* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cliffs of Moher

You forget what a violent process creating new earth can be.  I'm most familiar with the rolling, ancient hills of the Appalachian chain; quiet witnesses to the passing of eons and epochs.  They are a comforting witness that even the wildest of the Earth will eventually take to a rocking chair and tell you stories of what once was while you play at their feet.

Triskele represent many things-
one is the earth, sea, and sky
We would visit my grandparents in southeastern Missouri, crossing over the Mississippi and then going a little further, to Sikeston, just a touch on the other side of the New Madrid Fault line.  Always, my mother would tell us of the big quake of 1812 when the Mississippi River ran backwards.  As we would drive over the levies, looking over the endless green rows of soybean, corn, and cotton, she would tell us about how the soil was so very fertile, both from the regular overflows of the rivers as well as the fact that once upon a very long time ago, right where we were driving, was the bottom of a deep, deep sea.  This was heady stuff for an 8 year old, especially one who had been in a car for somewhere around 14 hours.  I could close my eyes (if I wasn't too car sick) and imagine the prehistoric beasts gliding past, their great teeth, almost close enough to touch.  I would wonder if they knew that their days were numbered and that one day, I would look at their bones in the Smithsonian on rainy Sunday afternoons.  The New Madrid was deceptively small, as well.  It's just a little hump, hardly more than the damns we drove on top of and perfect for sledding down on snow Sikeston never saw.

I've seen the Rockies and live volcanoes in Hawaii.  The Rockies were stark reminders of just what can happen when two continent meet but they are so huge as to be nearly unfathomable.  I can appreciate their beauty but only on a abstract level.  The live volcanoes are awesome displays of the raw power of creation, both in it's subtle ways as magma slips and bubbles quietly into the cooling ocean as well as when it aggressively claims it's new territory in impressive displays of pyrotechnics.

But, none of these could have prepared me for the Cliffs of Moher.  Looking them down had the visceral impact of your first peek at the Rockies while being of a size that you could easily comprehend their scale and scope.  For a few moments (perhaps longer, if you weren't there with young, very inquisitive children), I felt that I could understand, in a way I never had prior, my place within the land and the sea.  The sea caressed the land while also taking away.  The land gave but also stood steadfast amongst the constant requests.  Both could be harnessed but never fully tamed- something so easily forgotten in a time of climate controlled buildings, flying machines, and food that comes neatly packaged.  To stand at the edge of those cliffs was to stand in the on the edge of that which is civilization.  Once, long ago, people must have crossed the Island to see what was on the other side and found what must have seemed like the edge of the world.  I thought I was at the edge of the world even knowing I had lived beyond it.  The rocky shore danced between the two, betwixt and between, the ephemeral child of two warring but eternally mated elements.  Over the tympanic melee, danced the civilizing strains of pipe and string, giving hint as to how human had made peace with both water and land, nurtured and nurturing both; the very core of what it was to be the people who became known as The Irish.

And, somehow, as I was standing at the edge of the world, I was also standing on the edge of time in a way I imagine gods and astronomers regularly experience.  The tide is the constant metronome of the eternally changing sea while the stolid rocks, constantly shifting and sighing, carried off by the water and borrowed by wind, become the unexpected inconstant, the evidence proving that time must always be accompanied by change no matter how infinitesimal.  Both elements become penultimate, coerced by gravity which is intransigently insistent that there can be only one above all others and they shall bow to his might.  The steady constant of change within the intractable interplay of that which wants nothing more than to stay the same is surely the kernal which is life: the essence of time.  You stand at the top of a cliff and you are standing at a vortex of that which is, which was, and what must be.

If you go nowhere else in Ireland, go to the Cliffs of Moher.

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