The road was steep, and I worried the brake would slip. I reminded myself that it held the last time I was there, which only prompted worry over the inevitable hill-start. We spilled out of the car reluctantly. It had begun to rain and the wind was fresh. In other words—COLD. W.L. opened the boot to get our rain gear, K.L. began to unhook the Wee Síoge(my faery god-daughter), and I looked to the West, eager to see whether the rain was moving toward us or away. That’s when the sun peeked out from behind a grey veil, illuminating Bantry Bay in gold wash. The hills below were a carpet of russet and green; the water of the bay reflected a perfect path to the Honey Plain. I took a deep breath, and allowed myself to sink—into the land, into the generational line that spans millennia, and I smiled.
“Does it get any more perfect?”
The brisk temperature and pelting rain shortened my reverie, and we quickly put on our rain jackets and boots. K strapped the Wee One snuggly to my back—you see, Little Miss had graced me with the honour! Now suited up, I led the way, my tour guide hat firmly pulled over my ears: past the gate and into the water-logged pasture. We were fairly far up the mountain and had a lovely view of the valley and surrounding hills. One distinctly marked low rise to our left was my landmark. I knew it to be aligned with the circle’s flat northern stone , and similarly shaped (an emerging theory regarding stone monuments wonders whether their upper surfaces were carved to mimic or reflect the surrounding landscape). I began to anticipate my friends’ response to what awaited them, and smiled again.
The first field was easy going. There was a good path that was only slightly muddy. We scaled the stile on the hedgerow one-by-one, taking care to avoid the thorn whips that snaked in between rungs. Our emergence past the hedge and into the next pasture was greeted with an expanse of marsh land! Little clumps of grass floated in a watery reflection of cloud. Again, I led the way, searching out clumps that didn’t sink too readily. My advantage was wellies, my friends’ disadvantage was hiking boots.
Not far in I misstepped and water gushed into my boot. I struggled to pull my foot up, fighting to both keep my balance (baby on board) and keep my shoe on! There was a sense in that moment of being enveloped, and I felt a deep longing to roll in the mud. Behind me I heard a little shriek and knew K had encountered a similar problem. Tender step by tender step, watching the brown softness of earth beneath me, smelling the rich fecundity mingled with pungent manure (cows had roamed there recently), I made my way to the rise of the hill. Looming before us was the stone circle, with its majestic two-stone row and radial cairn. In the setting sun of a west Cork winter day, with muddy water soaking my feet, I breathed in the connection of Place.
Hello! and welcome to the blog. This week you will meet each of us in turn, learn why we are interested in Place, and possibly glimpse where our musings and meanderings will lead. I am the Texan in the bunch. I grew-up on a family farm on the wide coastal plain of the Gulf and spent my youth roaming barefoot: a wild child with black feet and a mass of tangled brown hair. I now live in a 300 year-old stone cottage in the Avondhu region of East Cork, Ireland. In my back garden is a Neolithic standing stone, in the pasture behind the house is an Iron Age ring fort, and down the lane a Mesolithic burial mound: a very different place than the warm friend of my youth, or the lazy hazy groove of Austin (where I lived for a decade).
My relationship with Place began on the farm as I encountered wild and domesticated life, the solitude of the country, and the mental space afforded an only child. That relationship matured as I moved around the U.S., living in mostly rural environs, and finally ending up back in Austin—my first truly urban encounter. I struggled there to connect, not understanding how to find Place in a concrete jungle.
It was out of that conundrum that I began to qualify what Place meant to me. I will be writing more about my deepening understanding of Solastalgia (Albrecht, 2010a), which helped me find meaning in my own disconnection, in future posts. As Gregory Bateson and many others have expressed, I believe our Western tendency to think of mind and nature as separate indicates a core level wound (I won’t go as far as calling it a flaw). Bateson (1972) once said, “…if Lake Erie is driven insane [by the dumping of human by-products], its insanity is incorporated in the larger system of [our] thoughts and experience.”
We are moving, however reluctantly, further into an urban, technological future of our own creation and away from the elemental forces that shaped our minds. How we get back in touch with those forces and find our “heart’s ease” (Albrecht, 2010b)—our Place— is what interests me. I hope my musings here contribute in their way to a widening and important conversation within Paganism.
Albrecht, Glenn. (2010, May 22). TEDxSydney 2010 was organised by General Thinking. Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/-GUGW8rOpLY
Albrecht, Glenn (2010). Solastalgia and the creation of new ways of living. In S. Pilgrim & J. Pretty (Eds.), Nature and Culture, Rebuilding Lost Connections (217-233). London:
Bateson, Gregory (1972). An Ecology Of Mind. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
[originally published 12/06/2012]