Irish Reflections

Family in IrelandI was in retreat this weekend with a group called the Leadership Pilgrimage, and one of the tools they use for meditation and reflection is poetry. I don’t write poetry, by the way; I write songs.

A lovely poem called “Postscript” by Seamus Heaney was read and discussed and I found my heart and mind taken away to a poignant ride along a twisting country road to Kenmare in Southern Ireland in 2006. We were taking a hotel limo from the train station to the Sheen Falls resort and the road twisted like a winding snake with more switchbacks than I had experienced on horseback rides in the mountains of Colorado. We asked the driver why the road was so torturous and he pulled over to a rest stop and asked us to come out and look. We were on a hill and looking out over the road we had traveled, we could see most of where we had come from and down to the sea where we were headed.

He cleared his throat and said, “You are Irish, aren’t you?” We nodded and smiled, but he did not smile back.

“You see,” he said, “As the famine reached its worst, the folks living in the middle of the country had nothing. Their only hope was to get to the sea where at least they could fish for subsistence. Hundreds and hundreds of them gathered what they could carry and began their horrible trek to the coast from where they lived. Along the way, the old, the young, the sick and the feeble died and were buried where they fell, as long as their fellow travelers had the energy to do so.”

“Their belongings fell into piles along the way, as well, and eventually the road simply curved around them. This is the famine road, my friends, and it was walked by many of your forefathers and the twists and turns…each one, stand for a loss and a dream all at once.”

He opened the door for us to get back into the car and we sat in silence and memory nearly all the way to Kenmare.

This is the song that came out of hearing Heaney’s poem and remembering that strangely eloquent driver in Ireland.

The Path to the Sea

We ride our chariot engine,

As fast as it can be,

The turns and twists of the road ahead,

On the path down to the sea.

The zig-zag of the pavement,

Hairpin turns at every curve,

The heavy car contains them all,

But we still feel the swerve.

The car pulls to the side,

Of the road that winds ahead.

The driver invites us to alight,

His reasons yet unsaid.

Refrain-

The path to the sea awaits,

The path to hope and freedom.

The way is never easy,

But dreams are there for those can see them.

The driver bows his head in prayer,

And asks us if we know,

Why the road is so winding,

And the going is so slow.

He looks off to the distance,

As if hearing ancient sounds,

He says, “This is the famine road,

Your family all passed down.”

Refrain-

Tag: The way is never easy,

But dreams are there for those can see them.

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