Tag Archives: Ballyvaughan

Life in Ruins

When cracks appear,  walls fall down and a roof collapses, a ruin begins to appear.   Buildings once complete, relationships once whole may crumble and fall into a state of disrepair. Lack of maintenance, deliberate acts of destruction, natural disasters, erosion, weather all add to the disappearance of what was built in love, with patience and usually quite a bit of planning.

So how is that a life in ruins might actually be a wonderful testament to endurance and survival?

I witness ruins and I wonder what secrets and dreams do the ruins host? The ruins reveal the essence of the foundations, and what parts were the strongest, boldest and most steadfast.  A life in ruins may be a fiat of life well lived and a legacy to inspire others.

When visiting Hilda of Whitby‘s ancient cathedral I was charmed by what had endured and how the remains were fiercely holding out to the wild winds. I felt the freezing cold late afternoon wind on my face that poured into my bones.  I could hear the ancient chorus breathing into the spaces the buildings had made; a giant flute echoing to earliest Gregorian chants of an ancient and devout community betrothed to one another, Hilda and Whitby.

Several years later I found myself at your re-built Abbey Hildegard in Rudesheim  non-architectural ruins were visible to me. Fragments of ritual and language being held together in a familiar landscape of prayer and song.   I did not visit the ruins where many of your compositions and your letters, Hildegard were probably made. Perhaps one day I will!

This year I had the honour of being on David Whyte‘s tour in Western Ireland. We were held in the comfort of BallyvaughanCounty Clare  and travelled one day to the ruins of Coromroe Abbey.  My body and soul in ruins.  At this sacred place, myself and fellow pilgrims blessed newly married sojourners and were honoured to be blessed in turn by their love and masterful generosity. You can read their story in their own words.  What I learnt that day that will remain with me forever is that a life in ruins is indeed a blessed life in blessed ruins.  The echo of the kyrie sung by Eoin and Moley O Suilleabhain keeps arriving and nourishing me from my audio memory.

Inspired by a  life in ruins, Coromroe Abbey and the blessings of this holy occasion and the honeymoon I found myself witness to, these words came to me.

We blessed them in the ruins.
Not the ruins of their past lives,
But the ruins of their life ahead.

The fragments worn and lost,
Have gone to where they needed to go;
Into the earth,
Or onto the wind.

The ruins that remain are the resilient bits.
The bits that can take the elements,
That can stand the tests of time,
That stubbornly refuse to collapse under the pressures of trials and treasons.

Ruins, strong and embedded into the landscape;
Worn well throughout the ages;
Holding and grounded in a deep wisdom.

Ruins that know weathering is a sign of endurance.
No decay or debris to be found here.
No death or destruction.
No disappearance.

All ruins: fully present and accounted for;
Holding fast;
Holding firm,
Holy ground.
Inspired by the love of days;
that will count for years.

The blessing made
The marriage confirmed.

Never before had I been a guest at a honeymoon!

So when I feel like my life might be in ruins, I return to Whitby, to Rudesheim and especially to Coromroe Abbey. I go to a deeper place where I receive my life in ruins with gratitude. I grow in my desire for the elements to support my disappearance and gracefully shape the remains. I look forward to the birds of the air, the pollen and air borne spores finding a home and bond with me in a timeless, ever changing way.

Coromroe Abbey, Clare, Ireland

Coromroe Abbey, Clare, Ireland

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