Thursday, June 21, 2012

From the Sea to the Summit

Once again time and travel have graced me with gifts beyond measure; great friends, spectacular beauty and oddly enough, a lesson in patience. If I had to pick my most memorable journey of the past week I would certainly have to say that the climb to the top of Croagh Patrick was the ultimate in personal growth and life’s lessons learned. It pushed me past what I thought I could endured both mentally and physically and in some weird way gave me strength in return. Patience is a virtue they say and one that has not always graced my illustrious personality. But I will have to say that thus far there isn't anything in this life that has taught me the art of patience as well or as thoroughly as a single, solitary, majestic mountain known as Cruach Phádraig
And thus the story goes as follows: It was an unusually clear blue morning as I made my way towards the path that would take me to the rocky peak and as I gazed upon the mountain from below I could discern the slow progression of time etched upon its face which the mountainside seemed to patiently endure. I was intimidated to say the least. But soon my thoughts turned to my approach, to the task of reaching the stately mountains pinnacle, and subsequently, to the arduous journey back from its peak. I was in awe. 
I do not believe that I have ever known the true meaning of the word patience until the day I climbed that mighty mountain. Nor had the term “one step at a time” been more real, more…apparent or more important than during my time on that mountain. There were at times brief respites where I looked forward towards my goal or back to whence I had come, but only for the briefest of moments and I found it was during those times that I would miss a step...falter. Wavering for that one split second in time instantaneously brought my focus back to the task at hand, that next step, and nothing else. I found that when I began to reach that state of mind where I garnered such complete focus wrapped tightly in a ragged determination to reach the top, I became a different person within myself. I could feel my whole being thrive on that mountain and in that circumstance. It was in that existence that I became deeply interwoven with that place. And as such, after my fear of heights had been conquered, when I finally reached the summit and looked across the vast horizon it felt as if, since the beginning of all time, Ireland herself had been patiently waiting for my arrival. After the exuberance and exhilaration began to gently subside and I turned and looked at the daunting task of returning to the fields and valleys below, I,  for the first, time understood completely what that  journey, that climb, that struggle to reach the summit had taught me. I knew without question that I had been given a gift. A gift that had sat silently waiting for me to appear. The gift of a deep and true understanding of the nature of patience. And as I took my first step towards my descent, I knew I had been changed forever…

Doolin: Now Doolin has always held a special place in my heart. I fell in love with its rustic charm and small town feel last year as my daughter Kristy and I took a walk out to the ocean down the Aille River. We only had a few hours to enjoy the village but I swore right then and there I would return. This time I was able to truly enjoy the flavor of Doolin as well as make some lasting memories with two amazing friends. 

Maclean: I have decided that I won’t write about my friend Mac, as that is too personal a story to tell, but I will say briefly; Mac thanks for the memories. Your crystal blue eyes, warm heart, and brilliant smile will, without a doubt, be etched upon my mind forever. May peace and happiness follow you wherever you go from here my friend.

Pierrick: I absolutely, positively, adored my friend Pierrick. The day I arrived in Doolin I was sitting at an old wooden table in the hostel enjoying the warmth that emanated from the fireplace when in walked Pierrick. I smiled at him and said hello and he responded in kind and thus, in the simplest of ways, we began what would become a grand friendship. Pierrick did not go out that particular evening as he had decided to hike to the Cliffs of Moher the next day and I, after having one too many Guinness’ at the pub that evening, opted to take the bus. We did however run into each other on the Cliffs as I was heading down the trail and he was heading back, so although we didn't get to wander the cliffs together we were able sit next to each other on bus on the trip back to Doolin. Back at the hostel I got a quick nap and Pierrick had something to eat and afterwards we sat in the hostel next to the fireplace and shared some beer that I had bought at the store the day before. I had only three so we each had one and then we retrieved some glasses from the pantry and split the last one while we sat outside on the stone wall and watched the Aille River float lazily by. It was a beautiful evening filled with the joy of being in Ireland so along with our beer Pierrick and I shared an abundance of pleasant conversation. We talked about our lives, our families and about living life to its fullest. It wasn't long before Pierrick and I decided to take a stroll up the hill, a rugged 90 second walk, to Fitz Place to get a cold, fresh beer. Eventually we found ourselves immersed in the music, the atmosphere and the growing bond of friendship. I found Pierrick to be such a gentle soul. He had the heart of a poet and the mind of one not yet jaded by the cruelty that life can often hold. I found it incredibly refreshing that he was so taken by the simplest of things. He would look at me randomly throughout the evening and say “this is it Kristine!! There is nothing else but this moment!!” And he would smile and say this is so “grand” or “lovely"or “cool” and we drank our beer and toasted the night, the music, and the warmth that surrounded us. We avowed to be content; being completely and utterly engrossed in those moments. 

It was a grand and lovely time and one which I have to say was one of the best nights of my trip. Without question I will remember it with great affinity and fondness. Unfortunately, as has happened so often during my sojourn, morning came and it was time for me to once again say goodbye to a friend that I had made such a special connection with. So Pierrick and I ate breakfast and then together we walked down to the bus station where we eventually hopped on the bus to Ennis where we would part ways; he would make his way to Waterford and I would make my way back to Lahinch. Upon our arrival we gathered our gear, gave each other a hug filled with warmth and friendship and I watched with a growing sadness as he climbed aboard his bus and waited for it to depart. As I stood upon the cold, damp, sidewalk I had to fight back the tears that I knew would eventually come. Pierrick’s bus finally backed slowly away from the curb. I could see Pierrick as he looked at me through the glass. His face disappeared only to reappear as his bus rolled across the asphalt coming back into view as it passed between two buses. I caught a glimpse of him so I waved and smiled, as did he, until  once again the buses blocked our view. I waited to see if I could see him once again as his bus cleared the final obstacle and pulled out of the station…I could. He turned and looked over his shoulder as he waved a final farewell, as did I.  The lump in my throat gave way as his bus disappeared into the street and this time there was no stopping the tears. It was as if the universe was waiting, because at that very moment the rain began to fall gently on my shoulders and the tears that had been on the brink finally fell from my eyes and quietly rolled down my cheeks. I stood silently, helplessly by as I watched yet another friend make their journey homeward.

Rainbows: Now it has been said that being in the right place at the right time is essential to great photography and I believe that to be true. Now the other way to go about that is to almost be at the right place at the right time and force the universe to comply. Such was the case with me, my beer, and my rainbow. Having given in to the inclement weather and having lazed around all day at the hostel I finally decided to take a stroll in the misty conditions along the beach taking some pictures as I went and cursing the camera when the batteries gave out. I strolled amiably along the beach back to town where I bought some batteries and some bread because the two often go hand in hand, made my way back to my room and then reached the incredibly difficult decision that it was time for a beer. For whatever reason I changed the batteries in my camera, (I normally would not have even carried it with me as the store was right there on the corner) tossed it without thought into my front pocket, and walked across the street. I took my time as I was in no particular hurry and carefully chose the cheapest beer in the store (Carling Black Label). I exchanged pleasantries with the store clerk and leisurely made my way out of the store. As I began to step into the rain soaked street, I looked over my left shoulder for traffic and there it was; the biggest, most brilliant rainbow I had ever seen.  I stopped dead in my tracks. And then my mind was like "hey you dumb ass get a picture… quick!!"  Thing was it was a dozen blocks up the street to get decent view and/or picture before it disappeared and who knew how long that would be. I would have to get a move on. I tucked my beer, which was in a brown paper sack, haphazardly under my arm and literally sprinted up the street. I am sure the locals were like “look at that crazy tourist.” No matter. As I splashed through the puddles with reckless abandon, I reached the top of the lane. I fumbled for my camera with one hand as my beer began to rip through the now wet paper sack. I made it to the top of that hill in what felt like seconds flat, threw my beer unceremoniously to the ground and got the shot. I must have looked half crazed standing there with what I am sure amounted to a stupid grin of triumph on my face. Up to that point that had been the most laid back day. I mean I had just been on the top of a mountain. Patience was my middle name right? So much for being “laid back.” That was two minutes of shear chaos and insanity followed by me laughing at myself for the next several hours. That rainbow must have stood in silent awe of my determination, quick feet, and triumphant grin. I am certain it watched in quiet amusement as I gathered up my beer, that had tumbled out of the sack, as I place all but one of them as neatly as I could back into what remained of said sack, and casually sat down an old stone wall and popped the top on the remaining pint. The rainbow was still shining in the fading twilight as the rain started to fall again so I hopped down off the wall and began to walk casually back down the hill that I had just moments earlier traversed at the speed of light. I took one last glance back over my shoulder just in time to see that giant, amazing, rainbow, that had only moments before stretched down from the heavens, be swallowed up by the approaching storm. I turned and made my way slowly back down the street with the mist gently falling over me…and my sack of beer. Kristine one; Universe…zero.

Side note: I just want to give a heads up to my friends from Lahinch. Lahinch was the perfect place to just hang out and relax and I want to thank Peter and Pat who ran the hostel for making me feel so at home. And I want to give a “surfs up dude” to my friend Colm who I came in on the  bus with the first time I was there and who joined Nora and Martin and I to make my last night in Lahinch a grand, grand time. You guys really made a lasting impression on me and I hope that you find that killer surf you were looking for. 

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