Friday, June 15, 2018

Hiking Up The Hill- Adelaide

Today is our last day in Ireland and to be honest, I don’t really know how to feel about it. I’m happy to go home because I miss all my friends and family, but I’m also sad to leave because I really like this country and all the friends I’ve made on the pilgrimage. 

Yesterday we hiked Mount Eagle and it was such a great experience. The hike up was mostly uphill and it was super sunny. Because of this I wasn’t really feeling it at first. I kind of just wanted to curl up on a fluffy patch of grass and take a nap. But then Con, our guide, pulled me out of that mood a bit. He pulled me back to the front and I helped him set the pace. The ready of the hike up after that was pretty peaceful except for the last steep hill up. I was having a lot of trouble catching my breath. When we finally reached the peak, however, I felt like I could breathe for days. You could see everything. The excellent view made this spot perfect for jump pictures. So, I got Kathy to take a few of me. From there, Con and I started to hike on again but everyone else was just not following. After a minute I looked back and everyone was taking a group jump picture without me. So if you saw/see that/those picture(s) (I don’t know what all was posted) I STARTED THAT TREND. 

Anyways, we were supposed to hike Mount Brenden today but we can’t because of weather difficulties. So now we don’t really know where all we’re going or what all we’re doing today, but I suppose that’s pretty okay. If I’ve learned anything on this pilgrimage it’s that (please excuse my cliche life lessons): 

1. It’s not where you’re going, it’s who you’re with

2. Flexibility is an important trait to pick up/learn

3. It’s not the destination, it’s the climb (cue up that song by Miley Cyrus (The Climb))

4. Don’t trust Con’s sense of temperature, distance, or difficulty

Sheep, everywhere sheep-Will

I know that it’s our last day in Ireland, and it would make sense to write something concerning my feelings towards leaving. However, I’ve been pushing our inevitable departure in the morning as far from my mind as possible, and so far have been doing a pretty good job of it, so maybe I’ll just talk about the sheep. Ireland has mad sheep. There are sheep in the low bogs, sheep on the highest mountain tops, sheep standing on the edge of bluffs hundreds of feet tall over the raging Atlantic coastline, sheep within centuries old stone walls used for enclosing sheep for generations and generations, sheep replacing monks at ancient monastic sites, sheep’s wool in every article of clothing, and - I have to say it - sheep served in stews and tradition Irish dishes. Even in areas without a current grazing herd, there is evidence of their recent presence. The grass is trimmed and the brush is controlled by their massive diets. Their, well, poop is still scattered everywhere. Occasionally you will find a bone, a horn, and even once an intact skull in the grass. I myself have collected gorgeous hollow horn and a vertebrae in my pack. Despite our best efforts, the sheep want absolutely nothing to do with us, and refuse to let us anywhere near to interact with them. Perhaps it is because of our attempts to make contact that they frighten every time. A loud group of American teenagers with outstretched hands is hardly inviting in the eyes of a sheep minding his or her own business. As we landed on our flight into Shannon I told myself that I had to  my Irish stereotypes before we touched down. Upon looking out my window as we passed over dozens of sheep farms adjacent to the runway, I discovered that at least those stereotypes are true - they really are everywhere.

Holy Islands- Andrew

Yesterday morning we went on a long, scenic drive out to a mountain on a peninsula by the Atlantic Ocean. We hiked up to the top of the mountain, and once we were up there we could see seemingly forever across the ocean. Con told us that for most of human history, people thought that the ocean was the end of the world. On top of that mountain, I could see how people thought that, and if I had lived in their time I would have believed the same exact thing. The ocean seemed to dip into nothingness at the horizon. Con also told us that Monks used to move out onto islands closest to what they thought the "edge of the world" was - islands like Skellig Michael. I can only assume that this was to try to get physically and/or mentally closer to God and Jesus. This is very similar to the purpose of our pilgrimage. In the pilgrimage we have gone away from our normal world in Atlanta and the U.S. and traveled to a new land (new for us) for the purpose of getting closer to God and Jesus. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Myself, the moment and the mountain- Aidan

I've traveled to many places in my short sixteen years on this earth, and through those travels my perspective and curiosity have multiplied. This is true of my trip to Ireland so far as well. There was one moment that stuck out specifically to me on my trip. As we were preparing to hike up a passage way between two mountains, Con approached me and spoke to me. He asked me if I was ready to hike, and being the excited person I am, I responded with "Oh yeah!". I had my back pack on, my headband secured, my water bottle full and my hiking boots tied very tightly. As I smiled at Con, he looked at me and said "Take your back pack off! You don't need it," and I responded with "I don't?". Con proceeded to take my pack off my back and threw my water bottle into my hands. He told me to "drink beyond my thirst" and to "leave all appendages behind". He told me that I didn't need my rain coat or my water bottle or anything and that all bags and extra things to hold were superfluous. This moment stuck out to me in that it put me out of my comfort zone. I felt like a true Irish mountain hiker without my back pack. I felt free and powerful without my water bottle in my hand. I left all items behind and focused only on myself, the moment and the mountain. 

Beautiful Land- Wallace

Today we traveled to many different parts of southwest Ireland. We went over a very steep hill, over fences, and through bushes. I was exhausted after that hike and not dreaming of doing another one.  We then had lunch and rested. We then headed for a small hike on some steep rocks. I was very anxious on that rock. I feared My friends or Father or I would fall but I knew God wouldn't let that happen. I looked out from a high spot and  saw the Beautiful land before me and I new God had taken his time to construct this Beautiful world. 

Mountain goats - John Russ

Today we did a lot of mountain climbing along with our regular dose of hiking. When we went up the side of a rock wall that was at an intimidating slant. As we went up we were focused on keeping our footing and just chugging along to try to find a good rock to sit on and chill. When I got to a good stopping point, a large rock that that I had seen multiple rams and sheep standing on earlier, I got the chance to look back down on the countryside. I was able to see what seemed like the entire world and I felt like I was part of the environment. Seeing everything from that perspective made me realize how small I am, but it also made me feel huge, as if I was part of the mountain. I feel like I saw God in that vastness because being up so high made me feel like I was close to him. Overall, today was a great day and I feel that I have made connections with everybody on the pilgrimage.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mountain Top- Kathy

It seems like days ago that we left Atlanta and yet it is only 26 hours. Our bodies and minds have not quite arrived in Ireland. Our guide, Conn, picked us up and drove us an hour and a half away to the Gap of Dunloe for a hike to reset our body clocks. It was absolutely gorgeous -sunny and hot!- and we started up the 3000 foot mountain. In our stupor, none of us were quite prepared for the challenging hike or the surprising beauty. The path was often rocky and more often steep. I began to fall behind out of breath, hot, and not sure my bum ankle and knee would let me reach the summit. And then God's grace seemed to shower down on me and a few others that were feeeling the same weariness.  Barkley, who was not even breathing hard, hung back with me and became a quiet supporting presence. Aiden started trying to take my mind off of the challenge by giving me some games to play and making me laugh..Will checked in on how my knee was doing. Lisa slowed down to wait on us.   Conn took me by the hand and showed me how to plant my feet.  The whole group waited occasionally to let me catch my breath and encourage me. As we reached the summit, I got high fives and hugs and then turned and caught my breath again. This time, it was the breath of God.  God's amazing grace that gathers us in community. Stunning beauty surrounded us, love had enfolded us, and what happens to form the group on Pilgrimage had begun..