Sunday, January 27, 2013

Glendalough and a bit of ice cream goes a long way...

I have officially obtained a camera cord, which means PICTURES! I’m actually really glad that I left my cord at home because it paved the way for an entertaining experience. Yesterday I moved in with my host mother (more about that in another post) and today was my first full day in Dublin. I got in contact with Danny, Arnela, and Tyler, three students in my group who have host families relatively close to mine, and we set out to meet each other at Ireland’s largest mall: the Dundrum Town Center.

I was directed to a small camera store, pulled out my camera, and showed it to the man at the counter. After a few minutes of digging around in cupboards, he found what I needed. It had been used but I didn’t care. When I asked the price, another employee behind the counter said, “If you run into the grocery store and buy us a bit of ice cream, it’s yours.” So there you have it. The awesome camera guys enjoyed their ice cream and I have my cord. Lovely story, isn’t it? And to think I could have missed out on all that fun by being more organized!

So now I have a backlog of photos and experiences to explain. Here we go! One of my favorite parts of orientation was our visit to Glendalough. The name Glendalough literally means ‘valley of two lakes’ in Irish. History of the area can be traced back as early as the 6th century. Little footpaths and trails made for outdoor recreation run amongst the ruins left behind. Marcus Losack was our guide for the day and led us on a pilgrimage through the monastic city. Marcus is an Anglican Priest who has worked in the U.K., Ireland, Libya, and Jerusalem and specializes in pilgrimages and Celtic spirituality. As we walked, Marcus told us stories about the land, the ruins, and the people who once inhabited them and of their pagan and Christian traditions. The upper lake of Glendalough was the site where St. Kevin lived as a hermit and the valley was where he built his monastery.

St. Kevin's Church

Gravestone in the cathedral marking the
death of a man who lived to be 106!

Katie posing for the camera

SIT Ireland group with our Academic Director Aeveen on
the banks of the Upper Lake

Our day at Glendalough was incredible. Words cannot began to describe the range of emotions I felt during the day. Marcus flawlessly recited poetry, quotes, and historical fact, weaving together the past, present, and future. One of my favorite moments of the day was listening to Seamus Heaney’s  “St. Kevin and the Blackbird” as we sat on the stones that once made the walls of St. Kevin’s cell.

St Kevin and the Blackbird

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
and Lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.


And since the whole thing's imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in Love's deep river,
'To labour and not to seek reward,' he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river's name.

The group with Marcus just after he recited
St. Kevin and the Blackbird at St. Kevin's cell

How incredible to stand on the very site where St. Kevin spent seven years isolated from society; to walk on the path he used every day. It was a great way to start my much longer pilgrimage in Ireland. I will leave off with another quote Marcus shared with us. I think this quote could easily be the theme of my experience here in Ireland. If my memory serves me correctly, it is from a university professor in Texas named Turner:

“Sometimes the present can free us from the shackles of the past and make the future possible. But sometimes the past can free us from the shackles of the present and make the future possible.”


  1. :) I can't wait to see photos!!!!!!

  2. I'm enjoying getting into your new blog from the comfort of my bed while I have a few assignments due tomorrow that I haven't started. You know how good at procrastinating I am :) Sounds like you've had some awesome experiences so far!! Love ya

  3. I told you that Heaney's alright! I just saw this and thought of you: