Sunday, May 29, 2011

Immersed in time

One of my greatest pleasures in Ireland, as I have already mentioned here, is to walk into the many ruins of very early monastic settlements. The area is just full of them, some of them reputed to be pre-Patrician. (It is a myth that Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland. There was already a sizable Christian community here when he arrived, around 432AD.)

Most of these sites simply sit isolated in farmers' fields. Left as if the inhabitants had gone off for a visit and never returned. Some are merely scattered stones. Others show the remnants of buildings: primitive churches called oratories, hut sites, and always, always, the graveyards.

Headstones, of course, were not used. But the sites are most usually marked by a collection of white quartz stones. Sometimes, as pictured above, they will be marked by an imposing cross-stone which is most probably adorning the resting place of an important abbot or perhaps the original founder of the site.

Of all the many aspects of these sites, the thing I value most about them is their solitary nature, their aloneness. In all the years I have been visiting them, and adding more to the list of favorites, I have never seen anyone else visit them. Never had to share them. Tourists never come, which is a good thing. They probably wouldn't enjoy them that much. Just a pile of old rocks. And hard to find. That's the best part: they are hard to find. But once found they give back, in special ways.


Brigid said...

I have similar pictures myself from my trips there.

There is just something centering about being there, and I'm glad I'm not the only one that feels it,

Sven said...

Reminds me of a tale out of the ancient Celtic Christian tradition attributed to an Abbot Lot:

-- Abbot Lot came to Abbot Joseph and said: "Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, my little fast, my prayers, meditations and contemplative silence; and according as I am able I strive to cleanse my heart of (evil) thoughts; now what should I do?"

The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of flame. He said:
"Why not be totally changed into fire?" --

That sounds, feels Irish!

BobG said...

I love old ruins; I always try to imagine what the people were like and what the ruins would say if they could talk.