Monthly Archives: July 2013

New Shoes

10 days ago

Any self respecting pilgrim would have left their shoes at the end of their journey. I left mine in Ennis, County Clare. I first put them on when I started going to the gym, almost five years ago, intent on keeping fit enough so that I would be able to be physically and mentally prepared for mid-life and beyond.  The shoes served me well and were obviously good value for money!  They took me to the gym three or four times a week, to the Willunga Farmers Market most Saturday mornings, to countless short trips to familiar places, to far off lands and to the shores of oceans and streams.

After being on The Burren I knew I was going to say goodbye to them in Clare. And with that goodbye,  I would but some new ones in the new world of Dubai on the way home. And that is what I did.

This new journey warrants new shoes.  Ironically the ones I left behind were designed for walking and the label on this new shoe box says they  are designed for running!  I wonder if the shoes are being prophetic?

I thanked the shoes for carrying me this far and explained to them they had done a great job and their wear and tear was evidence of that. The right shoe had lost all its stitching on the toe perhaps channelling the number of times I have wanted to kick someone or something in or out of my way.
My new shoes were bought at one of the many temples to mammon in Dubai during Ramadan – an oxymoron to this reluctant shopper. Dubai is as far as any one could get from Patrick McCormack and the farmers in Clare.
The shoes will need to be broken in and I will reluctantly be back at the gym in a few days  and maintain my original intention and if the shoes are prophetic I will need to be ready.
I come to the end of these 30 days home and rested with the sounds of the pigeons in the distance, hearing The Ashes and with soup bubbling on the stove to comfort and reassure that I am indeed home in body and soul and ready with my new shoes for the next steps on this pilgrimage.
Dear Hildegard, I have just read what I wrote ten days ago; and it has taken me until today to put on my new shoes. Yesterday there was the most glorious of sunrises and Brother Sun was telling me very clearly it is time to start again!
I think my procrastination is about not wanting the old journey or my holiday to end. But this day has come and on they went. One foot in front of the other the only way to walk – baby steps first.  I am remembering the instruction of The Burren, carefully watching where I am going; being mindful to the hidden holes; enjoying the flat land as a moment to relax vigilance and to test the rock for movement first before completely committing to the stride.  The Burren is a challenging spiritual director.  My new shoes will carry me to new territories and help me through familiar ones as well. They will need to be prepared for times when my reluctance will need to be met with patience.  They will need to be ready for times of both safari and pilgrimage.
When the time comes for these shoes to be rested I will have taken them to who knows where and whatever paths I find myself on with them I hope they serve me as well as the old ones.  So in the spirit of John O’Donohue who, it is claimed, could bless a carburettor and bring divinity to the moment, I have been self indulgent and written a little blessing for myself and my new shoes.
Blessing for the Pilgrim’s New Shoes
May the left shoe lead you to clear horizons.
May the right shoe follow in even time.
May they both hold you firmly
May they help you walk; and climb.
May they cup your feet so you feel grounded.
May they hold your ankles so you do not trip.
May they take you near and far
May they help you run; and skip.
May you always know to thank them,
For accompanying you along the way;
And may you let them bring you home safely,
At the end of every night and day.
Morning 25 July 2013

Morning over Willunga 25 July 2013

Sand dunes

I have no idea, Hildegard how the Desert Mothers and Fathers survived out in the heat and the dust! But I did get a glimpse this week of the instruction they might have received by the desert. The sand dunes shift with the winds, ever changing, yet always there. They can’t be tamed or told to sit still, they are restless to be on the breath of God in the ancient land around the Gulf.

Being in Dubai is about as far away from Patrick McCormack in County Clare as humanly possible. It is a place bustling with commerce and aching to be the Hong Kong of the region and it will achieve its ambition very soon. It probably already has in terms of wealth per person! A true melting pot which also has remnants of the baron Star Wars that Jabba the Hut liked to business in- it that is unfair because in this season of Ramadan generosity and courtesy abound in the over 43 degree Celsius temperatures. I think Dubai is what Venice was like five hundred years ago.

Making this my last stop on this pilgrimage provided a hidden meaning not revealed until I got on the plane. I was sat next to a sixteen year old woman who was beautifully adorned in her best clothes, with hands painted and a silver chain holding her veil in place. She was flying for the first time – her only other flight being completed several hours before to get her to Dubai. She had begun her journey though years before fleeing war in the horn of Africa. This night she was going to meet her father and be reunited with other members of her family, her mother placing her on the plane – what a heart wrenching experience that would have been for her mother. She wasn’t sure if she would remember what her father looked like. She told me her name and it means harmony. I thought this was a beautiful present for me to receive – to have harmony sitting next to me!

She asked for my help to fill in the necessary arrival forms and to help her make a phone call to her father if he wasn’t there. I was sure he would be waiting for her at the other end. She completed her form without my help and I just checked it – for her occupation she wrote the word refugee. As it was Ramadan she was fasting and I explained the time zones so she could decide when it would be time to break her fast. The airline was very supportive.When we touched down I said: “Welcome to Australia”. I felt honoured to be the one to be able to say that, knowing full well that she will not experience this welcome everywhere she goes.

When we arrived into Adelaide, we walked together but had to part ways at immigration. After what seemed to me an eternity she came through and I helped her collect her bags as she had requested my assistance in this. All her worldy goods in two bags. The customs officer ushered us through and separated us again. And again I ached hoping there would be no more barriers to her making this journey. Again I had to go on ahead without her.

I emerged from the womb of the customs hall to the usual signs of families with Welcome Home signs, chauffeurs waiting to collect their charges and the promise of tears and hugs. My love was waiting for me and into his arms I was very well received.

I waited to see her emerge too, so that I could be sure that one of the pods of family group belonged to her and her to them. I didn’t have to wait long – she was greeted with great joy – the last of her siblings to come to Australia – having been waiting for more than seven years. I could see an older man and a young man holding her tightly. They were not going to let her go. I watched at distance in tears – witness to a moment that had taken years to be born.

She had told me, on the plane, that she had prayed to her God that she would have help to make this last part of her journey and that God had answered her prayer because I had helped her with her forms. I was the one who had been transformed though, her refugee status serving to support my pilgrimage home. I decided to say goodbye and walked over to her family and shook her fathers hand and looked into his eyes and wished him well. I did the same to her. I was weeping for their joy.

As our car left the carpark, we drove past them walking to their vehicle and there were smiles all round and a final wave between us all. My first thoughts were to her mother back in Nairobi who would be glad of the safe delivery of her child and also no doubt desperately sad for the separation as well.

The sand dunes of their lives and of mine, constantly shifting and moving, taking us further on in new paths, the wind blowing away the tracks of what has gone before. The roller coaster of traversing the ups and downs; the hidden depths and spaces that the dunes offer as you ride them on safari. A safari I have learnt is from Swahili meaning overland journey and is also from Arabic safarīya, meaning from safara to travel. A safari of this outer kind – and overland journey truly came together with the inward journey of pilgrimage in the last moments of my travels.

My 30 days are now at an end with last few days being at home. I unpack, wash my clothes, distribute some gifts, reconnect with those I love, send messages of thanks and support along the way, recast my net and give gratitude for both safari  and pilgrimage – the overland and inward journey of this time.

Sand dune Safari

A breath of fresh air

The walking Irish musical encyclopaedia PJ Curtis shared a piece of music from a virtuoso tin whistle player and what struck me was I couldn’t detect the breaths of the player. What a remarkable feat. As I strained to listen closer I could hear little sips of air being taken to top up the breath required to bring the sounds to our ears. The speed of the fingers juxtaposed with the steady breath, as true as any duck swimming madly beneath dark waters, the swift movements of pad pressing on tin easily lifting off after what sounded like the lightest touch.

David Whyte writes “Good poetry begins with the lightest touch” and good sound begins in way too, with grace and a gentle ease that may well camouflage a flurry of fast and furious emotions. From the simplicity of the tin whistle to the complexity of the uillean pipes, for the wisp of a breeze to the wild wind on The Burren, this land of my ancestors knows how to be with air.

Ireland knows how to tame air and how to be tamed by it, to love it and to be held by it. The breath of God receiving the invitation of every reed to co-create sound. There is no need to do anything but to feel Her breath and to breathe deeply and often and to keep topping up with sips. I have taken a big breath and breathed deeply. I have been breathed on and joined my breaths with others to make a collective sound of breathlessness in awe and wonder of getting to the top of John O’Donohue‘s land, I have listened and been part of audience participation in Size2Shoes original composition of “You leave me Breathless” (a song of love not endurance after a workout!).

When a musician plays a slow Air it seems to be a wistful lyrical style, giving us all a rest from the jigs and reels of the session. The Air works as a salve to soothe the soul, a mixture of lulling you to sleep and waking you up from a dream, and also to help you catch your breath before you jump up for another dance. And the Air I heard Michael “Blackie” OConnell play on the Uilleann pipes in Cottage 7, Ballyvaughan, was as haunting and restful as any I have ever heard.

Hildegard your enduring mantra, to be a feather on the breath of God, was around every corner in Ireland. Feathers appeared, where my feet trod on the cobblestone streets of Ennis, on the ridge at Fort Lor, in the alley of Galway, in the graveyard at Ballyvaughan and in front of the entrance to Glenstal Abbey, I knew you were constantly present. Consistently you were inviting me to be a feather; to have a light touch, to help give flight, to join with others to create a wing to soar, to enter into the reminder that a single feather is of something much bigger than itself.

The elemental nature of air has conversational properties of epic proportions, from invitations of rest, being at my back to push me uphill, to offering me resistance to build resilience and to co-create beautiful music and words using my own body is a reed. Ireland has been my breath of fresh air, filling my lungs so I am ready to take little sips when I need to for my ongoing and life long pilgrimage.

With good humour and joy You leave me breathless.

blackie entraced

B flat

I’ve always loved B flat as a single note and F#minor as a chord. This week I was in the presence of the legendary Noirin Ni Riain and as a result I bought her autobiography. The pages revealed some common threads between us, a love for you Hildegard, among them. But the revelation that jumped completely off the page was the information she shared about B flat. She writes:

” … NASA astronomers have discovered that the earth is constantly vibrating to a steady drone that they have defined as B flat – fifty seven octaves down from the tone below Middle C on the piano. This mystical tone is one million billion times lower than the lowest sound that you can hear. So every time we sound the note B flat, we are harmonising with the ultimate, primeval cosmic music. This is the incarnate, cosmic sound of God. ‘From heavenly, heavenly harmony, The universal frame began”(John Dryden)
p124 Listen with the Ear of the Heart.

How often I have felt I was aiming to live a middle C life, and yet am constantly drawn to being a little off centre; drawn to B flat. This new knowledge is so liberating, each time I was going for middle C and denying my natural centredness which is to be in tune, in tune with B flat.

We’ve been invited in this pilgrimage at Ballyvaughan to find the beautiful question for ourselves and today were also invited to find the name we would give ourselves if we weren’t afraid of loss. In my quest this year to be more of myself, more of the time, I was drawn to own over and over, deeper and deeper my own name Moira. Moira who is Mary, great mother, Moira named after a dead little friend, Moira another name for Gaia – Mother Earth, the moiraes – daughters of Zeus – spinning, weaving and measuring life – with all of heaven and earth unable to escape from their jurisdiction. But now, as I reflect what name would I want to look back on for myself at this time and maybe it is B flat?

What would it mean to be known as B flat?

Centred and in sync with the rotating seasons; living harmoniously with the sounds and spinning of the planet in the universe. A solitary piece of the universe moving from a strong and constant axis drawing energy from a deep, dark place invisibly.

I am wondering if you had a favourite note Hildegard? And also what key you wrote your music in? Something for me to research at a later date.

I have finished my week with David Whyte and am not disappointed. It is too soon to write about the grace note resonating in my soul, but I do know listening to the tune within is pure and simple and is joining with the wind as one.

Listening to the Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey at vespers tonight helped me gather up the remains of the day and indeed of the week, with a final Magnificat to start singing me home.

B flat