Getting my feet wet

It Begins….

Bantry Bay, West Cork

The road was steep, and I worried the brake would slip. I reminded myself that it held the last time I was there, which only prompted worry over the inevitable hill-start. We spilled out of the car reluctantly. It had begun to rain and the wind was fresh.  In other words—COLD. W.L. opened the boot to get our rain gear, K.L. began to unhook the Wee Síoge(my faery god-daughter), and I looked to the West, eager to see whether the rain was moving toward us or away. That’s when the sun peeked out from behind a grey veil, illuminating Bantry Bay in gold wash. The hills below were a carpet of russet and green; the water of the bay reflected a perfect path to the Honey Plain. I took a deep breath, and allowed myself to sink—into the land, into the generational line that spans millennia, and I smiled.

Does it get any more perfect?”

The brisk temperature and pelting rain shortened my reverie, and we quickly put on our rain jackets and boots. K strapped the Wee One snuggly to my back—you see, Little Miss had graced me with the honour! Now suited up, I led the way, my tour guide hat firmly pulled over my ears: past the gate and into the water-logged pasture. We were fairly far up the mountain and had a lovely view of the valley and surrounding hills. One distinctly marked low rise to our left was my landmark. I knew it to be aligned with the circle’s flat northern stone , and similarly shaped (an emerging theory regarding stone monuments wonders whether their upper surfaces were carved to mimic or reflect the surrounding landscape). I began to anticipate my friends’ response to what awaited them, and smiled again.

KealKill Stone Circle and Row

The first field was easy going. There was a good path that was only slightly muddy. We scaled the stile on the hedgerow one-by-one, taking care to avoid the thorn whips that snaked in between rungs.  Our emergence past the hedge and into the next pasture was greeted with an expanse of marsh land! Little clumps of grass floated in a watery reflection of cloud. Again, I led the way, searching out clumps that didn’t sink too readily. My advantage was wellies, my friends’ disadvantage was hiking boots.

Not far in I misstepped and water gushed into my boot. I struggled to pull my foot up, fighting to both keep my balance (baby on board) and keep my shoe on! There was a sense in that moment of being enveloped, and I felt a deep longing to roll in the mud. Behind me I heard a little shriek and knew K had encountered a similar problem. Tender step by tender step, watching the brown softness of earth beneath me, smelling the rich fecundity mingled with pungent manure (cows had roamed there recently), I made my way to the rise of the hill. Looming before us was the stone circle, with its majestic two-stone row and radial cairn. In the setting sun of a west Cork winter day, with muddy water soaking my feet, I breathed in the connection of Place.

 

…With Backstory

Hello! and welcome to the blog. This week you will meet each of us in turn, learn why we are interested in Place, and possibly glimpse where our musings and meanderings will lead. I am the Texan in the bunch. I grew-up on a family farm on the wide coastal plain of the Gulf and spent my youth roaming barefoot: a wild child with black feet and a mass of tangled brown hair. I now live in a 300 year-old stone cottage in the Avondhu region of East Cork, Ireland. In my back garden is a Neolithic standing stone, in the pasture behind the house is an Iron Age ring fort, and down the lane a Mesolithic burial mound: a very different place than the warm friend of my youth, or the lazy hazy groove of Austin (where I lived for a decade).

My relationship with Place began on the farm as I encountered wild and domesticated life, the solitude of the country, and the mental space afforded an only child. That relationship matured as I moved around the U.S., living in mostly rural environs, and finally ending up back in Austin—my first truly urban encounter. I struggled there to connect, not understanding how to find Place in a concrete jungle.

It was out of that conundrum that I began to qualify what Place meant to me.  I will be writing more about my deepening understanding of Solastalgia (Albrecht, 2010a), which helped me find meaning in my own disconnection, in future posts. As Gregory Bateson and many others have expressed, I believe our Western tendency to think of mind and nature as separate indicates a core level wound (I won’t go as far as calling it a flaw). Bateson (1972) once said, “…if Lake Erie is driven insane [by the dumping of human by-products], its insanity is incorporated in the larger system of [our] thoughts and experience.”

We are moving, however reluctantly, further into an urban, technological future of our own creation and away from the elemental forces that shaped our minds.  How we get back in touch with those forces and find our “heart’s ease” (Albrecht, 2010b)—our Place— is what interests me. I hope my musings here contribute in their way to a widening and important conversation within Paganism.

 

Albrecht, Glenn. (2010, May 22). ‪TEDxSydney 2010 was organised by General Thinking. Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/-GUGW8rOpLY

Albrecht, Glenn (2010). Solastalgia and the creation of new ways of living. In S. Pilgrim & J. Pretty (Eds.), Nature and Culture, Rebuilding Lost Connections (217-233). London:

Bateson, Gregory (1972). An Ecology Of Mind. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

 

About Traci

Traci Laird is an animist living in Ireland and hails from the great state of Texas (a mythic heritage she is quite proud of!).  Her current academic pursuits are in Sociology and Psychology, and she engages a “sensuous scholarship” when seeking to understand Place.  She can also be found at Confessions of a Hedge Witch

  • Suzanne McAnna

    More, please!

    • http://hedgeconfessions.com Traci

      Great to see you here! I look forward to your contribution to these ongoing conversations.

  • http://wyldwomyn.ca Wyldwomyn

    Sounds like quite an adventure. I wish I was there. Reading about it is the next best thing though!

    • http://hedgeconfessions.com Traci

      Hi Wyldwomyn! It was an amazing day! The best part, for me, was introducing my faery god-daughter to those stones…and the lone Thorn Tree. I hope to take you all with me, via my writing (and maybe video), as I explore and experience this Place. Here’s to adventure and connection!

  • pagansister

    What a beautiful, descriptive post! Thank you so much. My ancestors on my father’s side were Irish, from county Cork. My 2 sisters and I were lucky enough to be able to visit Cork, and the small town that bears my maiden name. Your description of the countryside brought back wonderful memories. Someday I hope to be able to return to check out as many stone circles and other sacred spaces. In England we were able to go inside Stonehenge and Avebury. My heart calls me to visit more!

    • http://hedgeconfessions.com Traci

      Hi Pagansister! Cork is delicious. Mor Muman is rich in her bounty, strong in her bones, and beautiful of countenance. May She ever be so! Were your people from east or west Cork? My paternal line came from the part of Cork I am fortunate enough to live in. So happy you were able to visit. I would love to hear how that ancestral connection impacted your visit, and whether, having visited, it impacted your connection back home in the U.S.?

      • pagansister

        Hi! Traci, When we visited County Cork my sisters and I stayed with my sister’s niece ( by marriage) and her family. She married an Irishman and they live right outside Cork City. She drove us everywhere! It was wonderful. We spent a few hours in Castletownroche—the town that is responsible for my maiden name—Roach. (who changed the spelling I have NO idea!). Our ancestor, Peter, was a stowaway, at 16, coming to the US from the port of Cobh. (we visited it also). He came over before the famine. The impact visiting the area? My life blood started out there—and knowing that was a profound feeling. As to how it impacted my return to the US? Am not sure how to answer that. I do know that my desire to return is strong….whether it will happen is doubtful, for many reasons I can’t go into here. There was no feeling of being in a “foreign” country while there—it was home and the beauty was amazing—all I can say is that part of the world calls me. I would love to visit more sacred circles and other sacred spaces. Given the opportunity I would happily spend months there. Have retired to North Florida because both married children are here. We have a small townhome, in a beautiful neighborhood with lakes and parks. But it is not the same as RI’s beauty where we spent 18 years—and reminded me of Ireland, England, Scotland more than N. Florida ever will. Did any of that make sense? :o) Our children are of Irish, British,Welsh, Scottish and German ancestry.

        • http://hedgeconfessions.com Traci

          How wonderful that you stayed with relatives! You know, your ancestress (Elizabeth Roche) married my ancestor (David Barry, Barryscourt castle) which makes us distant relations! haha

          Ireland and Florida are very different. I have never been to Florida. What do you love about it? What are the seasons like there?

          • pagansister

            Hello, Traci, Didn’t mean to be so long in replying. Yes, Ireland and Florida are very different for sure, in seasons as well as scenery. I live in what is known as the Big Bend area, below Alabama and Georgia. I’m 2 hours from the Gulf. The seasons are much milder than RI, where I lived for 18 years. The summers are very hot, and humid, fall can be warm, winter might get very cold–January and February–then it starts to “warm up” again in March. In the far past I lived in Orlando (central FL) and for a short time south of Miami. Did not care for Miami at all. No season change that I could tell. Personally, I’m a fan of more distinct seasons as in RI. RI is unique and I totally enjoyed our 18 years there. RI is much more like Ireland. No resemblance to Ireland at all in Florida. Our move here was due to both of our children being here. If there was family still in RI, we would have stayed there longer.

            Hey! Distant relatives is OK with me. Small world, huh? :o)

          • pagansister

            Just realized, Traci, that I have done a lot of repeating myself above—as I didn’t read my previous response. OOPS! I just start rambling and what comes out just comes out! :o)

  • W.L.

    What a great start, can’t wait to read more. What a wonderful day that was! Thanks for sharing that amazing place with us and for sharing that experience with everyone here.

    • http://hedgeconfessions.com Traci

      It was a great day! So glad y’all were able to meet so many of my beloved Places!


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