It’s nearing 10 o’clock at night on my first day in Ireland after being away for 36 years. When I last set foot on Irish soil, I was a young woman about to embark on a career as a journalist and author. Now I am an empty-nested woman who does not know how to write the next chapter of her life. 

I’ve come on a poetry, myth and music for the soul retreat because the poet David Whyte told me I must. Not exactly by tapping me on the shoulder and leaning in to tell me, but his poetry does have a presence like that. In my empty nest grief, I had made two vows to myself, and one of them was to apply to trek through the west of Ireland with David in the summer of 2018.

The only problem was: I didn’t get in right away. I got wait-listed. I waited for three months but couldn’t unhook the lure from my heart. The pull to The Burren—Ireland’s wild, windswept cliffs and all of their secrets—was unmistakable. One morning, I began my meditation reading with David’s opening poem in The Bell and The Blackbird, which had just arrived by post.

Just beyond yourself
It’s where you need to be…

That poem welcomes us into a symmetry of the heart, where what we dream and what we deeply know about belonging meet. 

That afternoon, I got the word. Would I want to join David on a retreat in Ireland? In two weeks? I was booking a flight on Aer Lingus before they could remind me the hiking would be rugged and I would need trekking poles. It was the road I had to follow.

I also knew that I would use the 2018 trip to Ireland to scope out a place to hold a writing retreat the following year. So I booked extra time at Delphi Adventure Resort in Connemara, and it proved to be ideal. So ideal, in fact, that the writing retreat returns June 21-25 in 2020 with my co-facilitator Jona Kottler. {See her post, “How Retreats Give you Permission to Be a Writer” here}

That far horizon

Something stirs in your soul as it did in mine—I know it. Whether it’s landscape, myth, poetry or music, that stirring inspires your writing, and when you see the far horizon, you know that is where you must go to write. 

Come with me. Come back to that part of yourself. [2020 Ireland Writing Retreat on the Wild Atlantic Way]

Someone I already know

As David leads 35 eclectic soul-seekers up into the lavender hills, I have the unmistakable sense that I am walking in the footsteps of someone with my name and my hair and my skin, someone who shares my genes, my affinities and my aspirations. Someone I already know because she already knows me as her descendent. The near-Solstice sun of the high latitudes burnishes the limestone bluffs with ancestral fires.

I walk as my ancestor walked — smart, bright, curious. My stride grows more confident as my boots etch a path across the grey limestone ash and we arrive at a white church. Looking west to Galway Bay to an endless sunset, I notice the sun is backing away from this island, neatly tucking me in. Like I belonged here again.

Lines from Just Beyond Yourself” in The Bell and the Blackbird by David Whyte reprinted by permission. Published by Many Rivers.