“I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing happens! Nothing…
Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and we are standing now, quietly, in this new life?”
(Juan Ramon Jimenez, translated by Robert Bly)
Emails come and go from far off places reminding us that these are scary times. We were due to host a family of 10 from California for a special 6 day Camino this month. We’ve been partnering up with Lismore Castle and The Cliff House Hotel and were preparing to roll out our signature one day offerings for their visitors from this Spring. As I write, we should be welcoming our Celbridge group to share the path with us for the fourth consecutive year. The pieces were just beginning to fall into place. In an instant, everything has changed. The tourism landscape lies tinged in vacant isolation. We can but stand quietly now, trusting in the universe to help us rise again.
‘Oh great ocean, o great sea. Run to the ocean. Run to the sea’… I hear this soft lament seep into the deepest part of me every time I gaze out across the bay in Tramore. Early morning as the sun rises over the distant headland, a beautiful orange halo casts its magical glow against the stilling canvas of the seas. Silence prevails except for the mesmeric tones of the waves as they roll to shore. We feel the calm, the peace. All the noise and din of the world retreats momentarily as we become silent spectators to an ageless story played out before our eyes. The dawning of the day lifts us beyond the narrowed walls of solitude reminding us that we are not alone.
None of us saw this coming. One minute you’re cruising along, gliding the wave, with your coordinates well tracked on where you need to be. Next, you’re being buffeted about through perilous waters doing whatever it takes to navigate your way to safety. Yet, at this very moment, when we are most exposed to the elemental fury of the storm, we come to find out who we truly are. Times of trial challenge us to look deep into ourselves and draw on reserves we never knew we had. What lies within carries us when we’re tested most.
It’s amazing the things you miss when you no longer have them. This social distance lark ain’t no walk in the park! (No pun or attempt at rhyme intended!!) The primordial pull towards those we love roars with deafening silence in this hour of separation. We seek new ways of bridging the vast chasm that lies between us and those we miss. We feel the pain of those cocooned at home, that raw pang of separation that flows from them to us and back again. We can but stand and stare in numbed disbelief at the stories of many who have had to make their final journey without their family close by. We know that behind every statistic is someone that could have been our mother, father, brother, sister, best friend… me.
A moment on Claire Byrne Live this week really brought this home to me. Claire was chatting through Skype with a young Dublin woman, Yvonne Kinsella, who had been to the edge and back with Covid 19. Yvonne is now home and almost out the other side. Her story was not about herself, more about the woman in the bed next to hers whom she came to know as a great friend. In such a short time, a bond was forged between the two of them that would ripple out from their hospital ward to inspire us all.
A week before their hospital encounter, Kitty had fallen at home and cracked a few ribs. Not easy for anyone, let alone for a woman in her mid-80’s. Kitty was a battler and was intent on getting back home after a few days convalescence in hospital. All that changed when the virus struck! She was transferred to another hospital and thus began the battle for her life. In this her darkest hour, Kitty found something inside; a stoic refusal not to give up no matter how severe the pain, how crushing the sadness of not being able to see her daughter Mary and her grandchildren for one last time. She felt it real bad, yet she clung on to those very qualities that made her who she was – to the very end.
Their empathy was of a kind that made it possible for two patients struck down by Covid 19 to forget their own fears and worries and reach out to a person they barely knew in the Intensive Care wing of a hospital. Their kindness knew no borders. Between treatment and sleep, these two exhausted people still had a song to sing. They joked, they laughed, they shared Kitty’s favourite Lindt chocolate over a cuppa, they exchanged stories from each other’s families – offering a momentary reprieve from the horror of what they were both going through. Yvonne always read the signs and had Kitty’s slippers on her feet before she was ever asked. Kitty passed away within a few days of Yvonne going home. For all the words they shared, their faint whispers laid bare an unspoken truth… that love shines brightest against the darkest backdrop. Fragile notes of crimson beauty soar through broken skies to light the way for us all.
If this time does nothing more than make you think a little about what matters most to you, well maybe you can turn it into a positive. It’s never too late to retrieve the better version of ourselves. Old patterns of behavior can yield to something new. Wherever we are on the pathway of life, we need to re-claim our capacity to be kind. Check in on a loved one, facetime that person that you know could do with it, write that letter, Zoom that friend you could do with catching up with and pour yourself a glass, drop off some home baking to that elderly neighbour. It’s these things that remind us why we are here in the first place. So much of what we once placed our trust in does not matter one iota. Carpe Diem – so that the opportunity this time presents does not pass you by.
“We should not long to return, my friends.
We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment.
One that fits all of humanity.”
It is good to anticipate how we can best position ourselves when we re-emerge on the other side of this virus. That we are doing in Waterford Camino Tours, quietly, assiduously, below the radar of the passer by. It will come good, but, for now, it is not what matters. We want to play our small part in spreading a little positivity and hope. Our monthly blogs and online Taizé evenings, along with our photos and images from times past and present, are our way of doing our little bit. There are people out there putting their lives at risk to protect the most vulnerable around us. In selfless ways, many are placing a real value on others not just themselves. We can all follow their lead. It’s time for the melodic notes of human kindness to merge into one powerful symphony of good. Our world needs it!
And People Stayed Home
“And people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and listened deeper
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended
and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
just as they were healed themselves.”
(Kathleen O’Meara; written in 1869 after the great famine)
(Picture courtesy of Brendan Grogan)
I hope these reflections offer a little calm amid the storm and that we’ll get to share the path with you someday soon. For now, let’s stay safe and stay at home. For further information check out www.waterfordcamino.com or email Phil and Elaine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org