Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Ninth Letter

Dearest Ireland,

I awoke Thursday morning feeling a little downhearted.  A few weeks earlier, Paul, the weekly trad session leader, had introduced me to a beautifully melodic hornpipe, which is a particular type of dance tune. He had played it slowly as I recorded him, then he gave me the sheet music and also a CD of the tune. It's been really challenging to learn and every week Paul asks how it's coming along.

I practiced it hard and heavy, playing along with the CD, and finally, at the Wednesday session,  I told Paul I had it down. His accordion sounded the first few notes, and then I joined in with the fiddle. I didn't realize until a few lines in, that apparently no one else knew the tune, and I found myself in the throes of an ill-fated duet. I hope it wasn't too obvious that I got hopelessly lost in the tempo and was scrambling, like a frenzied firewalker, for some stable, solid ground.  I've never been so glad for a tune to end, and I'm so thankful Paul's accordion was LOUD.

So with my pride still smouldering the next morning, I was happy that I had made plans for the day. I was going for lunch with Theresa and her mother, Marie. Theresa hosts the Fiddler's Retreat which I attended last summer (and which I highly recommend) and has become my friend and private teacher. After lunch we were going to poke around the ruins of 12th century Kilcooley Abbey and also investigate the 18th century Georgian mansion on the same 1200 acre tract. I had read that it was once called "as fine and elegant a private gentleman's seat as any in Europe."  Theresa knew the "big house"  to be vacant and up for sale, and we figured we could peep in the windows and dream.

We could see it from the abbey but getting there was another matter. There was neither road nor path from where we were. So we tromped through the high grasses and wildflowers (and thistles) of the intervening fields and slowly made our way to the rear of the manor.

It had been badly neglected and was all but as ruined as the abbey itself. It's on the market for 8 million euros but will require millions more to restore to its former grandeur. We hope someone will come to its rescue before it's past the point of no return. In the meantime, we walked around the grounds and admired the stunning views from the front. We noticed a lake in the distance and, barely perceptible, a tiny stone chapel near the far bank.

I think Theresa, Marie and I thought it at the same time. We wanted to see that church....up close. We could see the lake was practically surrounded by woodlands, but we could also see a road (and a stone bridge) heading in that direction. So, like three little hobbits marching toward Rivendell to see the elves, off we naively set.
Our first attempt was logically over the bridge and around the lake to the right. We had just reached the lake's edge when we noticed something white flickering just inside the brush. Before we could be startled, it gracefully emerged onto the lake as a beautiful white swan followed by six gray cygnets, another adult (the daddy?) and a final cygnet (the runt?) pulling up the rear. The family sailed boldly straight in front and then away from us in a perfect line, and we held our breath in awe. We don't see swans much in Florida and I got the impression from Theresa and Marie that, even if they're a common sight, they never lose their magic. We watched until they disappeared from view.

Our road quickly narrowed into a dubious trail that seemed to be taking us nowhere. It was raining off and on as we lost sight of the lake, and I could feel the dampness squishing my sneakers (why didn't I wear my boots?) and sogging up my socks. We were getting tired and should have been discouraged and frustrated, but all we could talk about was the freshness of the forest air and the peaceful sense of  being in harmony with our surroundings.

Suddenly out of nowhere (except a Bronte novel perhaps) appeared a horse and rider, trotting toward us, hopping a hurdle and bounding away as quickly as they came.  There was hardly a nod of
acknowledgement before they were out of sight (but I did snap a quick photo) and no time to think to ask how to get to the church. So we continued on a little farther and then decided to turn around.

We traced our steps back to the lakeside but weren't ready to give up our quest. We decided to trudge around the front of the lake, admiring the flowers and the tease of intermittent sunshine, and see if we could locate our church from the left. This path became as hopeless and more treacherous than the last.

                                                                                                                                                                            We wandered again through dripping fronds and face-smacking branches, getting soaked and scratched forging a path, but still full of anticipation. We teetered across a little creek on a 2x6 Olympic balance beam that a kind predecessor had laid for us, hoping the "thrill of victory" would be just ahead. Sitting on a moss-velvet log to reconsider, we all admitted there would be no shame in giving up. Theresa said it would give us a reason to return another day.  But still we persevered a little farther.

                                     And then we spied it in all its glory......framed in mist and afternoon shadows.....its stone arched doorway inviting exhausted, weary pilgrims to enter and rest.........a BOATHOUSE! Really? No columns... no vaulted ceilings...  no ornately carved anythings... A NEO-GOTHIC BOATHOUSE!

But how could we be disappointed?  Swimming nobly in and around the stone shelter was our proud family of swans, who seemed to have been waiting patiently for us to find our way. I was watching them with quiet reverence from my concrete pew inside, when Theresa leaned over my shoulder and whispered in my ear. I felt a delicious tingle go all the way to my toes.  Until that moment I hadn't thought of it. The name of my hornpipe was, "The Swan on the Lake." I know God was winking.

(Doc says in the early 1800's a family of seven children and their two parents drowned in the lake when their little boat sank.........but I'm not buyin').

1 comment:

  1. I love reading your posts. Sounds like you are having a fabulous time. I hope you have a very fun birthday. That is if celebrating birthdays is an Irish tradition also. I love you friend. Louise