I used to belong here, and I still do;
My blood and bones, the grass and sea.
Grizzled memories, I thought lay waste
Became as mountains in the ground,
Carving faces in its own rock.
They stood and shone,
Implored me to see, that
Here and now,
Even the oldest memories never left me.
Moments encased in time
Await the day I claim them as mine.
For some time all I could relate of my experience of Ireland were bits and pieces of that poem, and a wordless, soundless dance that demanded expression through my body, in a quiet place on my own, away from everyone. I still have some trouble putting my experiences to words, but when I do, I think of the shifting weather, the hedges that lined the roads, the chatter of crows, the countless sheep and cows speckled upon the grassy hills, the smell of burning peat, and the enormity of the sky.
I traveled to Ireland from Canada with my beloved partner Joe, in early June of this year, and each day we spent there had brought a lot of healing for us as individuals and as a partnership. When Joe came into my life, I was deep in a process of freeing myself from long held ancestral wounds, and I had finally reached the core of who I was and was ready to live and create through it. I was drawn to work with some First Nations elders because I felt ready and aligned enough to root to the medicines that began on this land in North America before the advance of colonialism. I wanted to deepen my understanding of Indigenous uses of the plant medicines that I know and love, and to breathe and embody the ceremonies in a land unfortunately claimed by greed, just as my peoples from the African continent suffered the
same. And so, it was these ancient medicines I was hoping to learn, not just a surface exploration of ritual practices that have become popularized in today’s spiritual community, but deeper understandings, where I would continue to walk as I know we were meant to walk, and where I’d ask to be welcomed back into a place my soul once knew and could deeply relate to.
I met my beloved on the night I was teaching a workshop on sacred plant medicine. He introduced himself to the circle in the Lakota language, a language that at the time my ears had never heard in this Earth-walk but my heart recognized from lifetimes ago, he was the energy I was needing to connect with, a man who although is of mainly European descent has spent a lot of time on various reserves and worked deeply with Indigenous peoples for years, he is someone who I consider to be an elder in his own right. Immediately there was recognition of our connection and our shared wisdom, beyond just old souls, replete with memories of the stars as they were being created. Together, months of prayer, healing of old wounds, and ceremony ensued. During that time he had asked me to go to Ireland with him to connect to one half of his biological ancestry, and to heal a personal wound of Indigenous reconciliation between the two continents. And after I said ‘yes’ opportunities to receive money to fund our trip showed itself in unexpected places, and so we booked our tickets for June.
We were anxious right up until the day of our flight, learning everything we could about the history and the people, spent hours searching maps for places we could go, making connections between old grief ceremonies and practices found in the two worlds, listening to stories about Irish immigrants fleeing their homeland to live among the Indigenous in Canada and the States, even coming to an understanding of cultural overlaps between traditional Irish and American folk music.
We finally boarded the plane, and entered what felt like a portal as we saw the sunrise only two hours after seeing the setting sun, because of the time difference. When we landed, it took about a day or two to orient ourselves to the changes. My immediate impression was that Ireland was a lot like Canada, it seemed as if we were in a mirror world where things were the same but slightly different. I saw this first in the plant species, the maples, the wild roses, the Queen Anne’s lace, the nettle, and so on. Something was slightly different about each of them because of where they grew. And, the air was also different, as were the stones and water.
The first part of the trip was spent travelling as a group, and the latter just my beloved and I travelling on our own with a petite blue rented car. Both experiences were enriching in their own ways. It wasn’t until we came across the Croaghgorm Mountains on the second day when something stirred inside me. I saw a faint image, a memory of myself falling down the steep slope and a deep knowing that this had indeed happened to me, in that exact place, sometime, very long ago. Soon after, Joe and I began to have shared memories of what had happened to make me fall, stories of abandonment and fear, memories of us together in a different life, different roles, and still bound together by love.
Each day thereafter was met with new memories (some directly our own, and some that seemed to be part of a drifting history that ingrained itself in the land), and eventually the stories of the ancestors in Canada and the ancestors in Ireland had overlapped, revealing truths about the origins of humans, the places beyond distant stars that Joe and I came from, and how we understood and perceived the meanings of home, separation, and connectedness, among many other things.
Despite the breathtaking beauty of the land, it was clear that Ireland was well worn from grief. British imperialism, religious wars causing a partition in the north and south, the time of the famine, and even long before that with the grief of the Indigenous that lived there before being colonized and extinguished by the Celts, the extinguishing of a language much older than Gaelic. And before the romantic rolling hills, Ireland was densely thick with hardwood forests, and animals much larger than foxes and badgers traversed the lands. I had dreams and visions of riding giant deer-like beings with antlers that were more elaborate than the regular deer that I’ve seen, and the next day when we visited an old Manor, there on the wall hung a skull of that very same animal I envisioned the night before. We were informed that what I saw was a type of Elk that was long ago hunted into extinction, as were many of the large animals that no
longer walk those grounds. Out of all the visions and memories I experienced, it was the sadness of losing the majestic Elk that weighed on me the most.
One day as I let these thoughts circle within me, I looked up for a moment and recognized that the sky above was the same sky I look at when I’m in Canada, the same sky that we all look at, no matter where we are upon the Earth, so I knew that holding on to what once was, is neither here nor there. The sky will always be the sky, the same sky of past present and future, and I can either feel displaced or feel at home, regardless of place and time, because it is a conscious choice. The Earth has her cycles, a constant flow of death and rebirth, pain and grief, love and joy, and it is in these moments we can find our universal connection, because I can see that there is not one body upon this Earth that doesn’t know grief, that doesn’t know trauma, whether it be from present circumstances or passed down through the ancestors.
And it is also true that there is not one body that doesn’t know love.
To say that my connection to the land is deep, is an understatement. I always felt rooted, but it was in Ireland that I truly made the connection that I am the grass, I am the sand and sea. This is the dance, the music of how the Earth speaks to me through my body, coming into bloom right there in that place where I laid my hands upon the Earth, and there where I laid my feet. There was where I began closing the loop on certain grief stories, stories of lack and loss, of isolation, but knowing too that I’d be bringing back these medicines with me as transformed states of being.
I know that the more I visit other places and see new landscapes and countries, the more I will dream, and the more I will remember stories of the past, and stories of concurrent lives in other realities, as time is circular, with bends and twists and overlaps all existing as one. And it is how I will continue to bring together different aspects of my soul that get reignited by that “special something” that can only be found in that “special place”, the way that visions and dreams might come through sights and smells, or through messages transported by the wind to my ears, or the feeling of the rain upon my skin, or the taste of salt and minerals upon my lips.