To celebrate my 60th and her 30th birthday, my daughter and I took a trip to Ireland and Lithuania. Ireland because I’ve always wanted to go there and Lithuania because my maternal grandparents emigrated from there to the US. It was my first trip “across the pond” and I was full of anticipation! The red-eye flight from Chicago to Dublin left me exhausted, but even exhaustion couldn’t quash my delight as we shared our first beautiful Irish sunrise followed almost immediately by a rainbow! It felt as if all of Ireland was saying, “Welcome! We’re so glad you’re here!” It was the beginning of a wonderful week of adventures.
I spent much of our visit awestruck – by the magnificent churches and castles, the beautiful countryside, the deep sense of history embedded in the cobblestones on which we walked. Nature sings the praises of God in Ireland through the bright yellow fields of rapeseed, the Dunmore Caves, the rolling hills, the blue waters of Dingle Bay (and its famous dolphin!), the majestic Cliffs of Moher and all the way up to Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I’ve always imagined Ireland to be a “thin” place – where the boundary between heaven and earth is nearly non-existent. It turns out that I was right!
As if the natural wonders weren’t enough, or perhaps because of the natural beauty of which they were a part, human beings have been hallowing this land since long before recorded history began. At Newgrange is an ancient temple built around 3200 BCE (older than the pyramids!). Stone circles built by civilizations from 1100 BCE can be found all over the countryside. Christian monasteries and churches date back to the early 5th century CE, some of which are still at least partially standing. As we visited many of these sites, I was moved to reflect on the deep connection to the Holy that must have permeated the lives of the generations of people who, without benefit of modern earthmoving machinery, spent their lives using their God-given gifts to imagine, design, carve, paint, and sculpt these magnificent structures. Most of them began the projects knowing they would never live to see them finished, but hoping their children and surely their grandchildren would. I was deeply humbled by their vision and faith. I wandered around them in wonder and awe, soaking up the holiness of the place, the land, the people.
Just being in Ireland – the land of Ériu, the goddess of the land – felt like prayer. Walking its fields and roads, wading in its waters, listening to its music, watching its dances, all felt like sacred ritual. I left this beautiful land with my heart and soul filled to overflowing.
Who knew there was more holiness awaiting me in Lithuania, the land of my ancestors?! But I’ll save that for another day.
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