Category Archives: Travel

PALACE OF THE BOYNE – Brú na Bóinne

Dawn watchers exhale
steamy breath as lick
of sunlight passes
through a small opening
creeps down
a stone passage on
winter’s equinox bathes
in solstice light
the tomb that echoes
with faith and ritual

Five thousand years
the stones have held
the secrets of unknown
builders to capture
the wild stallion of the sun
unfettered marker of
the season when
to draw forth the plow
when to sow and reap
and how to hope

Homage paid with
stone hammer flint
picking swirling impressions into
rock tributes placed
offerings of bead and bone
in crevices carved
granite basins to hold
charred remains of
those that had the gift to see
the future bring prosperity

To connect living to dead
life to death light to darkness
sacrifice frost on
early morning grass shivering
attendants brown cow bellowing
in acknowledgement of
steam rising off hot blood in
cold winter sun to heat
the earth and draw
the soul of a new year forward.

"Newgrange Eingang Stein" by I, Clemensfranz. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg#/media/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg

“Newgrange Eingang Stein” by I, Clemensfranz. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg#/media/File:Newgrange_Eingang_Stein.jpg

 

 

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MOVING TOWARD STRANGENESS

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The first time she ate snow
She was forty-nine
Burrs in her heavy dark hair
Dusty as a horse’s hide
But beautiful

She strode out onto the plain
Crushing rock and exoskeletons
Beneath her boots
Her sights set firmly
On the lights in the northern sky

Her wild child curled within her bone cage
—a glowing coal—
Sleeping carelessly
Ready to spring up from the purple cushion
And sway to the beat

She relished the roll
Of whiskey on her tongue
That strut—blowing dust off her pool cue
To the jukebox
Thumbing through a lifetime of songs

When snow blotted out her vision
She ate her way through the blizzard
One faceted flake at a time
Drawing sustenance
For the journey

She picked her way along the seashore
Weighing her pockets with
Salt-encrusted stones
Footprints erased by the galloping tide
She knew the way home

Pressed her fingers to the glass
Feeling the sharpness of cold rain
The wind called at each corner
Of that solitary house
Wearing them smooth

The sweet curve of the bay
Cradled her gaze
Buoying up the storm clouds
And those sunsets to die for
Strut and retreat.

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SUN RAYS

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. . . the little mice began to gather corn and nuts and wheat and straw. They all worked day and night. All—except Frederick.
“Frederick, why don’t you work? They asked.
“I do work,” said Frederick.
“I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days.”

—Frederick by Leo Lionni

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EVERGREEN

DSCF0423When russet beech leaves coat the ground
And bark is bare in field and wood
An evergreen to tease the eye
As winter’s symbol should.

Sprig of holly at the door
To ward off lightning, poison, war
Druid staff, Witch’s brew
Sword forger’s friend
Dreamcatcher, too—
nine sharp leaves bound in cloth
with nine tight knots
will conjure truth,
according to the old belief.

Holly King rules his natural realm
And never far from his side
From summer’s height to winter’s chill
Fidelity, his ivy bride.

Sprig of ivy up the wall
Keeps home safe from beast and squall
Lover’s bind, Good luck plea
A poet’s crown
Fertility—
bridal wreath intertwined
carried by a blushing maid
will ensure a fruitful match,
according to the old belief.

Pagan totem, Christian sign
No matter what it cares to mean
The holly and the ivy’s gift—
The ever present, Evergreen.

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may you find moments of peace and joy.
Best wishes, Melissa
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IRELAND AT THE OPENING AND CLOSING OF DAY

DSCF9888At this time of year in Ireland there’s a scant eight hours of daylight. The sun rolls lazily over the horizon at 8.30 am, and is already slipping away by 4.30 pm, leaving sixteen hours of darkness.

DSCF9917Of course the reverse is true in the summer with close to seventeen hours of daylight. On Midsummer’s night on June 21st, you can still be leaping the St. John’s Day bonfire in twilight at 11pm. But you’ll need to be up by 4am to milk the cows at dawn.

DSCF9900This is not surprising, given it’s latitude, (roughly 53˚North) which it shares with southern Alaska, Canada’s Hudson bay, and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. The Gulf Stream’s North Atlantic Drift, however, sweeps warm water up from the Gulf of Mexico, giving Ireland a much more temperate climate, thankfully.DSCF9881

No matter how grey and wet the day, at dusk, a little magic happens.DSCF9688

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IRISH THANKSGIVING

DSCF9559I step from one world into another
Like a bather setting my toe in the icy Atlantic on a June day.
It is a painful transition
And yet once the gut is sucked in with a sharp inhale of breath
My horizon shifts and it is palatable.

I step into the damp air of an Irish morning,
Tang of salt and mud off the Shannon estuary,
Strong whiff of cow manure. I know I’m home.

The navy suit and general greyness of the men at the passport desks is expected.
One takes my passport and in a soft Galway accent—
you would be forgiven for thinking the fella had a marble rolling around in his mouth
says to me, Ah you must be David and Sally’s daughter. Tell your parents I was asking for them.

I am at once comfortable with the scale of things:
Four steps to the luggage belt, a few more and you’re out the door
into the waving arms and hurrying faces and cries of delight.

I drive the Shannon to Galway road
Sun at my right elbow shuddering into existence over the horizon to the east.
I think of Dublin 200 kilometers away, my birthplace and rooting of my soul.
Haven’t been there in years,
And like the thought of meeting a childhood friend
it fills me with pangs of horror and awe—
how could you change so much, and not at all?

But back to the driving. In the stone-walled fields along the road
Sheep and cattle, already on the move,
search for the first dollop of creamy winter sunlight to caress them,
stroke the night’s chill out of their bones, and who can blame them.
The long November grass is bowed down with a rime of hoar frost.

Heading north, smoke rises from the odd chimney,
a few cars on the road this Sunday, off to early mass,
but mostly I’m on my own.
Sleeping towns left to the rooks and grey crows, scavenging on the verge.
A pair of swans fit for a ballet, necks kissing reflections on the surface of a lake.
Sheep, and more sheep,
And piebald, shaggy-hoofed horses in rough fields, more marsh than grass.
I have the radio tuned to the local requests show,
still playing the horrendous hits from my 80’s teenage years.
I am a traveler through a strange land of rebuilt memories.
Before my eyes the landscape, the smells, the sounds – that jackdaw-
Are a time lapse photograph.

A scene plays out—corner of my eye—a nativity:
under a bare beech tree the cow stands with her calf and attendants,
burnished like some godlike being, fit to be kneeled in front of.
The old abbey is draped in pearly morning fog,
awash with a light that would do Monet proud.
I remember why this is a fairytale land.

My parents are out on the gravel to greet me before I’ve gathered up my wits,
dogs barking like the half-witted maniacs they are.
We gush through the front door all bags and whisking tails and exclamations.
I step into the bright kitchen, moments of calm reign sipping tea
—ah the taste of a great lump of yellow butter sliding across a piece of toast—
and talking of the journey and the weather and the latest gossip.
My eyes follow the birds fluttering around the feeders,
At once alien and yet ordinary
The greenfinch, blue tit, bullfinch; still remember the names.
My father has the usual complaint,
Bloody magpies, always bullying the others.

My feet crunch the brittle grass and leave dark footprints
On the path to the lake.
I brush past brambles burred with frost,
dried seed heads, orbs of frozen dew, lit up like Christmas baubles by Herself.
Ducks explode out of the reeds with raucous quacking,
beating at the water in panic.
A flash of iridescent blue is the kingfisher
perched in the alder at the end of the pier for a second
before torpedoing on up the bay.

I draw in cold, moss scented air. Re-acquainting myself.

Tomorrow I’ll start the work of clearing out the attic—
blowing dust and dead flies off forty years of family stuff.
But until then, I’ll revel in the familiar, and give thanks.

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