I Do Believe in Faeries

I do believe in Faeries. It’s true. And not just because I am named after Wendy Darling in Peter Pan. Or because I write urban fantasy. Faeries or Spirits or Angels (whatever you want to call them) exist beside and around and between us. They see and hear us, and sometimes answer our prayers.

This is a true story.

I arrived at my AirBnB late on Saturday after a full day. I’d driven from Jampa Ling in the north of Co Cavan, down to Uisneach (which is the naval of Ireland and close to Athlone). After touring the site with Marty, the amazing storyteller, I drove on to Navan and finally found my BnB (4+ hours of driving and it was only my second day driving on the left, seated on the right–a tad stressful).

The host was lovely and accommodating and the room looked lovely. But I suffer (and I mean suffer) from multiple chemical sensities/allergies and the house was awash with scented products. I lay in bed all night, taking Benadryl, terrified that I was going to need my epipen. I dozed off around five or six for maybe an hour. I mentioned the problem to him the next morning but there wasn’t much that could be done. The chemicals from scented laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and plug-in air fresheners cannot be magically removed. So, I went off to explore the Hill of Tara wondering what to do. I’d booked three nights there, you see.

Now, Tara is a magical place, the Seat of 142 High Kings of Ireland. The entrance to the Otherworld. The Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny brought to Eiru by the Tuatha de Danaan (the Sidhe) rests here. And beneath the Faerie mounds are carved Neolithic stones with ancient symbols.

I wandered the fields as long as I could feeling horrible. My tongue was swelled and tingling and the antihistamines weren’t alleviating it at all. I was frightened, to tell you the truth–anaphyalaxis is terrifying. It also creates brain fog, so I can’t think straight. This happened to me a few weeks ago and it took days to go away. I was afraid to go back to the BnB, yet I was supposed to stay there again that night and the next. I breathed in the wind and sun, hoping it would magically cleanse me. Tara is largely pasture lands and mounds, a dog-walkers dream, and it’s still run like a farm, so you can wander the grassy vales for hours.

At last, I saw a few people off in a far corner of a field. They were photographing a Faerie Tree.

I took the only scrap of fabric I had in my bag–which happened to be a dark red lens cleaner–and tied it to the branch asking with my all heart for the angels or the spirits of this sacred place to help me with my health…to please just help me feel well. And then I left.

On the way home, I passed a restaurant/motel called Tara House and thought… hmmmm. I turned the car around, went back and inquired about a room. They had a room, but it wasn’t quite right either. You have to understand that once my immune system goes berserk, I react to everything. What a “normal” person might smell as a two, I smell as a TWENTY! On top of all the chemicals, I am allergic to dust and mold. I told the woman what was happening and she said, “Ah you’re suffering. Have you tried Josey’s across the way?” “Where?” I said. “Show me.” And she did.

I left my car there and walked across the road. Josey was out in the driveway. She had a room for two nights. She took me upstairs and showed it to me. Suddenly, I felt like a princess in a faerie tale. She understood all about chemical sensitivity and said she’d cook me an Irish fry-up in the morning that was gluten and dairy free. Oh my! I almost cried. I told her that she was my angel.

I couldn’t believe it. And yet… Manifestation is rapid-fire magic!

I went back, packed up my things, and left a note to explain. And then I came back to Bothar Alainn

Today I am much better. The swelling’s gone down and I was able to explore Newgrange and Knowth…two other places made sacred by the faeries. So, remember, when you need them, the spirits really do come through. But you must believe.

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Walks at Jampa Ling

The Golden Way

golden wayThere are some lovely walks around the Jampa Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Co Cavan. One of my favourite Sacred Web songs is a Tree Chant where the names of trees from around the world are repeated. I found myself singing this as I meandered the forested trail to the lake.

My favourite trees are old deciduous trees. Beech, ash, oak… And they all grow here intermingling with wild ferns, holly, and ivy. It reminds me of Robert Graves’ work in The White Goddess.

One spring I will come to see the bluebells!

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Wild Shamrocks!

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I did not expect to find wild shamrocks in the woods at Jampa Ling, but there they were, pushing through the ivy and covering the mossy nurse logs. Shamrocks are a type of wood sorrel, belonging to the Oxalis genus.

IMG_2770The old beech tree guards the path to the lake.  The sign says: “this ancient tree casts a canopy so dense that no other trees can thrive under it leaving an area as you see free from undergrowth. Nature has created here for us a beautiful quiet place of reflection and contemplation.”

Not long after you reach the lake.

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In the field behind the centre I discovered this massive old grandmother Oak, the Druid tree. Ah, she is beautiful. I wanted to climb into her arms and sleep.

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The Jampa Ling Dog Sangha

Several dogs hang out at Jampa Ling. I am told that the Venerable Pachen Otrul Rinpoche, who is the spiritual director of Jampa Ling, calls them the dog sangha. Ruffus, the border collie cross (wider in the middle and darker) is the neighbour’s dog but appears at the centre every day before morning puja and stays until evening puja is over. His family now call him Buddha Dog.

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One day, one of the guests discovered a black and white border collie (longer hair with a white ruff) on the road and thought it was Ruffus. It wasn’t. The dog had been abandoned but came to live at the centre. That is how Pema arrived here.

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Ruffus and Pema are the official greeters and walk guests around the centre. Pema, a typical border collie, lies in the grass waiting for a stick to fly and barks at the wheels on my suitcase.

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Pickles belongs to Evelyn and is ever so sweet and shy. I love that I can step outside and be immersed in this wonderful dog love!

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Rubio, a gorgeous four-year-old golden retriever/lab cross belongs to Fidelma. When I emerged Wednesday morning, Rubio was waiting outside and went for a walk with me to the stupa. Rubio is always ready for cuddles and walks. The healing dogs of the Jampa Ling Sangha.

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“May all sentient beings be happy and free of suffering.”

A Breath of Tibet in Ireland

About Jampa Ling: Place of Loving Kindness

This past week, I stayed several nights at Jampa Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre. This is a residential retreat centre created on a glorious 19th Century estate in Co Cavan. It has been operating for twenty-seven years under the spiritual direction of Venerable Panchen Otrul Rinpoche, and with the patronage of the Dalai Lama.

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As soon as you arrive, you feel the positive energy of this pastoral land. Buddhist shrines appear as you wander the lawns and gardens, birds sing, the wind breathes, and people come and go. Many folks volunteer their time to work here from gardeners, who sustain an incredible fruit and vegetable garden, WWOOFers, to housekeepers, teachers, and cooks.

The vegetarian food is special. Breakfast is oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, and toast. Lunch, the main meal of the day at 1pm, is always an delicious surprise. So far, I’ve feasted on chana dhal and rice, chick pea stew, baked potatoes and chili, and shepherd’s pie. And always there is a huge bowl of green salad from the organic gardens. The cooks are mindful that I can’t eat wheat and dairy (thank you lovely women) and always provide for me. This is such a blessing! At 6pm, we sit down again for delicious soup, bread, and cheese. Simple, nourishing, beautiful food.

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People arrive from many places so fascinating stories are told around the lunch table. Many have taken refuge with Rinpoche, who teaches during the winter months. Rinpoche began training as a monk in Tibet when he was very young. He was ordained in India by the Dalai Lama and continued to study and design educational programs for monasteries. At the request of the Dalai Lama, Rinpoche travelled to the UK for interfaith dialogue and in 1990, he was asked by Irish students of Buddhism to become Spiritual Director of Jampa Ling. He continues to travel and teach.

A special relationship with Mongolia, where Rinpoche and his students engage in charitable work, involves the manufacture and sale of fantastic woollen felt items. I bought some gorgeous slippers. MIM (Made in Mongolia) comes via an NGO, developed to create sustainable work for women, who often head the households. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the people struggle with poverty where shanty towns have sprung up in the capital. The NGO also assists with outreach, supports children in their education, and trains people in “skills and finding self”.

Owendoon House was built in the 1850s by George L’Estrange in an Italianate style. This is where meals are provided and meditation takes place in the Shrine Room. Guests stay in Tara House, a renovated barn that also houses the shop and a community room for yoga and meditation. Even if you’re not staying here, but just passing through, you can come by to shop or share a low cost meal of gorgeous healthy food. On the August 1 weekend, the centre is hosting an open house.

At Jampa Ling I participated in an Evening Puja where Tibetan chants to White Tara create an aura of calm, and an extraordinary mindfulness yoga class. But mostly, I’ve enjoyed talking with wonderful people, relaxing, and practicing meditation.

Jampa Ling is a place of loving kindness.

For more information and to book visit Jampa Ling

The Strand at Bray

Sunday was beach day at Bray in Co Wicklow. Thirty minutes and a few stops on the DART, and you’re there. The beach was lovely, the sun was shining, and the locals were swimming. Mind you…there were many gasps and squeals as they waded into the waves!

I feasted on gelato, walked into town for brunch, and spent a few leisurely hours lying on the sand.

Bray reminds me of home, except the buildings are MUCH older and there’s a carnival in the main drag between the strand and the shops. Revived by sunshine, sea breeze, and shades of continuing blue, I’m ready for another week in this beautiful country.

There seem to be a lot of terriers here. The poor wee fella in the photo above really wanted to jump in and swim with the boys who were jumping off the pier, but he couldn’t find his way across.

And THIS just says it all!

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Irish Pipers at The National Memorial

This morning I was called by the music of two Irish pipers to the gates of Merrion Square Park. Who can resist a bagpiper?

After chatting with a lovely man  (on the right in the photo below), I discovered that a ceremIMG_2689ony was about to commence. He was a Kerry man; a volunteer in the Defence Forces.

In Canada, we celebrate Remembrance Day at the Cenataph on November 11 every year, but in Dublin they meet to remember their fallen soldiers for six Saturdays over July and August. The Sunday closest to July 11 is The National Day of Commemoration.

 

 

IMG_2697Today was the first ceremony and there were six Infantry Battalion, Custume Barracks from Athlone Co. Westmeath and twenty-seven Infantry Battalion, Aiken Barracks from Dundalk, Co. Louth, taking part.

The Defence Forces, Óglaigh na hÉireann, wear a badge with an ancient warrior’s sword belt and a “sunburst” of flames.  The letters FF for Fianna Fáil are in the centre. The Fianna Fáil is an ancient military organization that has defended Ireland since the 3rd Century. Fáil means “destiny” and so these men are Destiny’s Army.

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The sunburst is the traditional battle symbol of the Fianna, and you may remember that Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) led his own Fianna in the mythic Fenian cycle. Fianna Fáil is also the name of the Republican Party here in Ireland. History runs deep in this country.

I thought I’d have to stand behind the ropes, but was invited to sit on the stone bench right by the memorial. Inside this granite pyramid are four bronze figures who stand guard over the eternal flame in memory of fallen soldiers in the Defence Forces. During the ceremony, the flag was lowered to half mast and then raised again at the end. There was a changing of the Inner and Outer Guard. It was a solemn occasion, and when the wreaths were laid and the piper played, tears were shed by some, including me.

This country, with its turbulent history, never ceases to amaze me. The tricolour national flag, first flown during the 1916 Rising, symbolizes “the inclusion and hoped-for union of the people of different traditions on this island.” The green goes back to the 1640s and the orange appeared in 1795 following King William of Orange’s “glorious revolution” . The painting below is an artist’s rendering of the Battle of the Boyne where William changed history in 1689. It’s in the National Gallery, the grey building in the background in the photos above.

The white between them, I assume signifies a peace that came “dropping slowly” as WB Yeats would say; a peace that appears to be here at last.

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