Tapping Into Ancestry

​In Ireland, I better understand how Irish I am. My Irish roots grow outwards. Stemming from the abundant ground. The green earth full of magic. My ancestors buried in the dirt still tripping out on ancient magic mushrooms.

There’s something about the way of storytelling here. These folks are wide-eyed dreamers with an appreciation for the Bardic tradition. It’s beyond magical realism. These folks still see faeries and forest elves. They hear the songs of their elders coming in the wind or down the ripples of a stream. In Brú na Bóinne, there was this thing that was marked “phallic stone” in its glass case, but I swear I saw an actual unicorn horn. And I wasn’t the only one.

Back in the US, I find myself becoming really attracted to indigineous tribes. I appreciate the stories of the Coyote. Tales of the Crow. Sacred animals. Sacred world. In the US, that’s more and more the only culture I can relate to. 

But here, in Ireland, I’m surrounded by my tribe. There’s plenty of Kavanaghs. Murphys too. I find my family names in all of the graveyards. I find them in memoriams for the Irish Revolution. I find them on the rectory walls of medieval churches. They’ve been living and dying here for millenia.

Except for the later Christian influence, these tribes are not that much different from the Lakota or the Navajo. There’s plenty of old spirits swimming around in all that green. Pagans running around shirtless. Painted faces, gobbling psychedelics. Really seeing the world around them. Really understanding it. Having an oral tradition. Here the Crow only have an Irish accent, but they still fly west with the sun, usually leading to some sort of doorway or secret portal to the netherworld. Here the Deer still come out to greet a humble traveler and point them towards safe shelter.

At home, I ride my bike around and sing to myself unconsciously. Not words, but sounds. Usually, I think I’m scatting like Fela Kuti. But here that’s called lilting and it’s existed as long as the Celts had instruments. A mixture of beatboxing and mimicking instrumentation. Even the drums have pitch shifts with taught skins. I’ve already stumbled upon a native drum circle. It wasn’t a hippy sort of gathering. More of a session at a pub, with dancers and other musicians.

Back home, I’ve often felt strange. I’ve often found my imagination feeling oppressed or otherwise derided. Maybe the English rule, repelled from Ireland, moved onto the Americas. There’s so many visible signs here of England’s attempts to strip these “savages” of their mysticism. It reminds me of many of my much more petty experiences, of folks, who just can’t see beyond the 2D world they’re trapped in, and their responses to my being far out in my perceptions.

The older I’ve gotten and the farther out I’ve gone, the more I’ve let my practical senses go. Having sense is not sensual. Everything out here is nonsensical. 

Too many folks busy themselves with being proper. And I’m just not wired that way. And now I see from where it stems. Even my superstitions. Or my inner revolts toward a square-ordered world. They’re not just mine, they’re in my heritage.

I lay my stones atop a rock of swirls to charge in the sunset. I meditate on the green hill and close my eyes looking inward. I become one with these savages. They are my brethren. In the dark, I begin to see the night, and realize it was always this way, even in the daytime. The Dreamer is always awake. Only boring people not of this separate plane would try to tell the Dreamer that he’s only sleeping. Only they would be ignorant to the true boundlessness of reality. 
The Sleepers recklessly sleeping and not learning to dream.

Those types of folks live here in Ireland, as well. But so far, as far as I can tell…there are less of them.

Tapping Into Ancestry

A James Joyce Odyssey

​The train ride from downtown Dublin out to the round tower James Joyce stayed in before leaving Ireland for good, is somewhat of an odyssey. The train rolls through patches of green, village rowhomes, and several industrial outposts before arriving alongside the ocean. 

Out the window I watch as fair maidens walk on the blue shimmer of the ocean like sacred saints performing miracles atop low tide sandbars collecting shells to braid into their bangs. These sirens, as it were, wave from the magical waters beckoning for us to join them.

The sun high and hot. This heat baking the tan rocks as they crash down onto broken waves.

There are castles and church steeples on the horizon. A multi-colored ripple of grafitti painted on stone walls as ancient runes casting a diverse range of spells. The ocean manic in its glittering sheen, spitting a cyclonic ozone into the air. Tiny rainbows catching the mist.

Eventually the train lands in a quiet sleepy village still in Dublin county, overwhelmed with city folk and tourists seeking a break from the heat. At this point, Ulysses’  Odyssey takes a turn towards Don Quixote’s dual-realism. 

No giants with arms swinging like windmills, but as I pass through crowds of school children climbing rocks to the sea, my ears hear the chatter of young seagulls chasing schools of fish back into the harbor. The tower stands at the top of a hill like a large castle. Once a military outpost to keep a lookout for an invasion from Napoleon, and one hundred years later the home of King Joyce, himself. Then not too long later the launching pad for the fictional quest of Stephen Daedelus.

Howth peninsula sits across the way. This gigantic arm of earth reaching out to take hold of the rippling sun-filled reflection of the sky. Hundreds of mermaids and mermen swim in between coves coveting each other’s fins to stay afloat. The wind howls and whispers, the sour stink of a one-legged pirate’s yarn spinning an epic voyage around the continent.

This is the last place James Joyce lived before he became an expat from Ireland. It’s a wonder he ever wanted to leave, I think. 

I think this until I walk into the museum lobby and the clerk at the info desk asks me about myself. “I’m a writer,” I tell him thinking this will start a good conversation. But he asks instead in a musical Irish tone, “Oh, do you make a living doing that?” I hear Joyce laughing in Switzerland. Oh well, not much has changed. I have a look around the old place. There’s art from peers and fans on the walls. There’s two different death masks. There’s Joyce’s cane and his favorite vest. All that’s missing is his thick-rimmed eyeglasses. 

Upstairs the bedroom is still barely liveable. A cave with arrow slits for light. But the roof has a view of the city. I could see waking and meditating up there. Doing a daily sun salutation. What’s needed in a bedroom when you have a view of the world? Joyce was here for only 6 days before getting kicked out in some nightmarish fashion that the museum boasts about. It’s too bad he didn’t get a few years. But then maybe the Irish wouldn’t know what they had missed in letting him leave. 

Soon the museum is overwhelmed with bees and locusts. I fight my way out down the narrow stairs pushing past the tour guides. At the bottom, I sign my name on the guest list, but more for that nosey welcomer. 

I return to Dublin and perform at a gig with singing poets who speak more with their ears. Each word a pun or a rhyme off the last one. These folks take real pride in their wit. In the sounds of words rather than their meaning. One man has the greatest punchline: “I told my wife I’m at a poetry reading…the trouble is that I really am.”

A part of me can’t wait till the next time I return to Ireland. I can see it now as a place that would work out for me. I could tour the whole countryside, much like I’ve done the northeast, hopping through small towns and scattering across the cities. The rest of me can’t wait to get back home. Though, at this point, home is so many places, I feel lost for a time that I’ll finally settle and continue writing the novel of all of these adventures.

Every 4 years, I have these cycles of death and rebirth. I’ve done everything in the last 4 years to free myself from this cycle. Usually these deaths manifest in the form of tumultuous break ups, but I, a single man, imagine myself free. In Ireland, I realize there is no escape. A great death of self still awaits. 

Two days back into Dublin, I had a breakthrough. I may not be able to escape death, but I can choose its manifestation. I muse on the full moon: There is no greater death than writing a novel. I think it’s time I write one that I actually finish. Let the blarney carry me through.

A James Joyce Odyssey

A Fool Kisses The Blarney Stone

I follow the Blarney witch to the top of Blarney castle. I can’t help but be arrested by that coy smile beneath soft silver-pink curls. A smiled flash of freckles, with stories recounted of travels abroad: The Great Pyramids, Mayan ruins, Vietnam. I follow those long golden legs shouting kicks of bliss at eye level in front of me as they climb ever higher up narrow staircases, forcing my pursuit into even steeper passageways. 

I feel adrift. Perhaps from the height and elevated heart. But intuition tells me this witch has cast a spell. Perhaps not consciously. Perhaps it is the magnetism of inner lights. Or maybe I’m just crazy for some girl again. 

I run through the paralells of each of our realities. Different travels bringing us to the same place at the same time. A magnetism, where though she caught my eye much earlier in the gardens below, I soon forgot her until ending up in line behind her, as if it was perhaps a requisite test to earn Blarney’s gift of eloquence. Well, do I talk to her and if so, what do I say? 

Before the Blarney stone, we stand. The beautiful witch and a bumbling fool. And I wonder what the clown poet could ever receive from the gift of gab. Perhaps an award winning novel. Or the royalties from a subsequent film. Or maybe just the delight of a kiss with this gorgeous lass. 

But alas, she passes just out of reach. Up and over and under the brick wall to kiss the stone, and then back on her nimble feet rushing towards the exit. I lay down and do the same, and disoriented with my eyes closed, I start to kiss the wall.

“You’ve got the wrong stone,” the man holding my legs calls down. “No, not that one either. A little lower now. Yes, there you go. That’s the Blarney stone.”

So what does it mean, when a clown kisses the wrong Blarney stone and with his eyes closed. I start to wonder. I taste a mixture of earth and salt lick in my mouth. I’m still pondering this when I end up in line again behind the witch and her stepfather, this time heading down. 

“They should bring David Mitchell up here,” the step father says, making conversation.

“Oh, I think I read some of him. Not writing, so well lately?” I respond, still daft from my head upside down and letting the gab sink in.

“He’s a great writer. I got to see him speak in Houston once. I found his first few books a real treat. But the last two, he kind of lost it.”

Slowly, I recognize the subtle gift of the conversation. Minutes after kissing the Blarney stone, some one is telling me to read David Mitchell. A book by him with “Dreams” in the title. I have the foresight to write it down. But the girl is pulling him onwards, with that usual embarassment children hold for their parents striking up unusual conversations.

It takes me the whole flight down the stairs, still lost in a revelry, to realize that by being in line behind her and kissing the stone after her, I indirectly had my first kiss with the Blarney witch.

I go seeking her in the Druid ruins somewhere west in the castle gardens. There’s rock circles, rock piles, and all sorts of places to make wishes. I climb through a cave and out a hedge maze. Eventually, I find the Witch’s Stone. Here she’s represented more in her faery tale form. A stone formed to look like a much older witch with a long nose and severe eyes. The pink-silver hair has turned completely white. Upon her head is a pile of change, so there is where I leave my tithe. 

The blarney is still rushing through me, so there’s no wish I find to recite. I merely think “abundance” and go walking on into a garden labelled “The Faery Realm”. Through twists and turns I wander. Past golden flowers and fluttering streams. Eventually the maze has surrounded me. 

I come to a bend in the path and there lies upon a rock, the full wing of a magpie. The rest of the bird nowhere to be found. The blue, black, and white of the wing shining up under the sun. In my fingertips the feathers fall away naturally and I gather them up for a future dream catcher or some other craft. The witch sure has blessed me.

A kiss and some feathers. The gold in these Irish castles has my type of charm. I look back on my day of wonderment and laugh at the eloquence.

A Fool Kisses The Blarney Stone

The Ruins of Ireland

As I walk in the ruins of Vikings, Druids, Celts, and early Christians, my mind is in bits at how frequent this green land was attacked and often conquered. Yet all of this history still remains perfectly intact. A little worn by the weather, but otherwise mostly untouched. 

It seems surreal that so many folks came after this emerald jewel in the sea. A country with no physical borders, no unfriendly neighbors except for the clans within. No real resources beyond rocks, potatoes, rain, and abundance of green grass. And far away from all the action going on back in Europe. It’s hard to see what the practical attraction must’ve been all the way back then.

And yet, there’s a special magic that floats free in the rolling green hills of Ireland. Maybe that’s what those ancient conquerors were after all along. A spell cast by the goddess or the kiss of some ancient fairy maiden. And the new that came and replaced the old, often carried with them even more radical superstitions than those that had preceded them.

We can thank this type of superstition for the preservation of ancient ring forts from 3000 or 5000 BC and the old Druid faerie rings teaming with the human sacrifices of prehistoric times and the early celtic burial mounds complete with the head stone still standing where a shaman once stood and conducted the sun to rise and even the thousand year old Celtic crosses and earlier Celtic grave markers spread all across the land with no special distinction, sometimes penned in with a farmer’s sheep, or other times left at the center of an expansive castle garden, or other times in a well-cared for grove of Willow trees just on the edge of town, or perhaps the whole town just laid out later to surround these ruins in an effort to leave them undisturbed.

Even at the medieval cathedrals you’ll often find the ruins of the early Christian church that preceded it, and sometimes, you’ll even find a beehive monastery built by early Celtic monks that preceded that. All of them the most insane rock balances you’ve ever even imagined.
It’s interesting to think what the US would look like today if its first settlers had paid heed to a similar kind of special attention deserved by an indigineous burial ground or the ancient monuments and natural formations that must’ve dominated the landscape before we were there. If only those early invaders had actually paid attention to the curses cast by disruption suggested by the tribes who spent millenia cultivating these sacred places. 

Instead of fearing faeries or a witch’s spell as the Irish often did, these first Puritans used whatever was in their capacity to bulldoze through history. The same has stayed true in the country as it has planned its cities and engaged in suburban development, for the better part of the last four centuries.

The US is a young country, as a result, and the idea of preservation there is less than a hundred years old. “Historical societies” have only started gaining a buzz in the last half century. Sure, we hold onto a bell that’s got a crack in it from 1812 and a yellowed piece of paper that supposedly signed our freedom from a little while longer, but otherwise for some reason we’ve decided it’s smarter to tear things down before building new ones. That lack of respect for time and growth ripples on down through the rest of our society.

I mean, what’s the oldest thing you’ve ever seen in the states? I’ve been to cave dwellings that were built sometime around 1000 AD. The only reason they’re still there is they’re in the middle of the desert and hard to get to. Meanwhile since they’ve become more accessible, folks started right away with the graffiti and defacement of a child with a crayon and a clean white wall. 

I don’t understand the type of mind that would carve their name directly into a thousands year old petroglyph of a bear chased by a hunter, but I’ve seen it. Didn’t that idiot think about how by carving directly into an ancient image, their stupidity is on display for all to see for the rest of time, and with their name, no less! Thanks Mark of 1996.

I’ve been to the mountains and rivers and forests and plains that surround these sacred places and they face no greater a fate. Places that have taken eons to form are completely deforested and strip-mined for the sake of a quick “profit”. Things going to hell, thanks to the bastards in a matter of years long before I lived. All of these hills and mountains and southwestern deserts and temperate rain forests are scarred with a ghost town industry. 

As soon as coal, oil, precious metals, or lumber is found, whatever corporation steps right in with no regard for the land or the people that have lived there almost as long as the land, leaving toxic sludge and other refuse in their wake. And what’s not taken by the corporate interests is nicked later by random visitors. Folks who like pretty stones or petrified wood or artifacts from prehistoric times. I can only guess how shortly lived a ring fort discovered in the suburbs of New Jersey would be. Folks would be showing up at all hours of the night removing each and every stone for their private collection.

All of this is clearly obvious to everyone, and yet it continues. A nation of useless waste and self involvement.

Based on this I wouldn’t say it’s a long shot, that we got the current political predicament. The current social strife. We’re a nation that can’t even keep track of what short history we have. We bulldoze right over it every time. Of course, it’s going to repeat itself. We don’t have anything concrete to use to teach our youth about which paths have already been tried and been proven not beneficial to anyone. Racism, financial collapse, and Donald Trump are still a thing because no one alive seems to remember the civil rights movement, the Great Depression, or World War 2. Most folks don’t even understand that we’re all immigrants there. They forget that we all sailed in on a boat not long ago.

The Celts and Native Americans were able to remember their entire origins to this day through an oral tradition and ritualization of their ancestors, and yet we can’t even remember that racists, bankers, and Nazis are not only bastards, but they were already defeated, only a few decades ago.

All of it is just really full of perspective out here in this land of revelry. 10,000 years or more of invaders and yet the things from then that have disappeared went away mostly on their own accord. 
Rock does eventually erode. Wood disintegrates.

There’s a big difference there compared to a corporation bulldozing it all to make way for a parking lot or mini mall or a highway. Here in Ireland, they mostly just build around it or add to it. Or if it’s a ring fort they might just build a castle garden on top of it, where the rock circles become the foundation for flower beds.

The old Celts buried below must be rolling in their graves tickled with floral jubilee.

I’m not going to say it’s better here (though the grass IS greener). It’s still the Western world. There’s war. There’s poverty. There’s even a stronger Christian right wing here than in the US, successfully stripping away a woman’s right to choose. But shite, at least they have their roots.

The Ruins of Ireland