50 The Celtic circle of belonging

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
George Santayana, American philosopher.

Our time suffers from a great amnesia. Rapidity, technology, stress and externalization get more of our attention than memory. Within the Celtic tradition and imagination time and memory are honored. The Celts were fascinated by the circle and particularly the  circle of time and belonging. John O’Donohue, poet, philosopher and scholar often wrote about how the rhythm of experience, nature, and divinity follow a circular pattern.

I have come full circle this past year, for sure. Although it’s my 50th Jubilee year, it’s been a brutal year. But I’m proud that I took the time to mourn my mum’s passing, for real. I gained wisdom. I hope my approach and outreach to those who have experienced a sudden loss will be more sensitive, respectful and gracious. This alone is treasure.

Entering the rhythm of the seasons in Ireland, after a 12 year absence, has been interesting! Although I enjoy cooler climates the weather on my bike ride today was cruelly cold and wet for April! But the daffodils and lilacs coming up out of the dead land reminded me that I too am coming up out of the deadness of grief and winter. The vibrant colors and new growth of the flowers stirred hope, possibility and the effervescence of springtime within my soul.

There was a liturgy of remembrance going on in my sifting, sorting, and organizing of photographs, memories and past experiences in these last few months. Half of my life has passed. I feel privileged to live in and go back in my memory and attend to a past time where I enjoyed days as a child in Portrush. You can see from the picture above that I enjoyed playing on the Jurassic ‘Portrush Rock’ when I was about ten. This rock has been studied here since 1799!

In the picture, The East Strand is behind me. The Skerries and The Scottish Islands are to my right, and the gentle hills of Donegal to my left. Circling and gathering up these fragments and memories of my life is unifying. I feel a new strength and poise that wasn’t available to me before.

I noticed that the Hebrew word for Rock below indicates firmness, stability, and faithfulness. The Greek word for “True” means much the same thing. Psalm 18:2 from The Message translation of the bible came to my mind ;

I love you, God
    you make me strong.
God is bedrock under my feet,
    the castle in which I live,
    my rescuing knight.

Rock in Hebrew.JPG

On a day trip to Donegal recently I stumbled upon an ancient well. It was dedicated to St Colmcille. Columba was an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland at the start of the Hiberno-Scottish mission.

High King of Ireland tradition says that around 550 A.D. Columba was travelling in the Fanad area when he lost his prayer book. He came across a deer drinking from this same well and his prayer book was impaled on the deer’s antlers. Delighted at having found it he blessed the well. The well has been a place of pilgrimage ever since. In 563 A.D. he travelled to the island of Iona, Scotland where he established a famous monastery.

I didn’t see any impaled deer’s but I did get squeamish watching this cow happily chewing on barbed wired, as you do !

cow in Donegal

My time here in the port area has been a type of pilgrimage and liturgy of remembrance. A time and way of honoring my mum’s life and the memories and life she gave me. I’m not sure where I go from here. In a few days we will honor the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his passing 50 years ago. It’s interesting that his final book was called “Where do we go from here”?

Thank you for journeying with me through this season in my heart. I’d love to hear about any circles of time, belonging or intersection you’re noticing in your own life !


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