I'd met a lovely couple at the circle who told me all about the faery lore in and around the area. I listened patiently, smiling, nodding, but didn't have the heart to explain that I have 15,000 years of human history and culture in my brain, and, in nine languages. They were very nice people and were apparently waiting for me to get back to my car before leaving. I suppose it is still somewhat unusual for women to travel alone. Especially overseas.
The alter stone is the largest stone in the picture (see insert). When you put your hand on it, you can feel it vibrating. At least, I do....
It was a chilly day in October. My body tends to run hot so I wore a light jacket but no gloves. As I wandered around the stone circle, people came and went. Just a few at a time. Most did not see the appeal and quickly disappeared. Except for this one woman. I was on the far end when I felt her presence, turning at just the right moment to see wild gray and white witchy hair flying all around her as she got out of an SUV. She was of Asian descent, like me, but the world is more blended in my DNA, including Northern Africa, the Middle East, and of course, Ireland.
She wore a long skirt and a denim jacket. Other than feeling her when she pulled in, I didn't think much about her, continuing my obsession with photographing the smallest details around the large rocks. I was maybe two stones away from the alter stone when the woman first approached. The adjacent field was full of black and white grazing cows who were so used to people, they barely looked up when a new visitor arrived. But not the woman. She was different somehow. She walked around the outer edge of the circle and stood in front of the cows. In front of me. But I was in the circle and she was outside of it. Looking backwards, she clearly wanted me to see her...perhaps she felt me, too.
As she stood on the outer edge of the circle, the woman with the wild, witchy hair became very still. Very quiet. That's when I saw something I've never seen before:
The cows all looked up at once. At her. Then, they turned and began moving in our direction, crowding against the fenced gate. It was as if the woman's very presence called the cows forward. I began to record the phenomenon with my camera when she walked away; none but a very young calf remained at the gate. As an Ayurvedic practitioner, I've seen miracles in my lifetime. But this was remarkable. The cows appeared to be mesmerized. The moment the woman turned her gaze elsewhere, most of them seemed to go back to what they were doing before, as if unaware that they'd all just tried to push through the wooden gate that separated us from them.
The woman walked around to the stone circle's secret entrance. That was how I entered as well..
The first time I went to the circle, the whole set up felt wrong. No one was supposed to approach from the direction where there is now a road. People would come down from the mountain. Take a boat across the lake. Walk through the golden field. Past the protective hawthorn trees. And, enter through the faery door. They'd gather in the circle for fire festivals like Lughnasadh, which was just yesterday. It begins at sundown on 31 July and goes until the next night, 1 August. I was born on Lughnasadh, conceived on Samhain. And no, I'm not joking.
Truth is always stranger than fiction....
The full moon winks at me through the darkened branches of the pines in my backyard. I forget sometimes that I am full of magic. It's in my very birth. I snuck in through a sliver on Samhain when souls can move freely. That's when the sun-god, Lugh, is said to go underground. The god is born once again on 31 July...like me.
On that cold day, I watched the woman lay her body against the alter stone, facing away from me. It was such an unusual moment, that it seemed a portrait of humanity. Of how connected we feel to the past even though our linear nature as physical beings means we may only ever move forward. So I took a picture. Checked the camera. Ad patiently waited for the woman to stop hugging the stone so I could proceed with recording the glorious minutiae--those unseen details that delight my editorial eye.
I was full of wishes that day as I walked the entire circle multiple times and even after the woman left, I remained, listening to the trees, "hearing" the voices of the past. It finally got so cold I had to leave, under-dressed as I was. It had been many hours and my friend, Pam, was meeting me for dinner at my hotel. As I passed through the faery door again, it felt as though something bit me. My hand was on a stone for all but a moment. Yet there was bright red blood everywhere.
Patching myself up and driving the hour or so back, I'd almost forgotten about the woman. A young man was sitting at the bar and saw me as I strolled in, wind-blown and bloodied as I was. He was chatting me up when Pam arrived. As we sat and caught each other up, I suddenly remembered the woman and said, "Oh! I almost forgot about this. Very weird occurrence today while hiking around the stone circle. This woman seemed to mesmerize the cows, then, she hugged the alter stone. I took a picture...it was just so unusual."
But when Pam and I looked through my photos, all that was visible was the alter stone itself. There was no one else there. The woman had been there though--other tourists turned their heads when she walked by. And then there were the cows....
She wasn't in that footage either. With the cows. I'd filmed it briefly. She was right in front of me, too. I showed Pam the odd scratch on my right ring finger as well. Yet within a few days, it was completely healed.
The very next night after my visit to the circle was the book launch. Pam was with me then, too, as well as out mutual friend, Chris. My secret wish at the stone circle came true later that night upon my return--it felt like Fate and Destiny came together to create one perfect moment.
Life got very busy after that. But just before I flew across the ocean, I went back to the stone circle. I wanted to see the woman again. I wanted to see what the cows would do. I wanted the stone to "bite" me a second time. And of course, I hoped for that same magic to deliver another fated "surprise."
It was the first day of the full moon. And it was absolutely pouring sheets of big splashy raindrops. I waited in my car for it to stop. Waited for the few brave tourists who pulled over to leave. Then, I thought I saw the same SUV the woman had arrived in last time. Could it be her again?
I saw her wild hair before I saw her. She ran to the circle and before I'd even made it past the gate, was running back to her car. It was raining so hard and I had no umbrella. Within minutes, I was more drowned rat than human. Away the SUV drove with the woman. The lion did not roar that day. And though I stayed at the stone circle for hours once again, there were no sharp "bites." The cows barely noticed me, except the one young calf. I sat under a hawthorn tree against the fence, sheltering myself from the rain, feeling safe and hidden beneath the armed branches. As I crossed the threshold of the faery door, I stepped in an unavoidable puddle, my fabric sneakers absolutely soaked through.
When I returned to my hotel, I half-expected to see someone waiting there for me. A young local couple I know was having dinner in my usual booth; they noticed me glancing over and invited me to join them. If I'd been even remotely dry, I'd have accepted their kind invitation. But I needed to shower and change and put my sneakers in the hotel dryer. An hour later, I met one of my soul-family, Sean, for a late dinner. He gave me Moulton Brown and some really beautiful gifts to take home. We laughed and talked until midnight, neither of us wanting to say goodbye. We thought it would be maybe April--six months--until I'd return "home." Thanks to COVID-19, it's been more than six months now....
Tonight, as the winds of change blew through the dark purple leaves of the Crimson King in my garden, the wind-chimes singing in dulcet tones in the background, I thought of the woman that day in the stone circle. The moon is big-bellied once again. And it brings me back to the stone circle--I see it so clearly in my mind's eye, bathed in moonlight, glowing in the utter magic of the mossy megalithic stones.
As usual, I'm in trouble. Yet again. It follows me as regularly as the tides. Frustrated tears form in the corners of my eyes as I think back to last October. So many missed opportunities. And I can't fix any of it...
Have you ever felt that way?
I tell my clients that a sense of over-responsibility comes from being victimized. In other words, a malignant sociopath was neglectful and abusive. Part of that abuse is creating a narrative where everything that is "bad" or "wrong" or a "problem" is our fault. But as independent adults, we are the only ones responsible for our lives, our decisions, our actions, or any lacks thereof--even if we sometimes think otherwise.
Trauma is tough to erase; it's a one-day-at-a-time process. So what feels like missed opportunities is just past trauma and abuse taking over, making us feel vulnerable. And when we feel vulnerable, we get reactive (as opposed to proactive). There is no such thing as missed opportunities. As I write this, the clock has turned 10:10--10.10 was the day after I went to the stone circle last year. The day I witnessed pure magic. If you are reading this now, it's a message for you to create your own magic:
We can only manifest opportunities from a mindset of abundance, which means, we must stop focusing on scarcity in our lives--whether that's in love, with family, friends, or finances.
When we want to see opportunities, they appear. When we don't, all seems lost. The fact of the matter is that as magical as that time felt last October, the real magic has been consistently happening in my life for nearly a decade. Maybe it's a tweet. A text. Or an unexpected melody. Nina Simone's "Cherish." Or perhaps something from Dorothy Ashby (to go with my candle-lit fireplace). Maybe Glen Campbell's "Always on My Mind" shows up. Or, just a funny "Calvin & Hobbs" cartoon. All shared by one consistent, loyal, supportive friend--those are the traits are treasure in another human being more than anything else.
It's always nice to share your happiness with someone who sees you for you and loves you just the same. No matter how many times I've lost my temper, patience, or both, no matter how many times I've had a bad day and was unresponsive as a result, this same person has been consistently there. And, on some level, I think I've known that all along...just too scared to admit it. Or perhaps it's better to say, imagine it.
People always worry about the future. But it's the now that matters....
Be present in the present. Notice who's noticing you. See who really cares. Take the time to text that someone a message that brightens their day, every day. Apologize if you've taken them for granted, too. Who knows how things may bloom and grow from there!
Truly important moments are never lost. The important people in your life give you second and third chances. Actually, they give you infinite chances--because they will never prioritize problems over you. You matter. More than anything else. That kind of loyalty deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated.
For this full moon, I'm setting my intentions to reflect the care, love and loyalty I feel for the people who are actually in my life. The ones who have stuck around. For years. One in particular. That's what makes me smile at the end of the day. One person. You only ever need one to be on your side.
I hope each of you finds a someone who can make you smile-big...a person you can laugh with, share memories like old school photos, and even make future plans. Like going to see JAWS while floating on an inner tube in open water. Oh yes, once we no longer have to social distance--that's happening. Many other good things will happen, too.
How do I know?
Because I'm in charge of my life. No one and nothing else. Once we choose to take responsibility for ourselves, things get A LOT easier. So keep striving for that independence. Your life will improve exponentially...no magic needed!
*Please check out the song list of Irish music inspired by this essay created by one of Ireland's best radio show hosts and presenters, Chris Sherlock--it's just below the video. Don't miss it!!!
Chris is also a mental health advocate--his own story on his experiences with bullying debuts in the next Mental Health for Millennials being released on 10.10 2020--World Mental Health Day! Congrats to Chris and all the many authors involved in this groundbreaking book series from Ireland.
Enjoy exploring the world of Irish music, and when it's safe to travel widely again, be sure to add Ireland to your list of places to visit. I miss it every single day and look forward to returning "home" once again in the very near future.
Chris Sherlock's "Ireland" Playlist:
1, A Song for Ireland - Mary Black
2, Derek Ryan - Irish Heart
3, Nathan Carter Featuring The High Kings - May The Road Rise
4, Celtic Woman - Galway Bay
5, Bagatelle - Summer In Dublin (Pronouced BAG- A - Tell)
6, Bill Whelan - Riverdance (Choir & Instrumental)
7, Jim McCann - Grace
8, The Wolfe Tones - Streets Of New York
9, Christy Moore - The Voyage
10, Finbarr Furey - The Galway Shawl
https://youtu.be/5Z_cyws5Hyw (Live on The Late Late Show Ireland)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jptPFWWfxCw (Album Recording)
11, Celtic Tenors - Going Home
12, The High Kings - The Parting Glass
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMkQExuzL_0 (Live In Dublin from their DVD)