Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pilgrimage – Day 11, Sept. 20, 2009

It was hard to believe that our time in Ireland was drawing to a close. On this Sunday morning, we gathered briefly before checking out of the hotel and making our way to the dock to catch the ferry to the mainland. We were not retracing the path we had come but were going to another village, one that would put us in the Burrens for our final day.

Our ferry was a bit late in arriving, and when it did, we found it a little unsettling that it was a smaller craft than the one we’d come to the island on. The wind was cold, the skies gray, and our ferry ride three times as long as the one coming over. When we had cleared the harbor and gotten out into the open water, the ferry began to pitch. At times waves splashed over the side. However, we were afforded a view of the other islands of the Arans as we passed on our way south. Making the best of the rough ride, we snacked and enjoyed the views.

Finally we came in sight of land. But the ferry stopped a good distance out, and suddenly a crew member was handing us life jackets. That was a bit unsettling, to say the least. We soon learned, however, that due to the tide being out, the ferry could not go all the way to the dock. We would have to climb down into small motorboats to ride in. Then we had to climb, and be pulled, up to the dock when the boat arrived at it. Nobody said pilgrimage would be easy! Natives to the area seemed to take all this in stride. They apparently were familiar with the process, unlike this group of pilgrims.

We soon met our driver for the day and were off to a pub with a hot lunch, then on the road again to see the Burrens. The word, Burren, is actually another pronunciation of “barren,” and it described the landscape well. The area is one primarily of rock, yet it has its own kind of beauty.

There were some highlights on ride through the Burrens that day. One was finding a small roadside cemetery where John O’Donohue was buried. We observed some moments of silence and prayer by his grave before continuing on.

Later at the top of a ridge, we passed a dolmen off to the side. As we clambered for our driver to stop so we could make pictures, he gently told us to hold on. Around the next bend or two was another dolmen that had a parking lot and trail up to it. These dolmens, or passage tombs, date back to about the same time as New Grange. More amazing monuments left by a people we know little about.

Seeing the dolmens on the last day of our pilgrimage in a sense brought us full circle. We had begun our trek at New Grange, a mysterious tomb/ceremonial site dating back five thousand years. In between we traveled through the centuries to numerous sacred sites. We were leaving with a view of that ancient pre-Christian time again.

From the Burrens we went into the town of Ennis, not far from Shannon airport where we would take our leave of Ireland the next day. In a lovely hotel after another luscious meal that evening, we gathered as a group for the last time and said our thank you’s and goodbyes. This had been an experience of a lifetime. It was more than just a trip. Each of us has her own reflections and meanings garnered from the places we visited and the things that happened along the way. We continue to savor and reflect.

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