Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Once Upon A Time...

Ireland, The Emerald Isle

We felt as if we were stepping into a fairy tale world - a mystical world steeped in folklore and ancient traditions - as we explored this fascinating country last month. Ireland had always been a priority on my "bucket list." Now Sherry and I were turning dreams into reality.

Once we learned to drive on the "wrong" side of the road and successfully navigate all the round-a-bouts in the cities, we began to relax and enjoy the incredible beauty that surrounded us. Lush green rolling pastures dotted with sheep and newborn baby lambs. Steep cliffs plunging down to the sea. Eerie fog, mist, howling winds and wild waves. Majestic medieval castles and ancient monastery ruins. Remnants of old stone houses and castles that had seen better days.

Ireland is a land steeped in history, a country proud of its heritage. We saw old druid settlements dating back several thousand years. Ancient burial mound sites 5,800 years old - older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids. We walked through "fairy rings" of old stone, listening to tales of the fairies and leprechauns that once lived here, they say. Standing quietly at these ancient sites, you can almost feel the spirits of the past - spirits that seem to linger in the gnarled old trees that have assumed distorted shapes over the centuries.

After exploring the nooks and crannies along the tiny winding roads, we enjoyed retiring to one of the old Irish pubs. We were happy to sit by the fire in these old stone buildings, some with thatched roofs, as we chatted with the friendly locals who were happy to share tales about Irish legends and their lives. The Irish people seem to have a magical quality about them - happiness, contentment, a more leisurely pace of life. They welcome strangers, going out of their way to help, even to walk us around town to show us special places.

Ireland is like a little slice of heaven for writers like me. It is saturated with inspiration just waiting to be released onto the page. No wonder so many prolific writers lived and worked in Ireland. James Joyce, William Butler Yeates, J.R. Tolkein, Bram Stoker to name a few.

We learned that J.R. Tolkein derived inspiration for his work through his many visits to The Burren, a surreal barren stone landscape that reminds one of the moon. Bram Stoker wrote his 1897 novel, Dracula, while living in Dublin. We toured Dracula's castle in Dublin, just across the street from his boyhood home. This is where he gained inspiration for his famous novel.

It is obvious why writers, artists and many others are drawn to this country. One cannot leave without having seriously expanded his or her concept of time. Irish history seems to go back forever, providing deep roots that have sustained the Irish people through many difficult periods of time.

Hiking along the top of the famous Cliffs of Moher, gazing down at the churning sea, I was struck with the magnitude of the universe, of time that had no beginning and no end. It made me realize how tiny our lives really are in the big picture of life. How insignificant our little problems are. I think the Irish people understand this far better than many of us in this world.

As I leave the fairy tale world of Ireland behind me, I take with me lessons that will help me view life in a slightly different way. Ideas to integrate into my novels. And a bit of that Irish magic from the land of the leprechauns! I leave you with an Irish prayer:

May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you, and May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

Please stay tuned and stay in touch.

Janet Kay

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