An ancient well beckons

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

April 04, 1999|By Shawn M. Lockhart | Shawn M. Lockhart,Special to the Sun

A MEMORABLE PLACE

Since 1995, summer has found me walking alone with my life on my back in the wilds of County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland. Clare, home of my distant bloodlines, had persistently beckoned to me over the years, until, finally, I answered the call.

Each year I ready myself for yet another part of this continuing journey, this pilgrimage of the heart ... searching for something I have lost, recovering my long-lost self, not knowing from one year to the next if I can even return at all, what with life's twists and turns being what they are. But it seems some greater hand is moving me there once again.

Not long ago, I told a dear friend that I promised "the well" that I would return ... and she profoundly replied, "... and the well does not forget."

So yet again I will make my pilgrimage to that sacred well dedicated to St. Brigid, nestled in the hills above the Cliffs of Moher. It has always been Brigid's Well. Though now bearing the stamp of Ireland's most popular female saint, it has been known much longer as "Daigh Bhride" or "Dabhach Bhride," Brigid's Vat, in honor of the pre-Christian triple patroness of the arts, keeper of the fires of inspiration, the hearth, the forge. No mere coincidence.

A local man warned me seriously, "It is an ancient, pagan place." For me, it is a place of solace, of comfort. Its stillness is deep and powerful. The chill water, trickling like endless tears down a stony face, penetrates with a clarity unequaled into my own "deep heart's core" (Yeats).

Yes, I will keep my promise to the well and pay homage to the traditional patron on Lughnasa, the Celtic festival of the first fruits. Beyond understanding, beyond comprehension, beyond this world's fast-paced rationality, I will return to this timeless, ageless place.

I will walk my silent "deisal" (sunwise) rounds, slowly, carefully, each breath an unspoken prayer. I will enter into the sanctuary of the well, leave what offerings I have, tie my triple prayer-cloths to the ivy above. I will feel the cleansing coolness of the water on my face, taste the crystal-clear draft as it flows deep within, and whisper, "Thanks."

I will carry away with me the hope of my own harvest renewed, a reassurance ... knowing that my own dreams, those tiny seeds of my heart, are not dead, but only waiting to be reawakened within, to be resurrected, to burst from the depths of earth out into the light. All this I will carry in that secret space of my heart as I emerge from the ancient well within the earth into the realization of a bright summer's day.

Shawn M. Lockhart lives in Westminster.

MY BEST SHOT

'Magic clay' of the Aegean

On a recent holiday on the island of Paros in Greece, my husband, Vasilios, and I explored Molos beach on the southeastern coast of the island. The beach was quite picturesque, with multicolored clay cliffs jutting into the clear Aegean Sea. Successful in his quest to catch an octopus, he then went to investigate the "magic clay" reputed to make one's skin soft and silky. We covered our bodies with the clay, and while basking in the sun waiting for it to dry, found a great photo opportunity. The memories of that fun-filled day still bring lots of joy and laughter.

By Janet Alibrandis, Parkton

READERS RESPOND...

What is your favorite Civil War site?

Burnside Bridge, Md.

"My favorite Civil War site is the Burnside Bridge, at Antietam. Built in 1836 and named after Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside, who was held off by a few hundred Georgia riflemen. Here, let your imagination run away. Feel the battle. Feel the peace as it is now."

Lenora R. Gentry, Perry Hall

Lexington, Va.

"This quaint town is a Civil War buff's dream. After a stop at the visitor Center, you can visit the crypt of Robert E. Lee in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University, and pause at the grave of Stonewall Jackson in a nearby cemetery."

Laura Pawlak, Parkton

Shiloh, Tenn.

"When my grandfather, Henry Engelbrecht, emigrated from Germany in 1860, he promptly enlisted in the Union Army, 2nd Kentucky Volunteer Regiment. Visiting the site of the Battle of Shiloh was a thrilling experience for me, because in that battle Henry was wounded (April 7, 1861). Six days later, his left leg was amputated."

Helen Loerke, Catonsville

Our Next Question

Where is your favorite place to camp?

Please answer in 50 words or less. Send via fax to 410-783-2519, or write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

Pub Date: 04/04/99

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