Yesterday marked the halfway point of my journey abroad. I’ve been in Ireland six weeks.

It’s been a time of deep silence and solitude and “facing myself.” I haven’t been much moved to to take photos, partly because the light, or lack thereof, doesn’t much lend itself to my amateur efforts.

Nor have I been much moved to share my experience–partly because I’m not sure what the experience is (!), and partly because our deepest and most private and therefore most inviolable feelings and thoughts and experiences by definition take place far, far away from a screen of any kind, and are desecrated by “sharing.”

From here, I’ll take a bus next Friday to Northern Ireland to be picked up by a couple of new friends who have offered to host me for a couple of nights and show me some of Co Fermanagh.

Then–because six weeks of solitude has not been nearly enough, I’ll go to Ards Franciscan Friar on the shores of Donegal for a four-day silent retreat.

One thing I’m thinking of is that I need/want to become an Oblate, I’m not yet sure where. Obedience to a Rule–to order the day, week, and one’s life–is very appealing (on paper, ha ha). To break off in the middle of a sentence when the bell rings–yes. I could practice more of that. To do one thing at a time. To sit down and pay attention while eating. To be more careful of the words I speak.

Without, of course, becoming an automaton. You run into these people sometimes who seem so intent on becoming “perfect” that they end up withholding everything, including their vulnerability and their humanity. Then again, becoming too “perfect” is not ever going to be my particular danger, laugh-cry smiley face.

Still, the point would be to acknowledge to myself, to God, and I suppose in some sense to the world that my life is ordered to something other than the world.

I started the Oblate program at St. Andrew’s (Benedictine) Abbey in Valyermo in the high desert outside LA a few years ago. Then COVID blew everything apart and I moved to Tucson. Still, in many ways my spiritual heart is in California (along with some of my dearest friends)–so I am going to pray, read, ponder and I know the good Lord will guide me.

I thought this morning of a/the great paradox: the vocation of the artist, the desire to become a saint, require willing the one thing: profound focus; the paring away of all that is extraneous. But the vocation also requires being willing to step outside the lines, to inhabit the outskirts.  

It’s the paradox of the life of Christ, and of the Gospels, that defines my life. (And also why Desire Lines is such a great concept/phrase).

I’m forever firmly grounded in the Church—which ALLOWS me to inhabit the outskirts. The Church is my sanctuary, my home: the arms of a mother and a father.

Meanwhile, I have been wandering about Oughterard chatting up anyone who gives me the slightest encouragement. In this way, I feel certain I have met at least half its inhabitants.

The guy who was walking the tiny girl at the Connemara Pony Show who came in last place, and who was also spotted seating people at Powers Thatch, Bar and Restaurant, is named Rory, I learned from Angela, who lives across some secret bridge off Owenriff Way and takes long walks with her dogs Connor and Chippy. Mike Walsh, who owns and lives on the main street, beside Conneely’s Coffee, is the brother of Dermot Walsh, the undertaker who is married to Lin. Christine O’Malley who my friend Patrick who was here for five days and I met while walking near the waterfall, turns out to be the mother of Martin, who tends the donkeys for Jamie and Karl, in whose house I’m staying.

Vincent runs a kind of phantasmagorical jumble shop at the north end of town and presents me each day with a sprig of heather, lucifer, or lavendar. “Ye’ve a good attitude!” he sings out as I scurry by in the driving rain, which I take as an acknowledgment that after six weeks of summer darkness I haven’t yet crawled under the covers and given myself over to death.

No, seriously, the weather has slightly improved and I’m kind of used to it by now. In fact, it’s perfect walking weather. I set out in the afternoon, usually for the Old Bog Road, which has no traffic, no houses, and very few people. Also, all along the verges are blackberries, which are not this year a bumper crop but still.

One thing I know already: I wouldn’t have missed this adventure, these people, this place, for the world.

12 Replies to “FIAT LUX”

  1. I loved Ards when I was there.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh grand, you have been there! Looking forward…silence, and walks…

  2. Tina Daoud says: Reply

    hi heather be a saint and an artist thats my goal too.but i think i am not getting it by substracting but exhaling.
    nature is very helpful in all of not God in every tree available through its beauty through my contemplation of it?
    i think you must have a lot of contemplation but i would recommend to you not to go less but more.
    i mean,dont look for the essence.
    i think Its not in the essence but in the breathing wide. in gratefulness and contentment.
    the essence often is just a kind of fear to be stilled.
    good luck for the future among that beautiful nature!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Hi Tina, I’m not sure letting things fall away that no longer serve is quite the same as subtracting…but I think I get what you mean. Don’t try harder, resist less as a priest friend used to say. Nature is always a healing balm.

      1. tina daoud says: Reply

        yea. thats what i meant. dont try harder.the problem is we try harder. resist less what is given you means we accept it.
        and then we should be happy.
        it does not matter which direction we go – inside or outside. God is in us and around us.
        so probably all is well exactly as it is. for you. for me.

        1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

          Amen, Tina!

  3. I really felt affinity for Dingle Peninsula area more than other parts of Ireland. Hope you got there.

    From a book: “The extraordinary beauty of the area and the quality of the light reflected from the ocean have brought many professional and amateur artists to Dingle…”

    Looks like it was nowheresville until 1970 when a film called “Ryan’s Daughter” featured it as a location and since then interest and tourism has taken off.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Tom, so many people seem to love Dingle…I won’t get there this trip but I hope someday…and I have certainly seen so much beauty, and am poised to see more…

  4. I am thankful to know and read of your tender journey, dearest Heather, both Ireland and other place(s). And yes! I understand about California….

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      It wends its way into our hearts–as you know, Glenda!

  5. Anonymous says: Reply

    Heather, thank you for sharing. Know we all travel with you in spirit and prayer. “ … the good Lord will guide me”. YES !
    – Todd

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Inexorably…if slowly, and with a few strange side turns along the way! Thanks, Todd.


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