belongs to them, make it ours.

Like the birds who greet the sky at dawn,
With their ancient song of wisdom,
I will scatter drops of melody upon this place.

Perhaps, one day, every life will hear
What long-ago we soon forgot to be ours,
And as silent time passes, we’ll add back our voices
Rekindle our shining, recognize our wholeness.

It is time to remember,
For being is the great activity
Moving us, moving through us all,
And in it we have never given up participation.

Among the two many reasons, the gnawing unknowings,
Even where shadows blossom and the kindred we continue not to claim are keening,
always wonder and belonging, to hold us like beloved children,
Call us to return. Call and await us at the center.

For She Who Is

for now I climb out of the river
Onto a sunny rock,

And watch the light play, a golden echo
Sketched across my face.

There is a place for silence here,
Where motion is a small coming and going,

And all that can be heard is the drip of sunlight,
Drops of water tumbling off wet hair,

The simple, almost imperceptible sigh of the earth exhaling,
The stretching of a budding flower,

My own rhythm beneath fragile bones
All this is the music of my love.

Still the thoughts that chatter like incessant insects in my head,
Take me to where change remains a constant, wash these grey stones clean

She says to wait, to hush, to listen,
To receive, just let go.

She folds me in her arms as wide as sky,
She Who Is, with silver hair and purple eyes.

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

Beltane Eve

I sing the tenebrous tale of night, land of nod
And the nocturnal cricket to its chanting

Gently take reign of the twilight day
Away the glaring fire of the sky yonder flies

Casting peaceful shadows
Where upon evanescent waking drift away

And solitude in its silent walk subdues the endless chatter of the world
Stilling all that once scurried in the frenzied sun

That internal chaos still lingering in the depths of you
From eternal darkness starts to surface

Night knows The spirit’s yearning, secret and longing
Penumbral and reaching, where no light burns

In me the starlight dwindles to black
Visible now nothing but the pupils of their eyes

Save for where vast folds of emptiness
Shine beyond wisps of old mist, dispersed and demure

I weave the journey of the shining ones along their pathways
Through the hearth fires of That Which Watches

And once every moonbeam mine has gone to rest
Freedom behind the shield of night safely stirs

Over the stilled and the hushed and the haunted
The freedom fog crouches undaunted

I sing the rain, I sing the sky
To rise above, to fall, to fly

And I drop the golden leaves
They, like tears, swirl through their falling

I do not sing the leaves to rest
For like a mother who’s lost many children

The earth will gather them expiring
Molding them to herself with her breathing

Melting into greens and greys
I’ll be made whole, once more come home

Brought to the center of an essence which never runs dry
My pain forgotten in moonlit arms

The only voices are of we
Dusted darkly from the very beginning
Free and sharp and clear

I invoke the mercurial mystery of being
Shapeshifter with no name

Who’s child blossoms life anew
Glistening in the predawn like the dew

Whose hollering shadows in the hunt
Dart across open planes of stars
And what dare linger there to catch, is ours

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?”

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.
https://app.box.com/s/joj0hjcwetrl81f5wk65