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Why are hobbits and saying ‘yes’ to adventure on my mind? 1. I need a good reminder about WHY I’m here, 2. I’ve been re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Tolkien’s world makes me feel good. Well, truth be told, I actually weep a lot when I read his stuff, but it does make me believe I CAN …. YES, I CAN! … or at least I should … live my life with fullness and strength. With integrity and conviction. Most importantly, with courage.

I’m a wimp in real life. Not always on the outside where people can see me, but inside, where it often counts the most, I am occasionally a cowering little puppy whimpering for my master to pat my head and reassure me I needn’t bother checking that noise outside on this cold night.

Tolkien’s characters inspire me to believe I can be a stout hearted hobbit, or a noble ruler of Westernesse, or a brave warrior of Rohan. Best of all, I am inspired that the world IS a place full of wonder and magic, where trees walk under moon light and birds bring messages of hope and friendship. My heart yearns to roam, like the fair Elves; seeking to understand the beauty of the world around me.

And that’s why I’m here. There is love, there is friendship, there is a lust for adventure and desire to embrace all life brings me, but before those things there was wonder and awe at the history and folklore of this Island. Ireland Herself has been wooing me for years with Her stories and beauty.

There is a continuity of ancient belief and practice seamlessly woven into modern (or at least recent) life here that compels me to learn more. I gobble up with hungry eyes and ears all I can find and have time to research. Living on this land has awoken the stories for me and within me. Stories. What power they have in our lives.

Also, the story we tell OF our lives. Am I a victim, whose entire village was taken over by a deposed wizard while I sat comfortably beside the fire sipping tea telling myself how terrible the world is these days? Am I a confident, battle tested hobbit (read: ordinary person who has lived and learned through life’s challenges) who sees the difficulty for the opportunity it is and rises to the occasion by kicking a$$ and taking names?

Is it all within my power or am I powerless? Good question. Do I possess the power to make everything in the world the way I want it? Probably not. Do I have the power to be all that I am (authentically myself) and do my small part? If I’m brave.

And that is the point! In Tolkien’s stories each character does nothing more than live fully and completely. They walk their own path, being wholly themselves. If at any moment any one of them had ceased being all they are… the pretty and the not so pretty … the story would have altered and the task possibly not completed.

I’m in Ireland because I want to learn about story as embodied in the land and the people. I’m in Ireland because I fell in love. I’m in Ireland because I’m not dead yet, and I want to grab my opportunities by the horns and ride them for all they are worth!

On a slightly different but related topic, I’m learning about Cliodhna (Klee-uh-na). Seems She is pretty important in these parts and I am searching for Her in both mythology and folkloric custom, belief and story. I know she appears in local folklore as a Banshee or Fairy Queen of South Munster, with specific landmark associations in Cork. Lady Gregory mentions her as being the daughter of the chief druid in Manannan’s country, and tells how she fell in love with a mortal man from Ulster and the Annals of the Kingdom say she is the “familiar sprite of the south of Ireland”.

I wonder about a few things… 1. Have you heard of Cliodhna? 2. How do you tell the story of your own life? 3. What’s for dinner? 🙂

Cork Beach and hidden sea caveCork Beach; hidden sea cave

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Yes, Virgina, all adventures take you on dark and uncertain roads, …at some point. All heroes encounter difficulties. Not every story has a “Hollywood” ending. In the wise words of Samwise Gamgee, “…I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures , as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in mind. Folk just seem to have just been landed in them, usually–their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had. we wouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on–not all to a good end mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end.”

Sam, of course, is specifically talking about the difficult, and seemingly impossible, task of taking the Ring of Power into Mordor to be destroyed right under the enemies nose. It was a heavy burden that nobody in their right mind would willingly take on. Kind of like illness, or involuntary unemployment, or a soul crushing loss. We don’t willingly choose those paths; they seem to be laid for us and we just stumble on to them. They test our metal. Like all heroic tales, songs, and sagas, it is our perseverance through the dark times of doubt that determines how we are remembered …. Or whether we are remembered at all.

There is another lesson in Sam’s nugget of wisdom, and that is about saying “yes”. Sometimes we feel a pull or a call, or something as simple as seeing an open door…a possibility, an opportunity. Many times we disregard this glimmer of adventure, turning back before we’ve even stepped foot outside our front doors. The risk is too high. The fear too great. The unknown too dangerous. The path too unconventional. (After all, what WILL our family think??) The effort too much. And all too often…. The end, and final outcome (what WE get out of it), too unpredictable. So we hesitate. Instead of putting our hand to the door and our feet on the path, we sit back down to another cup of tea; Robbing ourselves of LIFE!

What do I mean by “life”, you may ask? A cozy cup of tea before a warm fire certainly seems like a good life, doesn’t it? Yes, indeed it does! I appreciate the trees and turf that offer their warmth through the fire and the tea plants that lend their nourishment to my body.

The tree that provides the fuel for the fire burst from the ground as a sapling. The tree grew and experienced the cycle of the seasons; spring ever following winter, autumn ever following summer. The tree saw birds come to build nests, hatch little birds that grew and left, to return again larger and build other nests, to hatch birds that grew and left, to return again…. The tree drank deep from the ground, let fall leaves on the wind, stretched toward the sun, put forth fruit, inhaled carbon dioxide and exhaled oxygen. One day the tree was felled, or it toppled because of water logged soil or strong wind. Then a human took an ax or saw to limb and trunk, parceling them into usable size. I gathered those pieces of limb and trunk, placed them inside my stove and set fire to them. They now share with me the energy they stored from the sun and I am warmed.

Birth, life, and death. That is our guarantee; our doom, as Tolkien phrased it. During our lives we experience the cycles, just as the trees and turf and tea plants do. Spring follows winter, autumn follows summer. Friends move in and out of our lives. Jobs come and go. Governments rise and fall. Children are born, they grow, and leave to experience cycles of their own. We stretch toward love and peace. We feel happiness, sadness, joy, fear, contentment, anxiety, and ecstasy; each following the other in their own unique cycles. We breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. One day we are felled, or we topple due to sickness or age.

Now, it seems the “Living” happens in the middle there somewhere. In fact, I suspect Life is the instigator of the cycle of emotions and it’s in that messy middle we find our opportunities for bravery. All things have a season. As beautiful as the red Rowan berries are in autumn, they must drop. As sweet as the flower of the Rose bush, the petals must fall. There are other cycles after flower and berry. We can not hold on to spring any more than we can prevent winter. Should we even try? But what of the tree and the bush? Were they not joyful with the budding of berry? Are they not sorrowful at the loss of flower? Maybe. Yet the cycle moves and new joys stir even as the spring approaches. Fear of loss does not hinder them and uncertainty of next seasons rain does not prevent them.

When we sit before our fires, mug of tea in hand, and hear a call or noise outside do we rouse ourselves and venture forth to explore the cause? When we sit at our desks accumulating retirement money and the dream of operating a hot air balloon, offering rides over the lake, stirs in our hearts, do we heed it? Do we choose safety and familiarity over adventure?

Sometimes safety is a good choice. If a storm rages outside while we sit by the fire, perhaps it is wise to wait for it to pass before exploring out of doors. If a family member is undergoing medical treatment covered by the health insurance provided by the desk job that accumulates retirement money, perhaps it is wise to wait a little while longer before heeding the dream of hot air balloons. Just as the tree stores its resources through the winter, sometimes we, too, must wait a little.

But prudence is not fear, and wisdom not complacency.

There is no guarantee of a happy ending, even if we stay in front of our fires to sip tea. The question we must ask ourselves is whether, at the end of all things, we want to look back on a life lived in safety only, or a life lived like the heroes in the great tales. The ones who ventured out their door, stepped onto the path and found themselves …. doing brave things…. in the midst of dark days and joyful nights.

Even in the Shire the hobbits who stayed home for tea had to venture out their doors eventually. They might not have journeyed as far as some, but their time of testing came as sure as autumn, and poke their heads out they did! Sometimes, adventure finds you no matter what….”and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

I am living an adventure. Several years ago I committed to saying YES to life, to embracing all it had to offer: the messy, the glorious, the dripping, oozing, riotous thrill of it. Living outside of the US had always been a dream and now I’m here. Living it. That doesn’t mean every moment is fun. It doesn’t mean every day is sunny (how could it, I’m in IRELAND! lol). What it does mean is that when I reach the end of my days I will look back and KNOW I sucked the marrow. I risked it. In the meantime, let me pour you some tea as we sit by the fire while we can. I have a feeling it won’t be long before another call is heard outside and we’ll have to decide whether to open the door!

“So through good times and bad, famine and feast, the villagers held fast to their traditions. Until, one winter day, a sly wind blew in from the North… “

I can’t sleep!! Most of this I attributed to jet-lag, thinking my body must still be on “Texas Time”. (admittedly, I like the sound of that…it’s like a country song – WAIT, I think it might BE a country song!)

Anyway, I’m not sleeping…. at least not until 4am, which is NO BUENO! Even Himself is not sleeping…. well, he doesn’t really count because his night-owl tendencies are well documented. They are why we are in a relationship to begin with! (late night chats across time zones) As I lay tossing and turning last night, having him check for the nth time that the doors and windows were bolted, it dawned on me. The house is haunted!!

{EDIT: I’ve since found more information on the old demesne across the street. You can read about it on the landed estates site.}
But first, let me tell you about the demesne across the lane from us. The stretch of laneway that runs northwest of the house is stunning! Truly breathtaking. The land is gentle, mostly rolling pasture, dotted with sloping rows and patches of mature trees. A mountain range is just visible on the horizon, and the hedgerow is healthy and vibrant.

The mature trees belong to an old demesne, undoubtedly British or Norman. You can just make out the expansive roof and rows of chimney tops above the treeline. Since Sunday was gloriously sunny I decided to explore. At the tail end of my run I ventured down a few lanes in search of an entrance. The first trail I took led me down to an abandoned dairy. No Manor House, but they had a lovely little stone bridge and their hedge was thoughtfully planted and in full bloom. But I found joy down the second lane!

After a sharp bend in the road, and the sudden onslaught of a few large neighbor dogs, I was under huge trees; a sure sign of colonial occupation. The house is large and ruinous! (sooo romantic) Tattered curtains billow behind broken windows. The first visible building was a massive stables with high walls and tiny windows. From under the arch leading into the stables you can see the house. Whoever owns the property clearly uses the land for a dump. There were abandoned farm implements, barrels, broken machinery, and strangest of all…… a dilapidated TRAILER! Talk about Beverly Hillbillies! I was uncomfortable roaming too near, you never know when a wild dog might leap out at you! (in some ways, it’s easy to tell the Irish settled those mountains in Tennessee….just say’in – and I have a few in my bloodline) Still, very Gothic feeling!

Now, to my haunting. As you know, we have a …. probably bronze age… standing stone in the back garden. In the field, and on the low rise, just behind the house is an iron age ring fort. (to the locals, that’s a Fairy Ring…and very dangerous. The rumor has it, if you enter the ring your sleep will be disturbed for 7 years) The main structure of the house is 300 years old so its occupants would have seen numerous uprisings and rebellions against British occupation, many waves of emigration, and the deadly famine.

It started almost immediately upon moving in. We routinely see things in the corner of our eyes, but not inside, the object is always outside. Whatever it is that we see moving is large and often white. After a certain time at night we feel we are being watched. One night, Himself was sitting at his desk in the sunroom, working VERY late (after midnight) when he had a sudden feeling that he shouldn’t be in the room and then :bam: My Chinese lantern fell to the ground. Its attaching hardware tossed out of the wooden beam onto the floor. At that same time, I was upstairs sleeping and suddenly woken by a bright light outside. I thought perhaps the moon was out or someone had left an outside light on. I got up to see, and to hunt down my sleep mask, but there was nothing. No moon, no light…just a glow.

Since we started noticing these things, we also find that if we aren’t asleep before midnight it’s going to be VERY difficult to get there! Last night we both tossed and turned, heard continual noise downstairs…even the repeated sound of a doorknob being turned. It’s a mad house in this house after the witching hour! I’m beginning to think the little Spook, built high up into the stone wall in the sitting room, is mocking us. Or at least a few of his friends are. 😀 Either way, I need a friendly truce with the spirits because my beauty sleep is nonexistent!

East Cork

the Teampall at the crossroads, #countrylife #cork

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